55 Years Ago: Bob Dylan Sings on Johnny Cash TV Show

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Bob Dylan and Cash on The Johnny Cash Show

Although it might seem that they came from, and lived in, two very different worlds, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash had plenty in common. They were, of course, both fiercely independent songwriters with instantly identifiable vocal styles. They ignored trends and conventions in favor of creating new ones. They both created memorable characters and told stories that stayed with you forever. They were admired by millions and influenced countless other artists.

Not surprisingly, they were fans of one another’s work. Dylan knew of Cash before the Man in Black knew of him. After Cash’s death Dylan recalled hearing “I Walk the Line” for the first time. “It was different than anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the Earth. It was so powerful and moving,” he said.

Cash wrote in his autobiography that he was obsessed with the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and once wrote the younger singer a fan letter. They met for the first time at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and struck up a friendship. Five years later, the inevitable: they made music together. On Feb. 17 and 18, 1969, the pair recorded more than a dozen songs in Nashville. One, “Girl From the North Country,” was issued on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album, released on April 9. The others found their way to bootlegs.

Listen to Dylan and Cash perform “Girl From the North Country” from Nashville Skyline

Related: Our inside story on the iconic Nashville Skyline album cover

Several weeks later, on May 1, 1969, Cash was at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium taping what would become the first episode of The Johnny Cash Show. One of his guests was Dylan. The visitor first performed two solo numbers before Cash joined him for a rendition of “Girl From the North Country.”

Watch a portion of the latter performance

The program aired on June 7, with the still largely unknown Joni Mitchell one of the other guests.

Joni Mitchell on The Johnny Cash Show

The Johnny Cash Show aired for nearly two years, 32 episodes in all. Other guests included Linda Ronstadt, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard, Lulu, the Monkees, Arlo Guthrie, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, the Guess Who, Eric Clapton, Cass Elliot, the Everly Brothers, Eric Andersen, Dusty Springfield, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tony Joe White, Judy Collins, Rick Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Gordon Lightfoot.

Watch Dylan perform “I Threw it All Away” on the Cash show

Dylan’s Nashville collaborations with Cash are included on 2019’s official Bootleg collection, Travelin’ Thru 1967-1969, available for purchase in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Related: Derek and the Dominos play The Johnny Cash Show

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3 Comments so far

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  1. Tori
    #1 Tori 2 May, 2017, 10:57

    Amazing artists on their own but as a duo… it makes my soul happy!

    Reply this comment
  2. Cap'n Mike
    #2 Cap'n Mike 2 May, 2018, 00:19

    At one time, a video of Living The Blues from this TV show was available. It has disappeared from YouTube. Is it available anywhere?

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