Watch Johnny Cash & Merle Haggard Perform “Sing Me Back Home” Back In 1969

ByQuyen Anne

Apr 15, 2024

… it doesn’t get much better than that.While Johnny Cash is best known for his long and illustrious music career, one of the contributions he made to the country music space that often gets over looked is his television show.

The Johnny Cash Show was a music variety show hosted by the Man in Black from June 7th, 1969 to March 31st, 1971. A total of 58 episodes were recorded from the Ryman Theater in Nashville, Tennessee, each featuring different artists that covered the spectrum of genres, but was heavily centered around country music.

From George Jones to Loretta Lynn, Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell, each episode lives on as a treasure trove of awesome covers and collaborative performance, and the latest one that came across my radar was from this date in 1969, when a guest by the name of Merle Haggard stopped by.

The Hag played a number of songs, including “The Fugitive” and a cover of Jimmie Roger’s “No Hard Times”, before sitting down next to Johnny so the two of them could team up on an all-time Merle classic.

“Sing Me Back Home” was written by Merle himself and was released as the first single and title track for his 1967 album. It went on to become his third number one, spending two weeks at the top and a total of 17 weeks on the country chart.

It’s a song about a the final moment’s of a prisoner on death row and the last request he ever made in his life, not asking for anything outrageous, just that his “guitar playing friend” could play him one final song to remind him of being home.

The song was inspired by Merle’s own time behind bars and the friendship he made with two prisoners, Caryl Chessman and James “Rabbit” Kendrick, both who were executed for the crimes they committed.

Although Johnny never spent actual time in prison, he’s forever linked to the jailed community from his shows played at San Quentin and Folsom Prison, as well as the philanthropic work done of their behalf. At one of the shows in San Quentin, a young Merle Haggard was in the audience and was inspired to change his life and become a country music singer himself.

These words coming from these two, both with deep but different personal experiences with the law and life imprisoned, makes it hit that much harder.

“The warden led a prisoner down the hallway to his doom
I stood up to say goodbye like all the rest
And I heard him tell the warden just before he reached my cell
“Let my guitar playing friend do my request”

Let him sing me back home with a song I used to hear
Make my old memories come alive
Take me away and turn back the years
Sing me back home before I die…”

Who knows what the country music world would look like had Merle not been there that fateful day when Johnny played in the prison. All we can do is be thankful that he was and continue to appreciate what these two great artists have done for the genre we love so much.

RIP Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard.

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