Five Days of Johnny Cash: Day 1

I have a very special announcement coming this Thursday, so this starts my five days of Johnny Cash blog in which I will post a significant song that contributed to my understanding, love and appreciation for Johnny Cash the artist, musician and man.

For me I have to start with “Folsom Prison Blues”. I first heard this song from my guitar teacher in 6th grade. He was from the midwest and loved country music, especially Johnny Cash. I am not sure what prompted him, but he felt it fit to teach a group of middle schoolers how to play “Folsom Prison Blues” and boy am I glad he did. I have no idea where that man is today, but he changed my life forever.

He started by showing us the hammer ons in the bass register for the E major, A7 and B7 chords and I obsessively practiced this for days. I had no idea you could isolate notes of a chord for accentuation. Up until then I thought you had to strum it all the way through. It was hard, but after lots of practice I began to get it.

He then showed me the little guitar picking riff with the hammer on of the g sharp note from the open g string and the subsequent b to d notes. I love the dissonant 7th sound it provided and I was surely off and running once I realized you can play the two parts together. My mind was thoroughly blown and it set me up for months of exploration of chords and the different notes that a chord is made up of.

This was truly a transformative moment in my life. And to top it all off, in the song he says he shot a man, “just to watch him die”. The fact that someone could say that and put it to song just completely blew my mind.

I always remember that moment as when I first heard not only Johnny Cash, but music in general. It is when I really HEARD the music, I could hear all the components and the pieces that when put together created the sound, not just feel it.

It wasn’t until years later in my 20s when I “heard” Johnny Cash’s music again in the American series with Rick Rubin that I truly “got it” and which in turn jump started my musical endeavors again. At that point I was a failed emo-alternative rock musician wannabe with no direction or drive. My attempts at being the next cross between Eddie Vedder, Anthony Keidis and Jeremy Enigk had ended and the possibility of me putting down the guitar and giving up on the singing were real.

But there was a song that brought it all back to me again. Check back in tomorrow…

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