The second episode of the final season of the Johnny Cash Show aired 50 years ago today on September 30, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Neil Diamond, Jackie DeShannon, and Dennis Hopper along with the usual regulars: June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.
Since the previous episode aired on Ray Charles’ 40th birthday it got me thinking about the ages of the folks on the show, and how much older people looked back then. Like, everybody looked 40, even people in their 20s. Here, Neil Diamond and Jackie DeShannon were both 29 and Dennis Hopper was 34.
A new segment debuted on this episode called “Country Gold” which apparently showcased important country musicians. Or something. This week featured Claude King, who had a few hits in the early sixties, but otherwise…who? It’s a little hard to figure out, really, since the list of artists is just kind of random: Bobby Bare, Floyd Cramer, Bill Monroe, the Stonemans, Hank Snow, Connie Smith, Bill Anderson and Jan Howard. Sure, many of those folks would ultimately be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but of all the legends who were still alive in 1970, why them? Perhaps only Johnny Cash knew the answer.
How great is Neil Diamond though? The Diamond had first appeared on the show in February and came back to do his best song: “Cracklin’ Rosie.” His performance is perfect, as is his shirt.
Later in the show a very high Dennis Hopper reveals that he cannot sing as he warbles an embarrassing duet of Kris Kristofferson’s “The Pilgrim” with his host. To prove he’s a very serious artist Hopper then recites a Rudyard Kipling poem…very intensely. 1970 was weird, man.
• Johnny Cash – “Rock Island Line”
• June Carter – Poem: Paul the Woodpecker
From Tap Root Manuscript (UNI, 1970).