On This Date: Johnny Cash Releases Legendary Hit, “I Walk The Line,” In 1956

Johnny Cash country music
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The legendary Johnny Cash had countless hit songs throughout his career, but none might be more recognizable than his 1956 song “I Walk The Line.”

Cash would go on to have 13 number one hits, but this song was his first breakthrough to the #1 spot on the Billboard country charts, and even reached as high as #17 on the pop charts.

“I Walk The Line” was released as a part of Cash’s album Johnny Cash with His Hot And Blue Guitar, which was his debut studio album. The song stood out from the rest of the album and quickly became Cash’s most popular tune, holding the number one spot on the Billboard country charts for an impressive 43 straight weeks and selling over two million copies.

The tune’s chord progression was viewed to be rather unique. It is said to be inspired by a backwards playback of guitar runs on Johnny Cash’s tape recorder while he was stationed in Germany in the Air Force.

It is also believed that Cash originally wanted “I Walk The Line” to be a slow ballad, but those at the recording studio opted to speed it up to the classic rhythm that it is so well known for today.

The song also acted as inspiration for the title of the 2005 biopic Walk The Line featured Joaquin Phoenix playing Cash and Reese Witherspoon playing June Carter Cash.

“I Walk The Line” was written by Cash as a pledge to his first wife Vivian that he would stay loyal to her while he was touring across the country. The first three verses paint a clear picture of the message he was trying to send to his young love:

“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds,

Because you’re mine, I walk the line.

I find it very, very easy to be true.
I find myself alone when each day’s through.
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you,
Because you’re mine, I walk the line…

Knowing that is the purpose of the song and then watching this 1958 performance of “I Walk The Line” in front of a crowd of swooning girls is a rather humorous juxtaposition.

It also doesn’t help that Vivian and Cash got divorced in 1966, and Cash went on to marry June Carter, who he stayed married to until her death in May of 2003. Overcome with grief, he passed away as well just a few months later in September.

Maybe Cash strayed from the line a bit in his relationship, but he always “walked the line” in his live performances.

Snoop Dogg Called Johnny Cash “A Real American Gangster” Ahead Of “I Walk The Line” Remix

Say what you want about Snoop Dogg, but the guy is hilarious.

And he has pretty good taste in country music, too…

Years back, Snoop said that he was a big fan of Johnny Cash, calling him “a real American gangster,” and even dedicating the song “My Medicine (featuring Willie Nelson), from 2008 Ego Trippin’ record, to Johnny:

“I’d like to dedicate this record, right here, to my main man Johnny Cash… a real American gangster.”

It takes one to know one, I guess… and seeing as they’re legends in their own respective genres, it’s cool to see that Snoop has such deep admiration for the Man in Black.

And not only is Snoop a big fan of Johnny’s music, he remixed “I Walk the Line” on the 2009 Johnny Cash tribute album, Johnny Cash Remixed, which was produced by Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash.

Of course, “I Walk the Line” is synonymous with Johnny Cash, and is one of the most recognizable country songs of all time. Written and recorded by Johnny in 1956, it became his first #1 on the Billboard charts.

Producers of the remix album say Snoop was their top choice to have on the record, which also included acts like Alabama 3 and The Heavy.

Snoop recorded his rendition alongside Teddy Riley and DJ Quik from Cash’s own studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and spoke a little bit about what it meant to him in a documentary about the project, saying:

“My approach on ‘Walk the Line’ was to just go in with the right spirit. The spirit as if I was in the studio with Johnny Cash. Just add on to something that was a tremendous song without my lyrics on it already.

I did the song, I went to Nashville to shoot the video, and eventually met his son. Got the opportunity to come to his house, his cabin, just to be apart of something that was historic.

You know, the place where Johnny Cash called home, I was able to sit on his steps… shoot footage, it just felt so good. And I was like, if I had the chance to rap on this song, what would I say? And I said what I say.”

I really don’t even know what to say about it, other than it is interesting… 

And I have no idea what Johnny would’ve thought about it, either, but it’s pretty clear that Snoop is a big fan and took the chance to be associated with the country icon very seriously:

Here’s a little bit of that behind the scenes documentary and Snoop talking about his remix:

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock