Discovered: Lost Johnny Cash Concert Recorded by the Grateful Dead’s LSD Chemist Owsley Stanley (1968)

On Jan­u­ary 13, 1968, John­ny Cash record­ed his famous live con­certs with­in the walls of Fol­som State Prison, Cal­i­for­nia, a week into what would be one of his busiest years of tour­ing. While Colum­bia Records worked on trim­ming down the two sets into one LP, Cash set off across the States, into Cana­da and back, play­ing almost every night, and return­ing to the West Coast for a final stop at the Carousel Ball­room in San Fran­cis­co.

Record­ing the gig that night was Owsley “Bear” Stan­ley, the Grate­ful Dead’s engi­neer and also the man respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the purest LSD on the West Coast. As Rolling Stone once asked, would there have been a Sum­mer of Love if not for Stan­ley? Appar­ent­ly, Stan­ley had *anoth­er* secret stash, and we are only now hear­ing a tiny frac­tion of it. This gig is one of over 1,300 the engi­neer record­ed and kept in his pri­vate col­lec­tion. Stan­ley died in 2011, and ten years lat­er the Oswald Stan­ley Foun­da­tion is selec­tive­ly releas­ing record­ings from this trea­sure trove as a way to pre­serve the record­ings and fund more releas­es. This Cash set was one of the first releas­es in the “Bear’s Son­ic Jour­nals” series, released in Octo­ber of 2021.

Cash’s new bride June Carter Cash joined him onstage. It was on the Ontario stop of the afore­men­tioned tour that Cash pro­posed to her live on stage, and they were mar­ried March 1 in Ken­tucky. You can hear his pride as he intro­duces her to the audi­ence; the two imme­di­ate­ly launch into “Jack­son.” “We got mar­ried in a fever,” indeed. (The two remained mar­ried until her death in 2003.) June sings sev­er­al num­bers, includ­ing “Wabash Can­non­ball,” and Carl Perkins’ “Long Legged Gui­tar Pickin’ Man.”

The oth­er artist fig­ur­ing promi­nent­ly in these record­ings (as an influ­ence) is Bob Dylan. The two had been cir­cling each oth­er in admi­ra­tion for years, and here Cash cov­ers “One Too Many Morn­ings” and then “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The man owns it, turns it into what sounds like a Ten­nessee Three orig­i­nal. Dylan and Cash would final­ly record togeth­er in 1969, in ses­sions that would be boot­legged until a recent offi­cial release.

Stan­ley record­ed these sets for him­self, com­ing straight out of the sound­board. Where the Carousel Ball­room con­cert lacks in quality—-vocals, audi­ence, and Cash’s gui­tar are on the left, the band to the right—-they make up for in his­to­ry and excite­ment.

Cur­rent­ly, the label has released full con­certs from Tim Buck­ley, Ali Akbar Khan, with Indranil Bhat­tacharya and Zakir Hus­sain, Com­man­der Cody & His Lost Plan­et Air­men, New Rid­ers of The Pur­ple Sage, Jor­ma Kauko­nen & Jack Casady, The All­man Broth­ers Band, and Doc and Mer­le Wat­son. As Stan­ley record­ed for two decades of his career, the cat­a­log promis­es untold delights.

The full playlist from the Carousel Ball­room gig is below:

via Boing­Bo­ing

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Grate­ful Dead Fan Cre­ates a Faith­ful Mini Repli­ca of the Band’s Famous “Wall of Sound” Dur­ing Lock­down

Two Prison Con­certs That Defined an Out­law Singer: John­ny Cash at San Quentin and Fol­som (1968–69)

Take a Trip to the LSD Muse­um, the Largest Col­lec­tion of “Blot­ter Art” in the World

John­ny Cash’s Short and Per­son­al To-Do List

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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