Cash, Johnny - Ring of Fire
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Cash – the Autobiography of Johnny Cash
The 1960s were probably my most productive time, creatively speaking. I ventured out, testing different waters, and I really enjoyed that. And a lot of good songs came out of that period. Often I wasn't in my best voice, because the amphetamines dried my throat and reduced me, at times, to croaks and whispers, but that wasn't the story all the time, and my energy and output were high.
I was in the prime of life, after all, my late twenties and early thirties, and it took a lot to knock me down either physically or creatively.
Eventually the drugs did that, but in the first half of the decade I often had it together as far as my music was concerned. That's how it felt to me at the time, anyway, and that's how it sounds to me still.
Don Law, my producer at Columbia, was a great help to me, but as it happened neither he nor Frank Jones, who came in to replace him when he reached retirement age, had much to do with my biggest commercial successes of the '50s, 'Ring of Fire' in 1963 and my two prison albums in '58 and'69.
Jack Clement was the man who actually ran the session for 'Ring of Fire,' and both Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and Johnny Cash at San Quentin were made after I'd switched to Bob Johnston as my producer. 'Ring of Fire,' written by June with Merle Kilgore, raised a lot of eyebrows in Nashville because we used trumpets on it. Trumpets were not country instruments, or perhaps more to the point, nobody had thought of using them so boldly on a country record before.
Technically speaking, I didn't think of doing so either. I heard Anita Carter singing the song, with trumpets framing her verses, in a dream. It still sounded good in my head when I was awake, so I called Jack, who'd moved to Beaumont, Texas, after leaving Sun, and asked him to come up to Nashville and help me get it done.
I knew he was the only one who'd see how it could work; there wasn't any point in even discussing it with anyone else. So he found the trumpet players, came on up, arranged the song, and ran the session, with Don Law and Frank Jones in the control room. He never got credit for it, just as he didn't get credit for a lot of the work he did with me after that, but he was always there when I needed him.