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The City of Folsom’s love of Cash

By: Bill Sullivan, Associate Publisher
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That headline likely had you thinking this was going to be a column about water or local building fees or something like that, didn’t it? Well, it’s not common for folks to judge the content of an article by just the headline, this we know. However, this isn’t about the green cash, this is about the Cash that comes in black and has become a great part of the City of Folsom throughout the last 50 years, especially as of late.

When it comes to a musician having such an impact and an influence on a city, I think it’s safe to say that the great Johnny Cash set the bar pretty high when he came here 50 years ago to record his live concert inside the walls of Folsom State Prison. I can’t think of another town where one sole performer has been in the headlines for a half a century, long after his passing.

The famed Folsom State Prison concert and the height of Cash’s career were before my time. He performed in 1968; I was born a year later and let’s just say it took a few years to gain the tools necessary to listen to music. When I was a kid, we didn’t have iPods and the cloud built into our crib. We had what you called the radio to learn what the newest hits were. Then there was the phonograph, that being a portable record player. When I was really young, I actually thought there were tiny people inside mine that sang all the songs it played, but that’s probably a topic for a different column, perhaps something on education curriculums in a rural community.

Although the famous prison concert that took place right here in Folsom was before I was even born, it was something I learned early in life. My father was an avid country music fan and great fan of Cash. I don’t remember the first time I ever heard Folsom Prison blues, but chances are it was while riding in my dad’s truck with the radio that had the deluxe mechanical push buttons to select the preferred channels and move the red line to station you preselected.  

While technology has changed how we do many things, the original works of Cash still fit our society well. I have been to different events throughout my life and anywhere I have been where a radio station or a live band plays “Folsom Prison Blues” it seems everyone knows it and nobody is complaining, saying its old or outdated – in fact most are singing right along with it.

In one of our recent visits inside Folsom State Prison, we spent time in the dining hall in which Cash performed 50 years ago this week. The same room that turned this legendary performer’s career around and helped him change his life by performing in front of so many that he related to. 

Over the last couple of years I have had the opportunity to interview a number of music icons, some of which I grew up idolizing. Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, Tommy Shaw of Styx and John Mellencamp, an artist who is very much like Cash when it comes to speaking his mind and singing about the common man. Those opportunities were very special along with interviewing Cindy Cash about her father’s time in Folsom. Those opportunities were special; however, standing in that room that day supersedes all of that. It was ominous.

While some may think we over do it with Cash in Folsom, I beg to differ. After a conversation this week with Mayor Steve Miklos about Cash, I have to agree with his words – we need to embrace it and be proud of it more than ever. The trail, the tributes, the history of Cash; it is all an important part of Folsom’s history and growth, and we have something here that nobody else has in their city.

Bill Sullivan is the Associate Publisher of Gold Country Media and then General Manager of the Folsom Telegraph. He can be reached at bills@goldcountrymedia.com.