“I thought I’d come out and introduce myself and sing.”
January 13, 2018 5:54 AM Subscribe
January 13, 1968. “Hello. I'm Johnny Cash.”
The gates of Folsom State Prison closed behind Gene Beley. It was 1968, and it was the first time the 28-year-old had ever been to state prison.---
“When you walk through there and they shut that door,” he says, “you realize that many men who have that happen never see their freedom again. It’s pretty daunting.”
Unlike the people he met inside, though, Beley wasn’t there to do time. The young reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press was there to see country music star Johnny Cash perform for the prisoners.
We’ve been invited to go to Folsom Prison with Johnny Cash,” Dan said. It was early January 1968. Dan Poush and I were a team, working for the Star-Free Press in Ventura, California. He was the photographer; I was the writer.---
“Who invited us?” I asked.
“A minister I met at a New Year’s Eve party.” In that era such an invitation sounded dubious, especially when he added, “He’s one of Cash’s best friends.
While at the El Rancho, someone approached Cash, saying he'd been given a demo tape by a prisoner, Glen Sherley, of a song called "Greystone Chapel." Beley offered his tape recorder, so that Cash could listen to the song. Cash was so enamored with the song, he immediately took the tape and began writing down the lyrics and learning the song. Beley said he told Cash, "Let that guy out of prison he'll put you out of business."---
Glen Sherley had a front-row seat in the prison’s drab cafeteria for the show. The convict was doing time for armed robbery. He had no idea that Cash had gotten hold of his song when Cash announced, “This song was written by our friend Glen Sherley. I hope we do your song justice, Glen.”---