The historic Bob Dylan/ Johnny Cash recording sessions that resulted in one duet, “Girl From the North Country,” being officially released took place on February 17 and 18, 1969 in Nashville.
The recordings are so casual, and at times joyous. These guys are having fun, fooling around, making music.
It’s a total gas.
Here is a wonderful version of Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”
Here’s more of the sessions – note that after “I Still Miss Someone” there’s a silent gap and then the music starts up again:
1- MOUNTAIN DEW
2- I STILL MISS SOMEONE
3- CARELESS LOVE
5- THAT’S ALRIGHT MAMA
6- BIG RIVER
7- I WALK THE LINE
8- YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE
9- RING OF FIRE
10- GUESS THINGS HAPPEN THAT WAY
11- JUST, A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE
12- BLUE YODEL
13- BLUE YODEL #5 ~THE JOHNNY CASH SHOW:~ 05-01-69
14- I THREW IT ALL AWAY
15- LIVING THE BLUES
16- GIRL, FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY
[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.
Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.
Of just buy the damn thing:
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On May 1, 1969, 45 years ago, Bob Dylan’s appearance on “The Johnny Cash Show” was taped at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Dylan did two songs on his own — “I Threw It All Away” and “Living the Blues” and then was joined by Johnny Cash for “Girl From the North Country,” a song they sang together on his latest album, Nashville Skyline.
Watch two video clips at the bottom of this post, plus audio of the third song.
After Johnny Cash died on September 12, 1003, Bob Dylan was asked for a comment. This is what he wrote:
I was asked to give a statement on Johnny’s passing and thought about writing a piece instead called “Cash Is King,” because that is the way I really feel. In plain terms, Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him — the greatest of the greats then and now. I first met him in ’62 or ’63 and saw him a lot in those years. Not so much recently, but in some kind of way he was with me more than people I see every day.
There wasn’t much music media in the early Sixties, and Sing Out! was the magazine covering all things folk in character. The editors had published a letter chastising me for the direction my music was going. Johnny wrote the magazine back an open letter telling the editors to shut up and let me sing, that I knew what I was doing. This was before I had ever met him, and the letter meant the world to me. I’ve kept the magazine to this day.
Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me. In ’55 or ’56, “I Walk the Line” played all summer on the radio, and it was different than anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the earth. It was so powerful and moving. It was profound, and so was the tone of it, every line; deep and rich, awesome and mysterious all at once. “I Walk the Line” had a monumental presence and a certain type of majesty that was humbling. Even a simple line like “I find it very, very easy to be true” can take your measure. We can remember that and see how far we fall short of it.
Johnny wrote thousands of lines like that. Truly he is what the land and country is all about, the heart and soul of it personified and what it means to be here; and he said it all in plain English. I think we can have recollections of him, but we can’t define him any more than we can define a fountain of truth, light and beauty. If we want to know what it means to be mortal, we need look no further than the Man in Black. Blessed with a profound imagination, he used the gift to express all the various lost causes of the human soul. This is a miraculous and humbling thing. Listen to him, and he always brings you to your senses. He rises high above all, and he’ll never die or be forgotten, even by persons not born yet — especially those persons — and that is forever.
The show aired on June 7, 1969.
Here’s a great piece that ran in Rolling Stoneabout Dylan’s appearance on the show.
“I Threw It All Away”:
“Living the Blues”:
Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, “Girl From the North Country”:
– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-
Forty-five years ago, on February 13, 1969, Bob Dylan entered Columbia Music Row Studios in Nashville and began recording an album that would surprise many of his fans.
Because on Nashville Skyline Dylan debuts a country-style voice we’d never heard before.
This was a new Bob Dylan, and it took some of Bob’s fans a bit of adjustment to get hip to the new scene.
While there are those who dismiss Nashville Skyline as lightweight, or damn the songs because they’re not ‘heavy,’ I’ve always dug this album.
It’s Dylan being Dylan, confounding expectations. But it also sounds great. His singing is terrific and his country songs sound like the real thing, only they’re Bob Dylan country songs.
And it’s really cool that Dylan and Johnny Cash duet on “Girl From the North Country.”
Bob did an interview with Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, in June of 1969, two months after the album was released.
WENNER: On “Nashville Skyline”–who does the arrangements? The studio musicians, or…
DYLAN: Boy, I wish you could’ve come along the last time we made an album. You’d probably enjoyed it… ‘cause you see right there, you know how it’s done. We just take a song; I play it and everyone else just sort of fills in behind it. No sooner you got that done, and at the same time you’re doing that, there’s someone in the control booth who’s turning all those dials to where the proper sound is coming in… and then it’s done. Just like that.
And a bit later in the interview:
WENNER: On “Nashville Skyline,” do you have any song on that that you particularly dig? Above the others.
DYLAN: Uh… “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” I like “Tell Me That It Isn’t True,” although it came out completely different than I’d written it. It came out real slow and mellow. I had it written as sort of a jerky, kind of polka-type thing. I wrote it in F. That’s what gives it kind of a new sound. They’re all in F… not all of them, but quite a few. There’s not many on that album that aren’t in F. So you see I had those chords…which gives it a certain sound. I try to be a little different on every album.
WENNER: I’m sure you read the reviews of “Nashville Skyline.” Everybody remarks on the change of your singing style…
DYLAN: Well Jann, I’ll tell you something. There’s not too much of a change in my singing style, but I’ll tell you something which is true… I stopped smoking. When I stopped smoking, my voice changed… so drastically, I couldn’t believe it myself. That’s true. I tell you, you stop smoking those cigarettes (laughter)… and you’ll be able to sing like Caruso.
WENNER: How many songs did you go into “Nashville Skyline” with?
DYLAN: I went in with uhh… the first time I went into the studio I had, I think, four songs. I pulled that instrumental one out… I needed some songs with an instrumental… then Johnny came in and did a song with me. Then I wrote one in the motel… then pretty soon the whole album started fill in’ in together, and we had an album. I mean, we didn’t go down with that in mind. That’s why I wish you were there… you could’ve really seen it happen. It just manipulated out of nothing.
WENNER: How many songs did you do with Johnny?
DYLAN: Well, we did quite a few. We just sat down and started doing some songs… but you know how those things are. You get into a room with someone, you start playing and singing, and you sort of forget after a while what you’re there for. (laughs)
During the first session Dylan recorded three songs that made it onto the album: “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away” and “One More Night.” He also cut a version of “Lay Lady Lay” that he wasn’t happy with, and two other songs that he didn’t use.
Backing Bob on this and other sessions for the album were the top Nashville session cats:
Norman Blake – guitar, dobro
Kenneth A. Buttrey – drums
Johnny Cash – vocals
Fred Carter, Jr. – guitar
Charlie Daniels – bass guitar, guitar
Pete Drake – pedal steel guitar
Marshall Grant – bass guitar on “Girl from North Country”
W.S. Holland – drums on “Girl from North Country”
Charlie McCoy – guitar, harmonica
Bob Wilson – organ, piano
Bob Wootton – electric guitar on “Girl from North Country”
Below are the tracks that appeared on the album, along with alternate takes, a live recording and a couple of warm-up takes.
Dig the music!
“To Be Alone With You” (album version):
“I Threw It All Away,” album version:
“I Threw It All Away,” 1969 Nashville sessions, rehearsal:
“I Threw It All Away,” Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN May 1, 1969:
“I Threw It All Away,” alternate version, February 16, 1969
“I Threw It All Away,” George Harrison session, May 1, 1970:
“One More Night,” album version:
“One More Night,” alternate take:
“Lay Lady Lay,” alternate take:
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