On This Date: Johnny Cash Was Topping Charts In 1969 For His Critically Acclaimed ‘At San Quentin’ Prison Album

Johnny Cash country music
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One of the most influential albums to date for country music.

Johnny Cash is one of the most recognizable names when it comes to country music. From his deep vocals, his famed marriage to June Carter Cash, to his TV show and boundary-pushing projects, there is a reason Cash is a legend and still celebrated daily within this genre.

A year after his critically acclaimed 1968 At Folsom Prison live album, Johnny Cash released his second live album and a continuation of his prison concert series, At San Quentin. 

The album was recorded live at San Quentin State Prison on February 24, 1969, and released to the public in June of the same year.

The album charted at number one in the fall of 1969 on both the country and pop charts, making it a significant crossover hit.

On top of the chart successes, the album was deemed a triple platinum album by the RIAA in 2003, and Cash was nominated for Album Of The Year and won the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the album’s track “A Boy Named Sue.”

Not only was the album iconic, but the live recording of the performance made history. The UK company, Granada Television, was later broadcast to the public. From this taping is the iconic image of Cash flipping off the camera.

The tale behind the infamous photo was during his performance of “I Walk The Line.” Cash shared his frustration with the crew, saying that he did not like being told where to stand or how to perform, and his last straw was that the team kept blocking his view of the audience.

While stories say he expressed his frustration to the crew before it got to that point, he threw a middle finger to the camera, making the message loud and clear to get out of his way to let him work.

However, the famed photographer who took the photo, Jim Marshall, said he asked Johnny to send a message to the warden of the jail and Johnny flipped him the bird, so who is really to say what the motivation was?

Nevertheless, it’s one of the most iconic photos in country music history… or any music history, for that matter.

Johnny Cash’s prison series was unlike anything during their time, making them legendary. Now, we see more and more artists going to prisons to perform for inmates, like Jelly Roll.

The public eye often deems inmates unworthy of enjoying life because of their crimes, but Cash didn’t see it that way. Through his numerous prison performances, he brought so much joy to those who attended, a constant advocate for prisoner’s rights.

This album will go down in history as one of the best.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock