Train tracks: Folsom Prison Blues

Okay, I promise I won’t beat this train theme to death and maybe eventually we’ll move beyond black and white, but this is a cool song and it’s the first where I figured out part of the solo lick myself. I remember when I was a kid watching Johnny Cash on something like Hee Haw, and my grandmother said, “Look how fast he moves his hands!” I wasn’t impressed, and like any other time that anyone has commented on someone else’s abilities, I thought, “No big deal. I could do that.” Well, I’m here to tell you, my fine motor skills don’t quite measure up to what my ten-year-old self imagined they were.

Watch this video. It’s not from Hee Haw and you won’t see the fast hands my grandmother was talking about. I can just about keep up with this tempo, which is slower than the Live at Folsom Prison album version that I usually try to play along with. At around 1:04, it gets up to the lead lick I’m talking about. Check out how bored the guitar player looks. His name was Luther Perkins. At 1:19, Johnny asks him a question. Luther even looks bored answering that, and he’s still playing the lick that I’ve slaved over and still haven’t mastered. You can’t see what Johnny asks him, but I think they’re talking about the dinner they had.

Maybe Johnny says, “You hungry?” Luther shakes his head. “Still full from dinner?” asks John.

Luther nods. “It was a good dinner.”

“You have the chicken?”

He shakes his head again, “The steak.”

Johnny’s look is approving, and maybe a little jealous, like he’s thinking, “Alright, that was a good choice. I should have had that.” Then he walks off camera, back to the mic to start singing again. If you don’t want to watch the rest of the song, then just watch this conversation–it only takes 8 seconds. I defy you to tell me I’m wrong.

There’s nothing like seeing a legend perform in his prime, even if he is second-guessing his meal selection. I’ll save my other thoughts on this song for a future post.


6 responses to “Train tracks: Folsom Prison Blues

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  5. Great post. Great song. Great video. And don’t sell yourself short, Luther’s got nothing on you. I think you got the dialog wrong. If you read their lips I think it went something like this:

    Johnny: “Sounds good”
    Luther nods his head.
    Johnny: “You think Borruso can play that lick?”
    Luther Nods: “Yep, that homeboy can play”
    Johnny: “No, I think he’s chicken”.
    Luther (shaking his head again): “Wrong. He’s great.”

    Hey, that’s the way I see it, and I’m sticking to that. And outside of “The City of New Orleans” I think “Folsom Prison Blues” is one heck of a train song, too.

    Thanks for bringing it up. See you on the rails.

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