February 24th, 1969… San Quentin State Prison… Marin County, California.
The great Johnny Cash walked on stage in front of more than 1,000 inmates at San Quentin State Prison for the second time in his career (the first had Merle Haggard in the audience).
But this time, they were gonna record it.
Released on June 16, 1969, At San Quentin is one of the most iconic albums in all of Johnny Cash’s legendary catalog. It won a CMA for Album of the Year and as well as a Grammy for his performance of “A Boy Named Sue.” The album was nominated for a Grammy as well.
But it was just recorded for an album, it was filmed for a documentary.
Produced and directed by Michael Darlow, the concert was filmed by Granada Television.
And, you can watch the entire thing right here:
The San Quentin show was also the scene of the iconic Johnny Cash middle finger photo by legendary photographer Jim Marshall.
According to Marshall, he told Johnny, to “do one for the warden,” and this is what he got.
Although, in the linear notes for 2000 reissue, he said that he flipped off the camera because he was pissed that film crew was on the stage, blocking the view of the inmates. When he told them to get out of the way, they ignored him, and he flipped the camera the bird.
In Marshall’s 1997 book Not Fade Away, he said he couldn’t remember why exactly, but it was one of two reasons:
“I forget why he flipped the bird in this picture, it might have been directed at the television crew who was filming there, or I might have suggested doing a special shot for the warden.
But for whatever reason, this has become a very famous, iconic picture.”