Look back at The Johnny Cash TV Show: A country music variety show

Abou the old Johnny Cash TV show

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About The Johnny Cash TV Show (1969-1971)

By Rick DuBrow – Hollywood (Syndicated) – March 24, 1969

I can pretty well live without most country and folk music. The rise of the barefoot boys to big-city music prominence gives me as much pause as the first time I saw hillbillies walking shoeless down LaSalle St. in Chicago.

It was then that I began to have a new appreciation of Frederick the Great, and to feel vague doubts about the liberal professors who had worked me over in college.

But I’m willing to listen to reason. And I’m very much willing to listen to Johnny Cash, the best country-folk singer on the planet, whose personal explorations in to loneliness and the human condition are genuinely sophisticated, rough-diamond triumphs.

Johnny Cash TV Christmas special 1976


Later this Spring, the national television audience will be able to watch Cash do his stuff weekly in an hour ABC-TV series that is scheduled to last into September. It will originate in Nashville, and, to my recollection, it is the first major network series to offer the new country music sound from that city on a regular weekly basis.

ABC has a very sound reason for enlisting Cash’s talents on a regular schedule. His albums alone have sold more than 10 million copies in the last 11 years.

HEAR JOHNNY NOW: Stream and buy his music here

And anyone who has heard his “Folsom Prison” album, which was done before an audience of inmates at the institution, knows the depths of his artistry. His recent success at the London Palladium indicates his general appeal.

The Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971


Bill Carruthers, who will produce and direct the Cash series, says the chemistry of the show is this: “About 85 percent music, and some comedy too.” He adds:

“The statement of the show is that country and western music has had more impact on other music than ever before — rock, and the move back to rhythm and blues. A lot of big artists are doing country music. Much of this is due to Glen Campbell’s influence.

The instant success of CBS-TV ‘s new, weekly Campbell series is definitive proof of his statement, and also of what ABC is hoping for on its own network.

MORE: Johnny Cash & June Carter get married (1968)

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash


Cash’s show, in short, will be considerably different from the traditional Grand Ole Opry, according to Carruthers.

“The Grand Ole Opry,” he said, “is what I call hard country. You don’t see the Glen Campbells and the Johnny Cashes on the Grand Ole Opry. They’ve moved over to the general, pop shows.”

Carruthers says the Cash series will originate 100 percent in Nashville, adding:

“The network and Cash both wanted it that way. Johnny wasn’t looking for a series when ABC came to me and asked me to put it together. His home and family are there, and he feels responsible to Nashville. He records there. In addition, we wanted to get a real feel — not too slick.”

Carruther’s relationship with Cash stemmed from the singer’s performances on ABC’s “Operation: Entertainment” series.

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The Johnny Cash TV Show: TV Guide June 7, 1969

Debut: Johnny Cash kicks off his country-music series with guests Bob Dylan, singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell and Doug Kershaw, and comedienne Fannie Flagg.

Johnny is taping his shows at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry (“I wouldn’t do it anywhere but here”) with the regular members of his troupe: June Carter (his wife) and the singing Carter Family, guitarist-singer Carl Perkins, the singing Statler Brothers and the instrumental Tennessee Three. Bill Walker conducts a 27-piece “Nashville sound” orchestra. (60 min.)

Highlights… Johnny: “Folsom Prison Blues,” “The Wall,” “Greystone Chapel,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe” (with June). Dylan: “I Threw It All Away,” “Livin the Blues.” Joni: “Both Sides Now.” Doug: “Diggy, Liggy Lo.” Johnny, Dylan: “Girl of the North Country.”

Johnny Cash's country music variety show debuts (1969)

Premiere tonight! Johnny Cash

Bob Dylan, Fannie Flagg and Joni Mitchell join the “Folsom Prison Blues” man, Johnny Cash, in his new musical variety hour. Tonight 9:30 pm.

Roy Orbison & Johnny Cash: “Oh, Pretty Woman” Live on The Johnny Cash TV Show (1969)

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