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The Museum of Television & Radio Presents Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

Wednesday, September 3, 2003

New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA—The Museum of Television & Radio presents Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, a screening series running in both the New York and Los Angeles Museums from October 3, 2003, to January 25, 2004. Covering Johnny Cash's career from his television debut in 1957 to his latest musical video, Hello, I'm Johnny Cash, features many programs rarely screened since their original broadcasts. Screenings in New York will be Tuesdays to Sundays at 2:00 p.m., with an additional screening Thursdays at 6:00 p.m., and in Los Angeles Wednesdays to Sundays at 2:00 p.m. In addition to the screenings, the Museum will present a companion radio listening series, The Man in Black: Johnny Cash on Radio, from September 23, 2003 to February 1, 2004.
Early on, Cash set his eye on becoming a radio star in the mold of boyhood favorites Eddie Hill and the Louvin Brothers, finagling an audition with Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. But television too responded well to the craggy-featured authenticity of Johnny Cash—his kinetic and unaffected presence plays beautifully into the intimacy of the medium. His early rockabilly rhythms and boom-chicka-boom backbeat helped paved the foundation for rock ‘n' roll while his incorporation of rural musical idioms—country, western, folk, hillbilly, gospel, and blues—enlightened and broadened the cultural spectrum. "Mostly I just tell stories," he says. Hello, I'm Johnny Cash explores this genuine American icon who transcended traditional genre labels, entertaining audiences from San Quentin to Carnegie Hall for the past six decades. 

The Hello, I'm Johnny Cash screenings will be divided into four parts:

Part 1: Walking the Line (1957-69)
October 3 to November 2, 2003

On January 19, 1957, as "I Walk the Line" stormed the pop and country charts, Johnny Cash made his network television debut on The Jackie Gleason Show.  A spate of appearances on Tex Ritter's cowboy jamboree Ranch Party followed and by the time Cash landed on Town Hall Party in November 1958 he was on fire. Broadcast live over KTTV-TV in Los Angeles (and kinescoped for the Armed Forces Television Service), the raucous Town Hall format enabled Cash, freshly signed by Columbia Records, to unveil a wealth of new material—songs like "Frankie's Man Johnny," "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," and "It Was Jesus." In a return engagement a few months later, he delivered a wicked impersonation of Elvis Presley crooning "Heartbreak Hotel."  The late 1950s and early 1960s marked the peak of the television western, and Cash received numerous offers from Hollywood, where he cut his acting teeth on such "oaters" as The Rebel (for which he also provided the theme song, "Johnny Yuma") and The Deputy.  Music, however, remained his focus. Along with reeling off hits like "Ring of Fire" and "Jackson," a duet with future wife June Carter, he played upwards of two-hundred live shows a year.  Highlights include clips from The Jackie Gleason Show, Ranch Party, Town Hall Party, and The Ed Sullivan Show. (Approximately 120 minutes)

Part 2: Johnny Cash in San Quentin (1969) and Ridin' the Rails (1974)
November 4 to 30, 2003

Although Johnny Cash had staged prison shows since the late 1950s, his 1968 LP At Folsom Prison, released at a precarious time in America's history, was a radical and unprecedented statement—a heartfelt cry for penal system reform from a multi-millionaire entertainer. Johnny's empathy for the marginalized citizens of penitentiaries everywhere was genuine (he had the songbook to prove it) and the following year, accompanied by a crew from Granada Television, he ventured into one of the nation's most notorious prisons to record a follow-up, Johnny Cash at San Quentin. Included are such songs as "San Quentin," a jailhouse ballad written especially for the occasion, and "A Boy Named Sue," performed for the first time, unrehearsed. (Approximately 55 minutes) 

In Ridin' the Rails: The Great American Train Story, long-time train aficionado Cash commandeers a steam locomotive, hops a box car, and chronicles the history of railroading through story and song—"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "The Legend of John Henry's Hammer," "The Wreck of the Old 97," and many more—in this seldom seen documusical. (Approximately 55 minutes)

Part 3: Selections from The Johnny Cash Show (1969-71)
December 2 to 28, 2003 

"When the offer came from ABC for a network television show we felt right about it as an opportunity to do the music we loved doing and to do it for millions of people. The first show we taped was the greatest joy of my career." 

With the debut of his own Saturday night series, taped before a live audience at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny Cash became a star in primetime. Four years earlier, he had been banned from the Opry for kicking out the stage lights in a drug-induced fit. His triumphant return marked the culmination of a long climb up from the depths. Surrounded by his troupe of regulars—June Carter and the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three—he spoke of finding salvation in God, sang old favorites and new hits and many hymns, and shared his passion for Americana with the popular "Ride This Train" vignettes. Guests ranged from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell to Charlie Pride and Merle Haggard. He also used the forum to raise issues and themes he held dear: "In the songs I do here on the show, I like to think I'm saying some things that have guts and meaning to them." Highlights include performances by Cash with June Carter, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, and Roy Orbison, among others. (Approximately 120 minutes)
Part 4: The Man in Black (1970-Present)
December 30, 2003, to January 25, 2004 

The 1970s and 1980s affirmed Johnny Cash's stature as a national treasure. He headlined concerts and Independence Day celebrations, performed for presidents and puppets, hosted annual holiday specials, and guest-starred on countless variety programs. In 1985 he assembled compadres Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson into the Highwaymen. Their video "Highwayman" won several awards, but as the 1990s began Cash found himself struggling to make a footprint in a country music landscape dominated by younger, pop-influenced acts. Salvation arrived with the 1994 release of American Recordings, the first in a series of stark masterworks that stripped the Cash aesthetic down to its basics—voice and guitar—while revisiting familiar themes of sin and redemption. "I've always wanted to do an album that was Johnny Cash alone—that's the concept," he explained. Cash underwent a remarkable renaissance, winning over a new generation of fans while his videos, such as Anton Corbijn's controversial clip for "Delia's Gone" and the Video Music Award-nominated "Hurt," were put into rotation on MTV and VH1.  Highlights include clips from Johnny Cash on Campus, Johnny Cash and Friends, The Muppet Show, An All Star Tribute to Johnny Cash, and the videos "Delia's Gone" and "Hurt," among others. (Approximately 120 minutes)  

The companion radio listening series, The Man in Black: Johnny Cash on Radio, will be presented in two parts from September 23, 2003, to February 1, 2004.

Radio Package 1
September 23–November 23, 2003
The Johnny Cash Interview—Actor Tim Robbins conducted this interview when Cash released his 2000 album "American III: Solitary Man." Cash discusses how he became a performer, his famous prison concerts, and the role that his spiritual beliefs play in his music. He also talks about why he chose to perform certain songs on the album, including U2's "One," Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat," Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," and the traditional spiritual "Wayfaring Stranger." (2001; 45 minutes)
Radio Package 2
November 25, 2003–February 1, 2004
Guest Star: Johnny Cash—In this program hosted by Lou Crosby, Johnny Cash performs songs such as "Locomotive Man," "The Girl in Saskatoon," and the hymn "I Saw a Man."  (1961; 15 minutes)

Country Music Time: The Carters—This program features performances from the Carters. They sing "Gotta Travel On," "I Want to Hear Little David Play," "It's My Lazy Day," and "Poor Old Heartsick Me." In addition, June Carter (who later married Johnny Cash) reads a poem to a fellow performer. (c.1961; 15 minutes)  

Admission to Hello, I'm Johnny Cash is included with the Museum's suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. 

The Museum of Television & Radio, with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is a nonprofit organization founded by William S. Paley to collect and preserve television and radio programs and advertisements and to make them available to the public. Since opening in 1976, the Museum has organized exhibitions, screening and listening series, seminars, and education classes to showcase its collection of over 100,000 television and radio programs and advertisements. In 2001 the Museum initiated a process to acquire Internet programming for the collection. Programs in the Museum's permanent collection are selected for their artistic, cultural, and historic significance.

The Museum of Television & Radio in New York, located at 25 West 52 Street in Manhattan, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 6:00 p.m. and until 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays. The Museum of Television & Radio in California, located at 465 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills, is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 p.m. Both Museums are closed on New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Suggested contribution: Members free; $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for senior citizens and students; and $5.00 for children under fourteen. Admission is free in Los Angeles. The public areas in both Museums are accessible to wheelchairs, and assisted listening devices are available. Programs are subject to change. You may call the Museum in New York at (212) 621-6800, or in Los Angeles at (310) 786-1000. Visit the Museum's website at