Let’s start a movement and declare February 26th as National Johnny Cash Day. Everyone wears black and speaks in lyrics from his songs.
Today, I’m showcasing two of his songs.
Don’t Take Your Guns to Town
Give My Love to Rose.
First, a bit of Johnny Cash trivia.
- Cash appeared on Sesame Street in the 1990 and sang a rendition called “Don’t Take Your Ones to Town”
- Included in the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time by Western Writers of America
- 23, 1959 – Reached No. 1 on Billboard Magazine’s Singles Chart
- Won his first Grammy for “Jackson” in 1967 – duet with future wife June Carter
- Poet Shel Silverstein wrote the lyrics for “A Boy Named Sue”
- He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
- Typically opened his concerts by saying, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” followed by, what is often touted as his signature song, “Folsom Prison Blues”.
- Enlisted in the US Air Force in 1950 – worked as a Morse code operator intercepting Soviet Army transmissions.
- Born J.R. Cash, he had to give himself a name in place of the “J” when he enlisted, so he named himself John R. Cash.
- Roy Orbison lived next door to Cash for 20 years.
Now the songs—
Don’t Take Your Guns to Town
Cash wrote this song then recorded and released it in December 1958 as the first single from his album The Fabulous Johnny Cash.
A few of the classic country era artists who covered this song are: Faron Young, Burl Ives, Ry Cooder, Sheb Wooley, and Willie Nelson (duet with Cash).
This video of Don’t Take Your Guns to Town is a student-made video, and it’s absolutely great.
Give My Love to Rose
Cash wrote Give My Love to Rose and recorded it in 1957. It eventually reached No. 13 on the Country & Western Chart. Cash recorded it several times and, for his 2002 version, he received his fourth and final Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The inspiration for the song apparently came to Cash from a conversation he had with a San Quentin State Prison inmate who asked Cash to take a message to his [prisoner’s] wife if Cash ever went through his hometown.
This song was the inspiration for my novelette of the same name, which is included in the Prairie Rose Publications’ anthology Hot Western Nights.
Here is the beginning of my story.
“Give my love to Rose…” The dying man gripped the man’s coat. “Tell her…tell my boys how proud…how proud I am… Tell Rose not to live alone…find another man—a good man. A man like you—You stayed with me. Love her…like…like she deserves…” The fevered spark faded from his eyes. With one last burst of strength, he pleaded, “Please…don’t forget to give my love to Rose…” Hands that had done a lifetime of hard work relaxed.
“I’ll tell her,” the man said, but Lon Griffin didn’t hear him. Exhaling a long, slow breath, Federal Deputy Marshal Clint Callahan eased the dead man down to the blanket. Clint pushed his hat back and studied the man from his lawman’s well-seasoned experience with death. He’d come across all manner of dying during his career. Broken leg, gut shot, horse run off, weak heart, blizzard, poisoned water hole, robbery. It wasn’t so bad when he came up on them already dead. Their suffering was over. It was the dying ones that stayed with him—the desperation in their eyes, the regret in their voices. He’d never get used to watching a person die, especially the women and children.
What he knew for certain was the worst part of dying wasn’t the pain. It was not being able to say goodbye to the people who mattered, and that was his sole companion over every mile he rode.
How many times had he heard the last words of love for a beloved wife and children, or a wish to see a mother one last time? Some cried. Others cleared the burden on their consciences. Most only had enough time to name next of kin. When you heard a person’s last words, shared their last breath, shouldered their confessions, you took on the duty of seeing their dying wishes taken care of.
This man, Lon Griffin, was no different. He’d clung to a thin thread of life, slipping between delirium and lucidity all through the night. His will to live gave out in the dark just before the dawn.
Any other time, Clint would have dug a grave right there, said the proper words, and then rode on to tell the family or sent a telegram, whichever was the faster way to convey the news. This time, though, Lon’s widow waited at the house a good many miles on farther north, she was probably wondering right now when she’d see her husband again. She never would, not alive, anyway, and Lon begged him to take him home to be buried in the family cemetery.
Video from The Johnny Cash Show in 1969 – Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash singing ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’. While I love their singing separately, as a duet, not so much. 😉 Still, it’s a fabulous moment in country music history.
Until next time,
Look for Kaye here—