On This Date: Johnny Cash Released His Iconic Country Classic “I Walk The Line” In 1956

Johnny Cash country music
Moviestore Collection/Alamy

An iconic day in country music history.

On this date in 1956, Johnny Cash released his signature song and country classic, “I Walk the Line.” Written and recorded by Cash, it saw three attempts with moderate chart ratings, ultimately becoming his first #1 hit on the Billboard country charts. It also peaked at #17 on the U.S. pop charts.

Of course, it remains a fan-favorite and standard to this day almost 70 years later, and is possibly one of the most recognizable country songs in the genre.

The story behind it is pretty cool too.

According to NPR, Cash was on an Air Force base in Germany when he put a tape up on his reel-to-reel recorder backwards. The song was by a German band called Landsberg Barbarians, but because it was playing backwards, delivered this “haunting drone full of weird chord changes, something that sounded like spooky church music.”

And the melody was born.

As far as the lyrics go, the newly married Cash was out on the road… and let’s just say the temptation was real. He married his first wife Vivian Liberto just two years prior in 1854, and Cash said that it almost served as a message and reminder to himself:

“It was kind of a prodding to myself to, `Play it straight, Johnny,’”

“I Walk the Line” was re-recorded four times during Cash’s career: in 1964 for the I Walk the Line album, in 1969 for the live At San Quentin album, in 1970 for the I Walk the Line film soundtrack, and finally in 1988 for the Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series album.

The simple, yet pretty much universally relatable, message is as timeless as the music and melodies themselves, and it’s obvious why this became Cash’s first big hit, among many that would define a legendary, prolific career.

Gonna have this on repeat all day long…

“I Walk the Line”

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock