Johnny Cash’s first recordings were made at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio in late 1954 and this association continued until his last session on June 17, 1958. Phillips was a brilliant producer however the same could not be said of his record keeping. He only assigned a master number to a recording when it was issued and then only if it was on a single, no master number was allocated to recordings issued on EP or LP albums. To complicate matters further when Shelby Singleton purchased the Sun masters in June 1969 he then overdubbed them with additional musicians and reissued them on the Sun International label. The first person to attempt to sort out these recordings was Martin Hawkins In his Johnny Cash – The Sun Years package (SB-103) and John Smith in his 1985 publication further clarified the situation, however the Bear Family box set covering these years used a slightly different order for the first recordings.
In July 1958 he moved to Columbia Records. Cash’s first Columbia single, “All Over Again,” made the country Top 5, and his second, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” made it all the way to #1, while also crossing over to the pop Top 40. But the biggest hits of Cash’s career were yet to come, including an incredible eight #1 albums in an eight-year span: Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash (1963); I Walk The Line (1964); Johnny Cash’s Greatest Hits (1967); At Folsom Prison (1968); At San Quentin (1969); Hello, I’m Johnny Cash (1970); The Johnny Cash Show (1970); and Man In Black (1971). During this period, Johnny Cash established himself as a legendary figure in American popular culture while selling over 22 million records for Columbia, but by the mid-1980’s, fashions in country music had shifted dramatically away from his old-school style, and the hits simply stopped coming.
In 1986 Columbia chose to end its no longer profitable relationship with Johnny Cash and he moved to Mercury Records. He released four original albums and numerous re-recordings of earlier material over the next seven years on Mercury Records. But it was not until 1994 that Cash truly found his creative bearings again. That was the year that he released the album American Recordings, the first in a series of albums on the label of the same name headed by Rick Rubin. Under Rubin’s influence, Cash moved to a raw, stripped-down sound that proved to be enormously successful with critics, with country traditionalists. When his second Rubin-produced album, Unchained, won a Grammy for Best Country Album in 1998, He went on to have two more massively successful solo albums with American Recordings prior to his death in 2003.
Since his death Columbia has released three so called Bootleg CD’s featuring unreleased demos and radio programmes.
In the early 60’s Cash was addicted to drink and drugs but his marriage to June Carter in 1968, which lasted until her death in 2003 four months before Johnny’s, changed his life and he became a devout Christian. June was a recording star in her own right, at the age of six she was singing on country radio as part of the legendary Carter Family.
In the database I have listed every performance of a studio recording that has been issued as well as any titles that are unissued. Obviously if it is “Take 10” that has been issued there must also have been “Takes 1-9” if none of these have been issued they are not listed. For concerts, radio and TV programmes all performances are listed irrespective of whether they are on a recording.
- Smith, J.L. 1985. The Johnny Cash Discography.
- Smith, J.L. 1994. The Johnny Cash Discography, 1984-1993.
- Smith, J.L. 1994. The Johnny Cash Record Catalogue.
- Smith, J.L. 1999. Another Song To Sing: The Recorded Repertoire of Johnny Cash.
- Liner notes in the following Bear Family Box Sets: The Man In Black, 1954-1958, Man In Black 2:1959-62, The Man In Black 1963-1969 Plus.
The discography was produced using the “BRIAN” discography programme. For details see Brian page at Jazzdiscography.com