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Johnny Cash: With His Hot and Blue Guitar (1957)

Yes, I moved to Nashville recently, but I bought this LP in New York City; it’s Johnny’s very first long-player, recorded just down the road from here at Memphis’ famed Sun Studios and released almost 60 years ago!

Cash had failed to impress Sun boss Sam Phillips at his first audition, in which he sang some gospel songs, but he tried again with the spunkier, rockabilly country of “Hey Porter” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!,” and earned himself a record deal.

Touring stints with the Louisiana Hayride and label mate Elvis Presley followed in short order, as did Johnny’s first signature numbers, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line” – all of it faithfully backed by guitarist Luther Perkins and upright bassist Marshall Grant, a.k.a. the Tennessee Two.

So the wily Sam Phillips eventually moved to capitalize on his budding star’s momentum by compiling all available studio sides onto what was then a premium, high-priced format: the 33 1/3 RPM 12” record.

Among the chosen cuts were other minor early classics (“Country Boy,” “So Doggone Lonesome”), train ballads (“The Rock Island Line,” “I Heard that Lonesome Whistle,” “The Wreck of Old ‘97”), and, yeah, some maudlin gospel too (“If the Good Lord’s Willing,” “I Was There When it Happened”).

In other words, this LP collected some of the very bedrock upon which much of Cash’s unrivaled country music career was built, with help from Johnny’s hot and blue geetar.

More Johnny Cash: At San QuentinMan in Black.