Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Blazing up the charts on the heels of Elvis' rock & roll paean was Johnny Cash with Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar, which was released in October 1957. Country music was booming in the ‘50s, with Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline leading the pack with down home rhythms and fix-it-Jesus lyrics. Much like Elvis, Cash's original sound was rooted in gospel. However, when he was introduced to Sam Phillips of Sun Records, he was told he should don a more "commercial" sound. And that he did.
This album went on to spawn four hit singles in "I Walk the Line," "So Doggone Lonesome," "Cry! Cry! Cry!," and "Folsom Prison Blues,” cementing Cash's rightful place in the hallowed halls of not only country music history, but gospel and rock & roll as well. Cash realized he had a flair for crossover hits with "I Walk the Line," which remained number one atop the country charts for six weeks before moving over to the pop Top 20, and he continued to do songs throughout his career that rode the fence between country and pop.
This serious, humble performer didn't revolutionize one genre, but proved he could overlap into many. With his molasses-rich baritone voice, somber delivery, trademark black wardrobe and three-man backing, this iconic singer-songwriter covered blues, rock & roll, folk, rockabilly and gospel. The "Man in Black" was relatable because of his hard knock life lyrics and real-life trials and tribulations; his album sales proved that people couldn't get enough of him.
"Folsom Prison Blues," the eleventh track on this twelve-track album, became sort of a theme song for him as he always opened with it when he was touring. He recorded a live version at Folsom Prison and it shot to number one on the charts in 1968. With his drinking, drug issues, and run-ins with the law, he developed an outlaw image while maintaining his Christian core. It’s safe to say that this everyman’ popularity stemmed not only from his talent, but also because he was a mirror for American society: well-meaning, but deeply flawed.