Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special (1965)

FrontCover1Orange Blossom Special is the 21st album released by musician Johnny Cash on Columbia Records in 1965. The recordings include country and folk standards, such as “The Long Black Veil”, “When It’s Springtime in Alaska”, “Danny Boy” and “Wildwood Flower”.

The song that gave the title to the album was “Orange Blossom Special”, released previous to the album, it became a success. At the time it was recorded, the authorship of the song was not widely known, being commonly covered by diverse artists. Cash learned from Maybelle Carter that the song was written by Ervin T. Rouse, who Cash later met during a show in Miami, Florida. Cash’s recording is unusual in his repertoire for featuring a tenor saxophone solo by Boots Randolph, an instrument (and musician) rarely spotlighted on Cash’s recordings.

The album also contains three covers of Bob Dylan songs, that he gave Cash after a concert in Newport, Rhode Island. “It Ain’t Me Babe”, “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright” and “Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind”. The last one was only recorded by Dylan as a demo, but it was first released in an album by Cash. Cash had previously borrowed the melody of “Don’t Think Twice” for his recording “Understand Your Man.”

Released on February 1965, the album reached number three in Billboard’s Country albums as well as forty-nine in pop albums respectively. The single “Orange Blossom Special” peaked number three on Billboards Hot Country Singles and the duet with June Carter “It Ain’t Me Babe” peaked number four in Hot Country Singles.


Following the recording of the concept album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, Cash recorded ‘Orange Blossom Special’ between August 27 and December 20, 1964. The recordings included a series of country and folk standards such as Lefty Frizzell’s, “The Long Black Veil”, Tillman Franks’ “When It’s Springtime in Alaska (It’s Forty Below)”, A.P. Carter’s “Wildwood Flower”, Jester Hairston’s “Amen”, and Frederick Weatherly’s Danny Boy.

Due to the acclaim that the cover of the song “Orange Blossom Special” received from the audiences that attended live concerts of Cash, a single of the song was released previous to the album, in February 1965 reaching number three in the Billboard singles.[3] During the mid 1960s, the authorship of the song was not widely known. Cash asked Maybelle Carter during the recording session about the original author, Carter stated that the song was written by Ervin T. Rouse and his brother Gordon. Carter also told Cash that the songwriter resided in Florida. Cash called Florida disk jockey Jim Brooker, who told him that he lived with the seminoles on the Everglades. In order to locate him, Brooker announced on air during his radio show, that if Rouse was listening to call the station to give him the phone number of Cash. Rouse called the station and contacted Cash who told him that he would be soon in Miami, Florida for a scheduled concert.


During an intermission of the show in Miami, a man approached Cash backstage claiming to be Ervin Rouse. Cash recalled hearing the name but he could not remember who Rouse was. After clarifying that he had written a few songs, he remarked that one he co-wrote with his brother, named “The Special”, was particularly successful. Cash recognized that he was talking about Orange Blossom Special. Cash believed the man, who actually was Rouse, that he had traveled from his house in the everglades in a custom-made swamp buggy to the house of his sister in Miami, where he borrowed her bicycle to ride ten miles to be at the concert. Cash invited the man to perform the song with him in the concert, receiving the acclaim of the audience. Later Rouse stated: “The Special belongs to everybody by now, I guess, but it used to be my best number”[3][5][6] Cash’s back-cover album notes for Orange Blossom Special are devoted to describing his meeting with Rouse.

Complementary to the standards, the album also featured covers of Bob Dylan. Cash had met Dylan briefly backstage during one of his performances at The Gaslight Cafe, but they talked extensively after a show in Newport, Rhode Island. Cash and Dylan traded songs in a motel, where Joan Baez wrote for Cash the lyrics of “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind”. The first song was originally released in Dylan’s Another Side of Bob Dylan, but the second was only recorded as a demo by Dylan. In addition “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was included. To publicize both of their artists, Columbia Records released the single “It Ain’t Me Babe” with the liner: “A new song from Bob Dylan on a new single sung by Johnny Cash”.

The album was released on February 1965, it reached number three in Billboard’s Country albums and forty-nine in pop albums respectively. The single “Orange Blossom Special” peaked number three on Billboards Hot Country Singles as well as eighty in the Hot 100. The duet with June Carter “It Ain’t Me Babe” peaked number four in Hot Country Singles and number fifty-eight in the Hot 100.


Billboard wrote: “Cash is in fine form here and he has been coupled with a great selection of material. Cash displays a sense of drama and wit”.[10] Meanwhile, Western Folklore also praised the album as well as the recognition of the original author of the title song: “Johnny Cash offers an interesting collection of songs, partially reflecting the Folk Song Revival’s influence, in Orange Blossom Special. While the album is good, the notes are even better for they give information previously unreported on the title tune of the album and its credited composer, Ervin Rouse.” AllMusic later wrote about the album: “Even if the best and most popular of the songs on this 1965 album are the ones most likely to show up on greatest-hits compilations, it certainly rates as one of Cash’s finer non-greatest-hits releases”.

The song “Orange Blossom Special” later became a regular part of Cash’s concerts, with Cash performing both harmonica parts himself, usually with a dual-harmonica technique. During a performance included on his At Folsom Prison live album, Cash jokes that the song requires him to “change harmonicas faster than kiss[ing] a duck”. (by wikipedia)


Norman Blake (guitar)
June Carter (vocals)
Johnny Cash (vocals, guitar)
Ray Edenton (guitar)
Karl Garvin (trumpet)
Marshall Grant (bass)
W.S. Holland (drums)
Charlie McCoy (harmonica)
Bill McElhiney (trumpet)
Luther Perkins (guitar)
Bill Pursell (piano)
Boots Randolph (saxophone)


01. Orange Blossom Special (E.Rouse/G.Rouse) 3.06
02. The Long Black Veil (Wilkin/Dill) 3.06
03. It Ain’t Me Babe (Dylan) 3.03
04. The Wall (Howard) 2.09
05. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right (Dylan) 2.56
06. You Wild Colorado (Cash) 1.45
07. Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind (Dylan) 3.02
08. When It’s Springtime In Alaska (Franks) 2.36
09. All Of God’s Children Ain’t Free (Cash) 2.11
10. Danny Boy (Weatherly) 5.08
11. Wildwood Flower (Carter) 2.10
12. Amen (Hairston) 2.05
13. Engine 143 (mono version) (Traditional) 3.31
14. (I’m Proud) The Baby Is Mine (Cash) 2.30
15. Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind (earlier version) (Dylan) 2.54



Johnny Cash – The Christmas Collection (2003)

FrontCover1No matter what genre or style he chose to tackle, everything Johnny Cash recorded in his long career came out sounding like, well, Johnny Cash. That’s a good thing. With Cash, you knew what you were getting. This 20-song anthology collects some of the holiday tracks he did for Columbia Records over the years, and not surprisingly, it sounds like Johnny Cash singing Christmas songs and reciting holiday-themed poems. Again, that’s a good thing. Highlights include a nice version of “Blue Christmas” and a wonderfully balanced and soothing take on “Silent Night,” although everything here has that Johnny Cash essence. That’s a good thing. ( by Steve Leggett)

01. Blue Christmas (Hayes/Johnson) 2.22
02. The Little Drummer Boy (Simone/Onorati/Davis) 2.32
03. The Christmas Spirit (Album Version) (Cash) 5-00
04. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (Longfellow/Marks) 2.28
05. Away In A Manger (Walker/J.Cash) 3.06
06. Joy To The World (Walker/Händel/Watts) 2.06
07. Silent Night (Album Version) (Gruber/Mohr) 3:26
08. Christmas As I Knew It (Howard/J.Cash) 3.39
09. Ringing The Bells For Jim (Album Version) (Howard/Carter) 2.45
10. Here Was A Man (Album Version) (Bond/Ritter) 2.40
11. The Gifts They Gave (Album Version) (Cash) 3.30
12. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Album Version) (Sears/Willis) 3.38
13. O Come All Ye Faithful  (Walker/Oakeley/Reading) 2.57
14. Little Gray Donkey (Tazewell/Wagner) 4.41
15. The Christmas Guest (Album Version) (Grandpa Jones/Walker) 4.37
16. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Walker/Wesley/Mendelssohn) 2.30
17. The Ballad Of The Harp Weaver (Album Version) (Millay) 4.21
18. Who Kept The Sheep (Album Version) (Carter/Cash 1.55
19. (There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley (For Me) (Album Version) (Dorsey) 2.47
20. That Christmasy Feeling (Peppers/Cash) 2.13


Johnny Cash – Hymns By Johnny Cash (1959)

FrontCover1Hymns by Johnny Cash was the fifth album and first gospel album of Johnny Cash. The album was produced in 1958 and was then officially released in 1959. An alternate version of the song “It was Jesus” was an added bonus track after the album was re-issued in 2002. Cash left Sun Records because Sam Phillips wouldn’t let him record the gospel songs he’d grown up with. Columbia promised him to release an occasional gospel album; this was a success for him to record. The album was Cash’s first and most popular gospel album, and is an example of traditional hymns set to country gospel music. The album was recorded simultaneously with The Fabulous Johnny Cash.

Although Sam Phillips steered Cash away from gospel and sacred music in the mid-’50s at Sun Records, in fact much of what Cash recorded in his early career still had a devout tone, often with piety and imagery that wouldn’t have sounded foreign in a gospel context. So although this 1959 album was entirely devoted to religious songs, it didn’t really sound that different from his prior work, and remains accessible to Cash fans whether or not they’re religious or have an interest in sacred song. The arrangements remain as sparse as most from his 1950s catalog, though stately backup vocals are often present. Too, these aren’t strictly traditional numbers, as Cash writes or co-writes about half the tunes. Sure, “Are All the Children In” skirts bathos with its spoken sections, yet songs like “The Old Account” and “It Was Jesus” have the country-rockabilly bounce characteristic of much of his secular material. In fact, despite its specialized focus, it’s somewhat generic 1950s Cash at a casual listen, though even generic 1950s Cash is good. The CD reissue adds just one bonus track, and a peripheral one at that: a “mono EP version” of “It Was Jesus,” which is lacking the backup vocals found on the LP one. (by Richie Unterberger)

Johnny Cash (vocals, guitar)
Marshall Grant (bass)
Buddy Harman (drums)
Don Helms (steel-guitar)
Marvin Hughes (piano)
Morris Palmer (drums)
Luther Perkins (guitar)
The Jordanaires (background vocals)

01. It Was Jesus (Cash) 2.08
02. I Saw a Man (Smith) 2.36
03. Are All The Children In (Starrett) 1.58
04. The Old Account (Traditional) 2.29
05. Lead Me Gently Home (Thompson) 2.04
06. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (Traditional) 1.56
07. Snow In His Hair (Pack) 2.24
08. Lead Me Father (Cash) 2.31
09. I Call Him (J.Cash/R.Cash) 1.50
10. These Things Shall Pass (Hamblen) 2.20
11. He’ll Be A Friend (Cash) 2.00
12. God Will /Loudermilk/Wilkin) 2.24
13. It Was Jesus (mono version) (Cash) 2.04


Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958/2002)

FrontCover1The Fabulous Johnny Cash is the third album by American singer, Johnny Cash. It was released on November 3, 1958 by Columbia Records, long after Cash’s departure from Sun Records, and was re-issued in 2002 by Sony Music’s Legacy imprint. The re-issue contains six bonus tracks and unedited versions of the songs. Legacy Records reissued the album in 180 gram vinyl for Record Store Day in November 23, 2012.

The album features five tracks written by Cash and backing vocal performances by The Jordanaires (who at this time were also regulars on Elvis Presley’s recording sessions for RCA Records). Overall, even though the album is only 29 minutes in length, it is considered one of Cash’s most cohesive pieces. This is largely because his sessions with Columbia were completed over a two-month period. That is greatly reduced when compared to the year by year sessions by Sun Records.[2] The Fabulous Johnny Cash was a successful debut on Columbia for Cash as it sold over half a million copies during its initial release. The album was recorded simultaneously with Hymns by Johnny Cash, released in 1959. (by wikipedia)

Booklet03AThese 18 tracks (12 of them from the original 1959 LP, The Fabulous Johnny Cash, and 6 of them recorded during the same sessions, but previously unreleased in the U.S.) captured Cash during a particularly vital period of his long, illustrious career. Cash first broke through in the mid-`50s with his now-trademark “boom-chicka-boom” rhythms and sonorous, drawling baritone on Memphis’s Sun Records; these are the earliest recordings from his nearly three decades on the Columbia label. Demonstrating an energy and down-home diversity that would later become even more fully realized, Cash herein moves deftly from introspective ballads (his original “Run Softly, Blue River”) and railroad songs (“One More Ride”) to cowboy ballads (his sardonic original, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”) and stoic laments like “I Still Miss Someone.” In the process, he refines a vivid musical persona that more or less became synonymous with country music in the 1960s. (by Bob Allen)

CD1If you even think of yourself as a casual Johnny Cash fan, do yourself a favor and hear this 2002 reissue of the first record Johnny did for Columbia in late 1958. It marks his “major label” debut, his deliberate turn from rockabilly/rock ‘n roll to country, gospel and folk songs, and the start of 28 consecutive years making big money with, and for, the company. This remastered disc, with six bonus tracks from the same two-month studio stint that resulted in the 12 original cuts, is really done right. The CD features the original cover and liner notes, plus a nice booklet and updated, detailed notes, and several period photos of John in performance. This effort was not only historically important for Johnny Cash, it was historic for me, too. I bought it when I was 14 and it was hot off the vinyl press. It was my first Cash album, my first stereo LP, and I liked 11 of the 12 songs (Only “Suppertime” seemed weak to me.) Somewhere around the early 70’s, my copy vanished. It was almost worn out, the cover was torn up by my many relocations, but I have no memory of what happened to it.

Booklet04AThe songs are good, the singing strong, and the guitar and bass from Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant and guitar from John himself are all wonderful. The only “dated” feel in the record are the backing vocals by the Jordanaires. Back in those days, “backing vocals” were thought to be vital on all kinds of records, pop, rock and country included. For instance, Buddy Holly’s hits had them, and many of Elvis’s too. In some songs, the vocal choruses do add some interest and contrast, but more often, to today’s ear, they could easily be eliminated. Their presence on “The Fabulous Johnny Cash” does not ruin any song, but we’ve learned in the 40-plus years since the album came out that Johnny does not need the help of The Jordanaires or anybody else to sell product. Listening to this CD today, for the first time in almost 30 years, I still love 11 of the 12 original selections (feeling “Suppertime” still is a bit weak), but I also like five of the six bonus tracks. (Only “Mama’s Baby” seems slight.) So, if you buy this, you’ll get 16 excellent examples of late-50’s Johnny Cash deliberately aimed at the country music customer of that time. Johnny’s reworking of the Frankie and Johnny saga song is clever; his version of the wanderlust train song “One More Ride” is one of the best performances of his entire career; the religious song “That’s Enough” is macho and unusual and stirring. You also get “I Still Miss Someone”, and I’ve heard a dozen other singers do that one over the decades, but no one has done it better than Cash, who wrote it. Next comes “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”, and as the astute liner notes point out, this one has subleties only a careful listener will realize. It deservedly was a big hit and has retained its popularity as a classic Cash piece.

Booklet02AI also like “I’d Rather Die Young”, a morbid love ballad, and “Shepherd of My Heart” a happier love song. Johnny wrote “Pickin’ Time” in honor of the cotton growers of his native Arkansas. I live adjacent to the cotton growers of far West Texas, and the song is a nice tribute to them as well. “That’s All Over” is about rebounding from romantic rejection, and I liked it even before I was old enough to be rejected, or to bounce back. “The Troubadour” points to the “beyond the glory” moments in a star singer’s life. The bonus tracks, one assumes, are items which didn’t make the final list to be included on the album. I agree that they are slightly less interesting than the songs which were released, but not by much. “Oh What a Dream” and “Fools Hall of Fame” and “Walking the Blues” are each good rockabilly in their own right, and sound as if they should have been released on his prior label, the incomparable Sun Records. To sum up, Johnny did a fine album back then, and Columbia/Legacy has done a great job of updating, expanding and presenting it for the modern fan. The product is worth every penny they are asking for it. (by William E. Adams)


Johnny Cash (guitar, vocals)
Marshall Grant (bass)
Don Helms (steel guitar)
Marvin Hughes (piano)
Morris Palmer (drums)
Luther Perkins (guitar)
Buddy Harman (drums on 12., 13. + 16.)
The Jordanaires (background vocals)

01. Run Softly, Blue River (Cash) 2.22
02. Frankie’s Man, Johnny (Cash) 2.15
03. That’s All Over (Glasser) 1.52
04. The Troubadour (Walker) 2.15
05. One More Ride (Nolan) 1.59
06. That’s Enough (Coates) 2.41
07. I Still Miss Someone  (J.Cash/R.Cash) 2.34
08. Don’t Take Your Guns To Town (Cash) 3.03
09. I’d Rather Die Young (Smith/Vaughn/Wood) 2.29
10. Pickin’ Time (Cash) 1.58
11. Shepherd Of My Heart (Carson) 2.10
12. Suppertime (Stanphill) 2.50
13. Oh What A Dream (take one) (Cash) 2.01
14. Mama’s Baby (Cash) 2.22
15. Fool’s Hall Of Fame (Freeman/Wolfe) 2.10
16. I’ll Remember You (Cash) 2.07
17. Cold Shoulder (Hudgins) 1.55
18. Walkin’ The Blues (Cash/Lunn) 2.11


Johnny Cash – The Christmas Spirit (1963)

FrontCover1Johnny Cash was a musical phenomenon and an American icon with his legendary musical career starting in the 50’s at Sun Records. His plethora of hit recordings led to a major move to Columbia Records, and the late legend charted recordings in all the major formats like country, rock , pop, folk, and gospel genres, sharing his legendary vocal, guitar and songwriting persona for millions of fans worldwide. With 1963’s The Christmas Spirit Lp, Johnny Cash teams up with producer Don Law (Ray Price) and created one of the most revered holiday and inspirational hit albums of all time. The album features Johnny’s stellar interpretations of both popular and religious favorites like the definitive hit version of I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day, the Tex Ritter favorite Here Was A Man, June Carter Cash’s Christmas As I Knew It, plus more traditional fare like Blue Christmas and The Little Drummer Boy. His impressive readings of inspirational favorites like Silent Night, Holy Night, plus Johnny’s own The Christmas Spirit and Who Kept The Sheep, truly made the The Christmas Spirit LP a groundbreaking effort for this sorely missed legend. (by

JohnnyCash1979Johnny Cash in a Christmas show, 1979

Maybelle Carter (autoharp)
Johnny Cash (vocals, guitar)
Jack Clement (guitar)
Marshall Grant (bass)
Buddy Harman (drums)
W.S. Holland (drums)
Bob Johnson (flute)
Anita Kerr (organ)
Grady Martin (guitar)
Luther Perkins (guitar)
Bill Pursell (keyboards)
Hargus “Pig” Robbins (keyboards)

01. The Christmas Spirit (Cash) 5.02
02. I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day (Longfellow(Calkin) 2.31
03. Blue Christmas (Hayes/Johnson) 2.25
04. The Gifts They Gave (Cash) 3.34
05. Here Was A Man (Bond/Ritter) 2.44
06. Christmas As I Knew It (Howard/Carter) 3.40
07. Silent Night (Gruber/Mohr) 3.30
08. The Little Drummer Boy (Simeone/Onarati/Davis) 2.35
09. Ringing The Bells For Jim (Howard/Carter) 2.48
10. We Are The Shepherds (Cash) 3.13
11. Who Kept The Sheep (Carter/Cash) 1.58
12. The Ballad Of The Harp Weaver (Millay) 4.20

AlternateFrontCoverAlternate frontcover


Johnny Cash – American Recordings (1994)

FrontCover1Johnny Cash was in the unenviable position of being a living legend who was beloved by fans of classic country music without being able to interest anyone in his most recent work when he was signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label in 1994. Rubin, best known for his work with edgy rockers and hip-hop acts, opted to produce Cash’s first album for American, and as he tried to brainstorm an approach that would introduce Cash to a new audience, he struck upon a brilliant idea — doing nothing. For American Recordings, Rubin simply set up some recording equipment in Cash’s Tennessee cabin and recorded him singing a set of songs accompanied only by his acoustic guitar. The result is an album that captured the glorious details of Johnny Cash’s voice and allowed him to demonstrate just how emotionally powerful an instrument he possessed. While Rubin clearly brought some JohnnyCashmaterial to Cash for these sessions — it’s hard to imagine he would have recorded tunes by Glenn Danzig or Tom Waits without a bit of prodding — Cash manages to put his stamp on every tune on this set, and he also brought some excellent new songs to the table, including the Vietnam veteran’s memoir “Drive On,” the powerful testimony of faith “Redemption,” and a sly but moving recollection of his wild younger days, “Like a Soldier.” American Recordings became a critical sensation and a commercial success, though it was overrated in some quarters simply because it reminded audiences that one of America’s greatest musical talents was still capable of making compelling music, something he had never stopped doing even if no one bothered to listen. Still, American Recordings did something very important — it gave Cash a chance to show how much he could do with a set of great songs and no creative interference, and it afforded him the respect he’d been denied for so long, and the result is a powerful and intimate album that brought the Man in Black back to the spotlight, where he belonged. (by Mark Deming)

Johnny Cash (guitar, vocals)

01. Delia’s Gone (Silbersdorf/Toops) 2.17
02. Let the Train Blow The Whistle (Cash) 2.15
03. The Beast In Me (Lowe) 2.45
04. Drive On (Cash) 2.23
05. Why Me Lord? (Kristofferson) 2.20
06. Thirteen (Danzig) 2.29
07. Oh, Bury Me Not (Introduction: A Cowboy’s Prayer) (A.Lomax/J.Lomax/Rogers/Spencer) 3.52
08. Bird On A Wire (Cohen) 4.01
09. Tennessee Stud (Driftwood) 2.54
10. Down There By The Train (Waits) 5.34
11. Redemption (Cash) 3.03
12. Like A Soldier (Cash) 2.50
13. The Man Who Couldn’t Cry (Wainwright III) 5.01