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Happy Birthday Johnny Cash

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February 26th was the birthday of the late legendary country music artist Johnny Cash known as the Man in Black. Cash was a legend long before Joaquin Phoenix portrayed him in the 2005 film “Walk the Line.”

Initially getting into the business with Sun Records in the mid-50s, Cash settled in to a career filled with multiple chart toppers and awards. He would have turned 83 last week.

His songs are still made popular through radio and television, and also live-on through audio instruction books here at NLS. I Walk the Line, from the series Guitar by Ear taught by Bill Brown, is a title appropriate for beginner guitarists. It’s available as book number DBM 02334. I Walk the Line, for guitar by the company Talking Tabs is a more advanced teaching style of the song, for advanced players – book number DBM 03090.

“Folsom Prison Blues” was a single of the ’50s before it found its way onto Cash’s 1968 album At Folsom Prison. The album was recognized by the Library of Congress in 2003 as an addition to The National Recording Registry. We offer Folsom Prison Blues, by Guitar by Ear, book number DBM 02471. And, Folsom Prison Blues, for guitar by Talking Tabs, for the intermediate player, book number, DBM 03060.

Johnny Cash
Photo of a young Johnny Cash, singing and playing guitar.

In 1968, following a divorce, Cash married June Carter, the daughter of country music royalty Maybelle Carter. Maybelle was an original member of the Carter Family. The Carter Family has been honored by the Library on several occasions. In 2006, the 1928 recording of the song “Wildwood Flower,” was named to the National Registry. In our collection: Wildwood Flower, by Guitar by Ear, is suitable for beginning players, book number DBM 02107.

Ever wonder how the Carter Family got their start in fame? In 1927 the original trio (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle) ventured to Bristol, Tennessee to play for a scout, Ralph Peer, from Victor Records. This was an open-call session for local musicians. These few days of recording produced the voices of some of country music’s leading ladies and gentlemen. Jimmie Rodgers was one, as were the Carter’s. Named to the 2002 National Registry, the 1927 Victor Talking Machine Company sessions in Bristol Tennessee, are a treasure.

Before there was a name, the Carter Family, there was A.P. (Alvin Pleasant) Delaney Carter, also known as Doc. A.P. married Sara Dougherty. Sara’s cousin, Maybelle Addington, married A.P.’s brother Ezra. When the three, A.P., Sara, and Maybelle, all began playing together, the Carter Family emerged. A distinct instrument played in the group was the autoharp.

In our music collection, Autoharp and Jew’s Harp, from the Homespun Tapes company narrated by Mike Seeger, is a digital book about the care and tuning of the autoharp. It covers the playing style of Maybelle, among others, book number DBM 00373.

With much enthusiasm for the life and legacy of Johnny Cash, we say:

 “To take the trip,

To go and listen,

To the little dark-haired boy who played the Tennessee flat top box.

And he would play…”

-Tennessee Flat Top Box


  1. The Music Section regularly adds new music to its collection.Young musicians use music materials in a variety of ways as they learn to play instruments. However, The Music Section has traditionally not provided music that is strictly for listening.

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