Johnny Cash Goes to Jail for “A Boy Named Sue”

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“My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!”

The men at California’s San Quentin State Prison sure got a kick out of that line from Johnny Cash’s iconic “A Boy Named Sue” recorded during a concert there on Feb. 24, 1969.

One of Cash’s biggest hits (it spent three weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart), “A Boy Named Sue” appeared on Cash’s At San Quentin live album. But luckily for us, the show was also filmed for a British television documentary.

Interestingly, it seems like Cash and his band are still on the fence about the Shel Silverstein song. At the time, it was new material for them, and they seem a little unsure how it will go over — or even how the song goes. You can see Cash reading lyrics to the tricky talking-blues from his music stand, and he makes sure to prompt the band when he reaches the final line — just in case they were lost.

But judging by the rapt looks on the faces in the crowd, the “get tough or die” narrative was clearly an instant hit with the prisoners. No doubt, some of them could identify with an angry man that comes to realize his point of view was a little off the mark.

Take a trip back to 1969, and the birth of a classic hit, with the video for Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue.”

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