Tag Archives: Johnny Cash

This land was his land

What a time we have lived in.

That realization comes more often as those of us of a certain age get older. When we were kids in the ’60s, there were four TV channels.

On those four channels, there was a thing called the variety show. You could hear some comedic and dramatic monologues, see some skits and production numbers, and hear Broadway songs, pop standards, pop hits and — after a while, grudgingly, it often seemed — rock music.

Folk music was part of that rich cultural stew, too. That’s where I must have heard Pete Seeger and his songs.

In a lifetime of listening to music, his songs are part of the foundation of everything I know. They’re some of the first songs I ever came to know as a grade-school kid in the ’60s. “This Land Is Your Land” was the most memorable. But I also came to know “If I Had A Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Rock Island Line” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

But as I grew up and my tastes changed, folk music just wasn’t my bag. John Prine and Steve Goodman were as close I got to folk. Pete Seeger was, and is, no less great, but I’ve long known more of his songs done as covers than as his originals. I don’t have any Pete Seeger records.

Peter Paul Mary Moving LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Peter, Paul and Mary, from “Moving,” 1963. Also available digitally.

My dad had this record, so we played it endlessly as kids. This song and “Puff,” one of the saddest songs I know, over and over.


“Rock Island Line,” Johnny Cash, from “Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar,” 1957. Also available digitally.

My dad loved trains, so of course we loved this train song. It’s the first cut on Johnny Cash’s debut LP. (I bought this record in the late ’80s, and only recently realized it was his first LP.)

Sharon Jones DK Naturally LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Naturally,” 2005. Also available digitally.

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back CD

“Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. Also available digitally.

(I used to have “Goodnight Irene” on a Ry Cooder record, but it went out in one of the Great Record Purges.)

All these covers inspired by Pete Seeger, a national treasure whose work is timeless, whose influence endures.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under January 2014, Sounds

The kicker, the go-go girls and Nixon

On the sports wire today was a short item out of Missoula, Montana, that Errol Mann, an NFL kicker during the ’70s, had passed away.

That name rang a bell. He’d played for the Green Bay Packers, although almost no one remembers that. Needing to check a few details, I went to the microfilm. It took me back to the fall of 1968, when October turned to November.

These are some of the things you find while looking for other things.

They wanted to ban go-go girls in De Pere, the next town over.

The thinking was that the dancers lured an undesirable element to the bars that lined Main Avenue, just a couple of blocks away from St. Norbert College, a small Catholic institution.

“Nixon’s the one,” the Press-Gazette proclaimed on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

I vividly remember the night before. We lived an hour to the south, in Sheboygan. My friend asked me to help deliver his papers. So we sat at the Cities Service station until 10 p.m., when at long last the Sheboygan Press truck dropped off our stacks. We took one look at the front page, and we knew why the papers were six hours late. Sure, they’d waited for election results. But there also was a color picture of Nixon. In 1968, they rarely ran color because it took so long to set up the press.

Johnny Cash headlined a pair of sold-out shows at the Bay Theater in downtown Green Bay on Monday, Nov. 11.

Cash, then just 36, was touring to support “At Folsom Prison,” his smash LP. It had just gone gold two weeks before. He performed along with the Carter Family, his relatively new in-laws and Nashville royalty. His old pal Carl Perkins, a decade past his hit-making prime but also just 36, was on the bill, too. So were the Statler Brothers, who were just getting going. It was pretty much the same group that had performed at Folsom Prison in California 11 months earlier.

Green Bay was the second stop on a whirlwind tour that took Cash and his entourage from Iowa to Wisconsin to North Carolina to West Virginia to Tennessee to Missouri for seven nights of shows over eight days.

I was just 11. I knew about go-go dancers from watching TV with my dad. I watched the Packers with my dad on Sundays, and I fancied myself a kicker, so I knew about Errol Mann. But I don’t think I knew about Johnny Cash. It was before I started listening to Top 40 AM radio for hours.

On TV on Saturday mornings, and perhaps on a cereal box, there was this:


“Bang Shang-A-Lang,” the Archies, 1968. Originally released on “The Archies” LP from that year. I have it on “The Archies’ Greatest Hits,” 1970, which is available on CD and digitally.

This song was among the “fastest movers” climbing the WLS Hit Parade in that first week of November 1968, up to No. 19 from No. 28.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under April 2013, Sounds