116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Arts & Entertainment / Things To Do
Hoover Museum highlighting pivotal event in Johnny Cash’s career
‘1968: A Folsom Redemption’ opens Jan. 28 in West Branch
Jan. 26, 2023 10:10 am, Updated: Jan. 26, 2023 5:00 pm
WEST BRANCH — To celebrate the golden anniversary of an event during the golden era of Johnny Cash’s career, “1968: A Folsom Redemption,” is coming to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum.
This first traveling exhibition of 31 photos from Cash’s landmark performance at California’s Folsom Prison opens Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, and continues through March 16 at the Hoover Museum.
The collection features the photos and memories of two journalists lucky enough to be among a handful of eyewitnesses to Cash’s historic concerts inside the prison. This candid and personal exhibition covers a critical juncture in the career of the Man in Black, one of the 20th century’s most iconic performers.
If you go
What: “1968: A Folsom Redemption” exhibition
Where: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, 210 Parkside Dr., West Branch
When: Jan. 28 to March 16, 2023; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Admission: $10 ages 16 to 61; $5 ages 62 and over, active/retired military with ID and college students with ID; $3 ages 6 to 15; free ages 5 and under and Hoover Presidential Foundation members
In January 1968, Cash was at a crossroads. His music career, in a slow decline for several years, was in need of a smash hit. He had recently straightened out his personal life, and leadership changes at his record label meant he was able to finally convince them of the merits of a live recording in a prison setting.
He had been performing for inmates as far back as 1957, when he received a stream of requests from prisoners who identified with the man who sang “Folsom Prison Blues.” This connection he developed with prisoners during these concerts made him increasingly sympathetic to those he would later call “the downtrodden.”
Working as freelance journalists, photographer Dan Poush and writer Gene Beley met with Cash and his family the day before the concerts began, at the invitation of the Rev. Floyd Gressett, a friend of Cash’s who ministered to inmates and helped set up the Folsom State Prison show with its recreation director, Lloyd Kelley.
After practicing the set with the Tennessee Three at Hotel El Rancho the night before, on Jan. 13, 1968, Cash, along with opening acts Carl Perkins and the Statler Brothers, performed two separate shows in the dining hall at the prison in Folsom, Calif.
Notable for capturing Cash’s ability to connect with his audience, the recordings crackled with the excitement of an adoring crowd. The resulting album, “At Folsom Prison,” was released four months later to critical and popular acclaim.
Beley’s first-person account of those days, and his knowledge of the story lines at work behind the scenes, offer up the little-known aspects of a well-known event in popular culture. The exhibition takes the viewer into the heart of this pivotal moment in Cash’s life and career.
The photos feature a wide range of intimate images with friends and family, including a backstage meeting with country music legend Merle Haggard and Cash.
The exhibition, organized by ExhibitsUSA, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, highlights Cash’s golden era from the January 1968 Folsom prison album recording to a March 1, 1969, concert in Anaheim, Calif., when he was getting ready to launch his network television show.