Sunday, February 24, 2019

50 years ago: Johnny Cash recorded live at San Quentin

First posted 2/26/2008; updated 12/4/2020.

Live at San Quentin

Johnny Cash

Recorded live: February 24, 1969

Released: June 16, 1969

Charted: July 5, 1969

Peak: 14 US, 120 CW, 2 UK, 13 CN, 12 AU

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.34 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: country


Song Title (date of original studio release of single – unless noted as live, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Big River (1/20/58, 4 CW) *
  2. I Still Miss Someone *
  3. Wreck of the Old ‘97
  4. I Walk the Line (6/9/56, 1 CW, 17 US)
  5. Darlin’ Companion
  6. I Don’t Know Where I’m Bound *
  7. Starkville City Jail
  8. San Quentin
  9. San Quentin
  10. Wanted Man
  11. A Boy Named Sue (live: 7/26/69, 1 CW, 2 US, 4 UK, 1 AC, sales: ½ million, airplay: 1 million)
  12. Peace in the Valley
  13. Folsom Prison Blues (live: 6/1/68, 1 CW, 32 US, 39 AC) *
  14. Ring of Fire (6/1/63, 1 CW, 63 US, airplay: 1 million) *
  15. He Turned Water into Wine *
  16. Daddy Sang Bass (12/7/68, 1 CW, 42 US, airplay: 1 million) *
  17. The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago *
  18. Closing Medley *

* Tracks added to the Legacy Edition

Total Running Time: 34:04


4.518 out of 5.00 (average of 23 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“To put the performance on At San Quentin in a bit of perspective: Johnny Cash's key partner in the Tennessee Two, guitarist Luther Perkins, died in August 1968, just seven months before this set was recorded in February 1969. In addition to that, Cash was nearing the peak of his popularity – his 1968 live album, At Folsom Prison, was a smash success – but he was nearly at his wildest in his personal life, which surely spilled over into his performance.” STE

“All of this sets the stage for At San Quentin, a nominal sequel to At Folsom Prison that surpasses its predecessor and captures Cash at his rawest and wildest. Part of this is due to how he feeds off of his captive audience, playing to the prisoners and seeming like one of them, but it’s also due to the shifting dynamic within the band. Without Perkins, Cash isn’t tied to the percolating two-step that defined his music to that point. Sure, it’s still there, but it has a different feel coming from a different guitarist, and Cash sounds unhinged as he careens through his jailhouse ballads, old hits, and rockabilly-styled ravers, and even covers the Lovin’ Spoonful (Darlin’ Companion).” STE

“No other Johnny Cash record sounds as wild as this. He sounds like an outlaw and renegade here, which is what gives it power – listen to A Boy Named Sue, a Shel Silverstein composition that could have been too cute by half, but is rescued by the wild-eyed, committed performance by Cash, where it sounds like he really was set on murdering that son of a bitch who named him Sue.” STE

“He sounds that way throughout the record, and while most of the best moments did make it to the original 1969 album, the 2000 Columbia/Legacy release eclipses it by presenting nine previously unreleased bonus tracks, doubling the album’s length, and presenting such insanely wild numbers as Big River as well as sweeter selections like Daddy Sang Bass. Now, that’s the only way to get the record, and that’s how it should be, because this extra material makes a legendary album all the greater – in fact, it helps make a case that this is the best Johnny Cash album ever cut.” STE

Notes: The 2000 Legacy re-release as San Quentin: The Complete 1969 Concert included the bonus cuts noted with an asterisk (*) in the track listing.

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