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Johnny Cash’s blues came to Folsom Prison 50 years ago today. Here’s how to celebrate

Johnny Cash made history at Folsom Prison

The impact of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison performance resonates to this day.
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The impact of Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison performance resonates to this day.

Folsom State Prison sees as many as 10,000 people visit its prison museum every year.

Undoubtedly, almost all of them are there to pay tribute to Johnny Cash, whose hit “Folsom Prison Blues” still resonates with current inmates at the prison. That is, of course, where Cash recorded “At Folsom Prison” for hundreds of inmates on Jan. 13, 1968.

Highlighted by prison-themed tunes like “The Wall” and “25 Minutes to Go,” “At Folsom Prison” went triple-platinum, engraving the city and its prison into music and pop-culture history. Its influence continues not just locally, but across the nation.

With Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of Cash’s performance, there are a number of ways to celebrate Cash’s legacy this weekend.

The most musical option – for those who already have tickets to these sold-out shows – would be to see James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash, which will celebrate the music legend at the Harris Center in Folsom, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

You could also take a Sunday drive to Folsom Prison Museum, which offers info about Cash, his concert and more. The museum is open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $2 per person and children younger than 12 get in for free.

If you’re feeling more outdoorsy, the city of Folsom recently completed the second phase of construction on the Johnny Cash Trail, a 2.5-mile bike trail that is planned to feature public art, alongside a 3-acre park honoring Cash. The trail connects to Rodeo Park and the American Parkway Trail, and includes a 190-foot wooden arched bridge giving views of the American River and Lake Natoma.

Cash died in September 2003 at age 71. His daughter Cindy Cash performed ribbon-cutting duties at the trail’s grand opening ceremony in October.

Despite his hit song’s title, Cash never served any significant time behind bars – only occasional overnight stays in jail. Still, he remains a positive influence for many inmates.

“He opened a lot of doors for a lot of people by making people realize people in prison need a second chance,” Vang Moua, a Folsom inmate, told The Bee last year. “We’re all human.”

A documentary on Johnny Cash is also in the works, the Hollywood Reporter reported Friday.

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