Johnny Cash and the Iron Range

cash-eveleth.jpg Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Vukich

Being a music fan in Minnesota, I’m well aware of the more famous concerts from rock ‘n roll’s hey days in the 1950s and 1960s: The Beatles in Bloomington in 1965 and Buddy Holly in Duluth in 1959 come to mind.

But until I read Jason Scorich’s excellent history column, I didn’t know about Johnny Cash’s show in Eveleth in February of 1958. Though he had only released one album at the time, Cash had already released some of his most famous songs, including “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Scorich writes that Cash wasn’t thrilled with playing in Eveleth in February. He certainly doesn’t look it in the above newspaper photo. But for Iron Range youth, Scorich writes, the concert was “manna from heaven.”

Cash’s boom-chuck train rhythms and rock energy were a validation of those unnamable feelings and emotions that welled up inside them. In short: In February 1958, a tough, hardy little seed of rock and roll history was planted in the frozen Range soil.

One of those youths, though he probably didn’t attend the show, wasn’t impressed.

According to young Bobby Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), Cash needed more “expression.” Of course, what Dylan and the rest of us came to realize was that Cash’s stony, John Wayne-like lack of expressiveness was, in fact, his most “expressive” stylistic trait.

Writer, college instructor and blogger Aaron Brown argues that fits in much better with the Iron Range than their native son Dylan:

Johnny Cash’s music more deftly describes the pathos of the Iron Range: rhythmic, rough around the edges, traditional and yet warped into something rebellious.

Sounds like the Iron Range to me.

Eventually though, Dylan warmed to Cash — and we’re all a little richer for it:

Comments are closed.