January 1, 1960: Johnny Cash Plays First Prison Show, Inmate Merle Haggard Watches
Robin Jones, Evening Standard, Getty Images
Fresh into the new year half a century ago, Johnny Cash made his prison tribute with his first jailhouse performance at San Quentin prison in San Rafael, California.
One audience member was duly impressed by Cash's showmanship and, more importantly, his attitude. Country singer-songwriter and then inmate Merle Haggard, imprisoned for burglary, said that the then 27-year-old musician was the embodiment of what every prisoner wanted to be.
"He had the right attitude," Haggard said of Cash's performance. "He chewed gum, looked arrogant and flipped the bird to the guards -- he did everything the prisoners wanted to do. He was a mean mother from the South who was there because he loved us. When he walked away, everyone in that place had become a Johnny Cash fan."