I got inspiration for one of my photos based off of this famous Johhny Cash photo. I have been wondering ever since I saw it, what exactly is the story behind this photo.
The photo was taken in 1970 at one of his concerts at San Quentin prison in California. The picture remained relatively obscure until around 1998. At the time Cash was working on a record with legendary producer Rick Rubin on his American Recordings albums. Rubin helped boost Cash’s career, introducing him to a new generation of fans. The second American album, Unchained won the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Album. But Johnny Cash’s music was not highly used on the radio.
So Rubin used $20,000 to take out a full page in Billboard Magazine. The ad featured this famous photo, along with the caption: “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to acknowledge the Nashville music establishment and country radio for your support.”
Willy Nelson loved the ad so much he hung it on the inside of his bus. Willy was quoted saying, “John speaks for all of us. Everyone who comes in has to see it.”
George Jones loved the ad also, and made one of his own to promote his song “Wild Irish Rose” showing George surrounded by basketballs, footballs and baseballs and the caption, “If radio had any, they’d play this record.”
George was quoted saying, “All of us older artist feel that way. Radio gives us the biggest insult there is when they don’t play our music. If no one is going to stick up for us, we’ll have to do it ourselves.”