Johnny Cash Pulls A Surprise

Once again, I’m astounded by the things one can find on YouTube.

I was scanning the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending April 11, 1970, looking for something I could write about that wouldn’t crash into tunes I have planned for the Ultimate Jukebox (which, as readers no doubt are aware, is very heavy on music from 1970).

Here’s the Top Ten from that date:

“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Instant Karma” by John Lennon
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
“House of the Rising Sun” by Frijid Pink
“Come and Get It” by Badfinger
“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman
“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz

It’s a fun Top Ten, and as it turns out, only one of those tunes is tagged for the Ultimate Jukebox. But they’re all very familiar, and I thought I’d dig a little deeper and see what treasures might be found in deeper portions of this particular musical harbor. So, as today is April 8 – 4/8 – I dropped below the Top 40 and checked out No. 48 in the Hot 100.

It turned out to be “Easy To Be Free” by Rick Nelson, a song that was part of Nelson’s 1970 live album, Rick Nelson in Concert (The Troubadour, 1969). (Whether the single was the live version or a studio version, I don’t know.) The record was in its sixth week in the Billboard chart and its second week at No. 48. I looked ahead a week, and by that time, the record had fallen entirely off the chart.

Intrigued – I have the live album but honestly, I haven’t listened to it often enough to pull the song from my memory – I went to YouTube to see what I could find. And I found a clip from the April 29, 1970, episode of The Johnny Cash TV Show with Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band performing “Easy To Be Free.”

After that, Nelson sits down next to Cash and the two slide into a relaxed version of Doug Kershaw’s “Louisiana Man.” And then there’s a pleasant surprise. I wrote a few weeks ago about how much I liked the CD of selected performances from Cash’s show, which aired from 1969 t0 1971. I think I’m going to have to get the DVD set, too.

Afternote: The notes on the back of my vinyl version of Nelson’s live album – a reissue – seem to indicate that the version of “Easy To Be Free” that was released as a single was, in fact, a studio version. Has anyone out there heard it? And here it is:

Rick Nelson – “Easy To Be Free” [1970]

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2 Responses to “Johnny Cash Pulls A Surprise”

  1. Charlie says:

    I too have the LP on Decca Records. My version is called Rick Nelson in Concert. The title doesn’t mention The Troubadour. However, all I have is the LP. Somehow I never had the album cover and I had to go out and buy a plain, cardboard, LP cover with nothing on it to protect the record. As I have no liner notes I never learned anything about the disc. I haven’t listened to it in a long, long, time but I do remember Rick introducing Randy Meisner as part of the band. Thanks for posting this. You’ve now inspired me to burn this to CD.

  2. Paco Malo says:

    Another gem from the Johnny Cash TV show is contained on Neil Young’s 2006 concert DVD “Heart of Gold”. In the Special Features section, there is a clip from 1971 with Cash giving a heart-felt introduction to Neil performing “Needle and the Damage Done”.

    I saw the connection between Cash and Young’s music immediately, but what surprised me was that Cash had such a cool network TV show way back then. How did I miss it? I guess I was too busy wearing out my copy of Frijid Pink’s “House of the Rising” single.

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