On February 24, 1969 Johnny Cash performed at San Quentin state prison. It was on this night that Johnny recorded for the very first time a song by the poet, songwriter, and cartoonist Shel Silverstein. This concert and the song “Boy Named Sue” would be recorded for his live album At San Quentin. Later that year the song would become Johnny Cash’s biggest hit to date hitting number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was Johnny’s wife, fellow singer songwriter, and member of the legendary Carter family, June Carter Cash who encouraged him to perform the song that night at San Quentin after hearing Shel perform the song for a small group of fellow musicians.
Shel recorded his own album Boy Named Sue and Other Country Songs the same year. He would later perform the song on Johnny’s television variety show. He also wrote the follow-up song, “The Father of a Boy Named Sue,” which would appear on his 1978 album Songs and Stories. The follow-up tells the story of the boy named Sue from his father’s point of view. Mr. Silverstein has recorded sixteen albums all told and has written or co-written songs for a number of other artists like Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, and Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show.
He is the author of numerous books. Among these are modern children’s classics like The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and Falling Up. Johnny Cash is a music icon and a legend. There are a number of biographies and documentaries on “The Man in Black” including his autobiography Cash.
These two great artists will forever be intertwined. I’d encourage you to come explore all our great resources here at the Delaware County District Library to learn more about these two individuals.
Read more about Shel Silverstein's song writings in Director Mary Jane Santos' weekly Delaware Gazette column.