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'Johnny Cash Show' reruns remind me why I love country music

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By Reggie Ponder
Columnist

Thursday, July 19, 2018

It was delighted to learn that reruns of “The Johnny Cash Show” are now being shown on Sunday nights.

I had started to say “the Old Johnny Cash Show” but then I realized the only Johnny Cash Show there ever was is old — it aired in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Watching that show when it originally aired is one of my favorite memories. “The Johnny Cash Show” and “The Porter Wagoner Show” were first television shows I watched regularly.

Most likely my fondness for country music took root from watching those shows and hearing songs not only by the hosts but also by Dolly Parton on Porter Wagoner’s show and numerous talented performers who took the stage alongside Johnny Cash.

The rerun I watched Sunday night featured Loretta Lynn, who proved conclusively — if any doubt were to remain — that she is the Queen of Country Music. Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw joined Johnny and guest Rick Nelson for a rousing rendition of “Louisiana Man.”

It was a nice reminder that Nelson was a brilliant country rock pioneer in those days. The only record of Nelson’s from that era that gets any airplay today is “Garden Party,” but his contributions to the country rock sound went far beyond that.

The highlight of the show was Johnny’s duet with June. Their onstage chemistry was like nothing else before or since.

Johnny also did a “Ride This Train” segment that covered the history of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the migration to California. I had forgotten all about “Ride This Train” but had maintained a vague memory of something involving a train being part of the Johnny Cash Show. It was nice to get that all put back together in a coherent way.

The show ended, as usual, with a Gospel song, as Johnny performed a recitation of “One Solitary Life.” Some of Johnny’s best performances were recitations.

The recitation used to be a respected part of country music. Johnny performed a number of great ones, and Jimmy Dean made a career of it. It’s one more thing that has become too old-fashioned for a lot of people as country music has tried harder and harder to be cool.

I suppose it hasn’t disappeared entirely, as some of Trace Adkins’ songs come very close to the recitation style.

But nobody ever did it like Johnny Cash.

Watching the show was a treat. And next week could be even better, as rumor has it the special guest will be Merle Haggard.

Reggie Ponder is a staff writer at The Daily Advance. 

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