A personal photography exhibition, “1968: A Folsom Redemption” will open Jan. 28, at the Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home.
The exhibit is a collection of photographs and memories of two journalists who witnessed the historic Johnny Cash concerts at Folsom Prison. This photography exhibition covers a critical juncture in the career of Cash, one of the 20th century’s most influential performers.
The exhibit will run through June 1.
In January 1968, Cash was at a crossroads. His music career, in a slow decline for several years, needed help. He had recently straightened out his personal life, and leadership changes at his record label meant he was able to finally convince them of the merits of a live recording in a prison setting.
Cash had been performing for inmates as far back as 1957, when he received a stream of requests from prisoners who identified with the man who sang “Folsom Prison Blues.” The connection developed with prisoners during these concerts had made him increasingly sympathetic to those he would later call “the downtrodden,” he later said.
Working as freelance journalists, photographer Dan Poush and writer Gene Beley met with Cash and his family the day before the concerts began at the invitation of Reverend Floyd Gressett, a friend of Cash’s who ministered to inmates and helped set up the show at Folsom State Prison with recreation director Lloyd Kelley.
After practicing the set with the Tennessee Three at Hotel El Rancho the night before, on Jan. 13, 1968, Cash, along with opening acts Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers, performed two separate shows in the dining hall at Folsom. Notable for capturing Cash’s ability to connect with his audience, the recordings crackled with the excitement of an adoring crowd. The resulting album, At Folsom Prison, was released four months later to critical and popular acclaim.
“1968: A Folsom Redemption” takes the viewer right into the heart of this pivotal moment in the life and career of one of the 20th century’s most important and cherished musical personalities, a news release from the boyhood home said.
For the first time ever, this travelling road show collection of 31 photos features a wide range of intimate photos with friends and family to a backstage meeting between country music legend Merle Haggard and the Man in Black.
The exhibition highlights Cash’s golden era from the January 1968 Folsom Prison album recording to a March 1, 1969, concert in Anaheim, Calif., when he was getting ready to launch his network television show. “1968: A Folsom Redemption” is organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance.