Clint’s Classic Clips: Johnny Cash “The Man in Black” The Johnny Cash Show, 1971

Johnny Cash, when asked why he always wore black, wrote this song in response. Here he sings it for the first time on his own TV show.

There were some very memorable performances on the Johnny Cash Show in the two series that ran between 1969 and 1971. Guests included Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Creedence Clearwater Revival to name just four whose performances many AUK readers might particularly want to check out. Cash featured artists from many genres on his show: country stars like Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Kris Kristofferson naturally were featured but so too were black artists like Louis Armstrong, The Staple Singers, Ray Charles, Joe Tex and Stevie Wonder. At this time it was rare for black artists to appear on country music shows – unless they were called Charley Pride. Another feature of the show was the promotion of lesser known artists. Appearances by Doug Kershaw, Eric Anderson, Joe South and The Dillards particularly stand out. A ‘Country Gold’ feature brought legends of country music back to the public’s attention when many of them had faded in popularity. Among those included were Bill Monroe, The Carter Family, Grandpa Jones and Roy Acuff. Johnny Cash often sang duets with his guests on the show and many of these are also worth seeking out too. My personal favourites are those featuring Joni Mitchell and Tony Joe White.

With this magnificent array of guests it shouldn’t be forgotten that the show was primarily a platform for Cash’s own talents and the archive contains many great performances. However, despite good ratings, Cash’s electic mix of guests and strident views didn’t always go down well in the often conservative world of country music. Three incidents in particular brought him into conflict with ABC who made the series: his refusal to change the word “stoned” in Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’, his insistence on having Pete Seeger on the show at the height of the Vietnam War, and the performance you see below which was filmed for the show at the Vanderbilt University in Nashville and featured the newly written ‘The Man in Black’ which was deemed to be ‘controversial’.


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About Clint West 203 Articles
From buying my first record aged 10 and attending my first gig at 14, music has been a lifelong obsession. A proud native of Suffolk, I have lived in and around Manchester for the best part of 30 years. My idea of a perfect day would be a new record arriving in the post in the morning, watching Ipswich Town win in the afternoon followed by a gig and a pint with my mates at night,

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