Inside the 1969 Bob Dylan-Johnny Cash Sessions

in Music | June 14th, 2012

Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash had formed a mutual admiration society even before they met in the early 1960s.

“Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me,” Dylan wrote shortly after Cash’s death in 2003. “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.”

When the young Dylan arrived on the scene in 1962, Cash was impressed.

“I was deeply into folk music in the early 1960s,” he wrote in Cash: The Autobiography, “both the authentic songs from various periods and areas of American life and the new ‘folk revival’ songs of the time, so I took note of Bob Dylan as soon as the Bob Dylan album came out in early ’62 and listened almost constantly to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in ’63. I had a portable record player I’d take along on the road, and I’d put on Freewheelin’ backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off.”

Cash wrote the young Dylan a fan letter, and they began corresponding. When they met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Cash gave Dylan his guitar as a gesture of respect and admiration. Five years later, when Dylan was in Nashville recording his ninth studio album, Cash was recording in the studio next door. He decided to drop in. On February 17 and 18, 1969, Cash and Dylan recorded more than a dozen duets. Only one of them, a version of Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” made it onto the album, Nashville Skyline. The others were never officially released, but have long been circulating as bootlegs. In the video above, Dylan and Cash work on one of two versions they made of “One Too Many Mornings,” a song originally recorded by Dylan in 1964 for The Times They Are a-Changin’.  The outtakes Dylan and Cash recorded together are all scattered around Youtube. One Youtuber posted a compilation back in 2013.

A few weeks after the release of Nashville Skyline, Dylan and Cash performed “Girl From the North Country” on The Johnny Cash Show. It was taped on May 1, 1969 at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. A rough video clip (around the 30 minute mark) captures the moment. Despite Dylan’s reported nervousness, the performance was well-received. “I didn’t feel anything about it,” Cash said later. “But everybody said it was the most magnetic, powerful thing they ever heard in their life. They were just raving about electricity and magnetism. And all I did was just sit there hitting G chords.”

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by | Make a Comment (19)

Comments (19)

  1. Hutch says . . .
    June 15, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    Wow. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Rico says . . .
    June 16, 2012 / 3:01 pm

    Nice duet on North Country…

  3. December 8, 2012 / 7:46 am

    Rich vocals, perfect timing and pace, I love it. Thanks for sharing. Do you know if this was made into an album?

  4. Mike Springer says . . .
    December 8, 2012 / 11:54 am

    Hi Deborah,
    To the best of my knowledge, most of the recordings were never officially released.

  5. Carole Heslin says . . .
    February 15, 2013 / 4:15 pm

    North Country is one of ten songs I would take to a desert island with me

  6. Seth says . . .
    April 12, 2013 / 7:40 pm

    They were all released–the album is called “The Dylan / Cash Sessions”. Pretty good stuff from my two favorite 20th century artists.

  7. J.D. St. Paul says . . .
    May 1, 2013 / 2:02 pm

    Only the one song (Girl From the North Country) was officially released. “The Dylan/Cash Sessions” is a bootleg. And a good one. The songs have been released many times on differntly named bootlegs. Around the same time, Dylan also recorded several songs with George Harrison. The Dylan-Cash sessions are much better. Sorry, George.

  8. Pat McCarty says . . .
    May 25, 2013 / 1:53 pm

    Wow thanks for shairing..Love both these guys and together they are fabulous. I would love to have a recording of this.

  9. ranjan bezbaruah says . . .
    May 25, 2013 / 10:30 pm

    great !

  10. Graeme says . . .
    October 5, 2013 / 6:54 am

    Is there any way for me to get these masterpieces into my iTunes file?

  11. Gary says . . .
    November 27, 2013 / 4:10 pm

    Is there anyway to get all the Cash/Dylan duets?

  12. Phil says . . .
    January 21, 2014 / 11:24 pm
  13. Anthony says . . .
    February 16, 2014 / 12:27 pm

    Hi I have a 1969 bob dylan and johnny cash LP it’s called johnny cash and bob dylan session . With no writhing on the label and the cover is black and white could this be a bootleg?

  14. obelus says . . .
    March 4, 2014 / 3:42 pm

    Seeing Johnny Cash crack up listening to a playback of a take is priceless. Seeing him do it on a Dylan session is good, too. I think this must have been at Owen Bradley’s Quonset Hut with Bob Johnson at the console. This is as good as it gets.

  15. king says . . .
    April 11, 2014 / 12:41 pm

    The reason most of these weren’t released offically is that they aren’t particularly good – historical significance aside. I recall at one point Johnny, apparently frustrated, says something like “Bob,. what songs do you know?” Or “Do you know any of these songs?” “One Too Many Mornings” is the closest thing to “North Country” as far as a usable track, but even there I think there were too many mistakes to do much with it.

  16. wolf says . . .
    April 12, 2014 / 9:11 pm

    Say, king…what johnny said was, ‘where do you come up with them?’ as he was impressed with dylan the musicologist. only other opinion i might add is they were having a good time, enjoying the songs and the blending of voices…and a fun time for these two was well earned.

  17. Joseph Hayden says . . .
    October 28, 2014 / 11:57 pm
  18. Malama says . . .
    January 12, 2015 / 4:58 am

    I love Dylan, he’s a genius! These two great men just know how to put their talents together to have come up with this gem. I love this song, it’s music at its best

  19. Mary says . . .
    November 30, 2016 / 10:01 pm

    Would like to purchase one of the bootlegged album of Cash/Dylan! Where can I find one?

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