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(Soundbite of "Walk the Line")

Mr. JOACHIN PHOENIX: (As Johnny Cash) This song's for your warden.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PHOENIX: (As Johnny Cash; singing) Early one morning while making the rounds, I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down. I went right home and I went to bed and put that loving .44 beneath my head.


For Johnny Cash fans, this is a key scene in the movie. Cash's famous record "Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison" gave listeners a peek inside prison walls. Gene Beley was at Folsom Prison in 1968, when the record was made. He was a young reporter working for the Ventura Star Free Press. A friend invited him to the concert, and he brought along a tape recorder. Beley's recording is familiar, but it's from an entirely new perspective: the audience.

(Soundbite of recording; audience noise)

Mr. GENE BELEY: Prisoners went nuts, 'cause the energy in the room, it was like a power plant. You could have hooked them up and fed the world with power for the next 10 years.

(Soundbite of recording; audience noise)

Mr. BELEY: Of course, when he sings, like, about the song of killing a woman in Reno and watching her die, you know, they would just, you know, go berserk.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. JOHNNY CASH (Singing) Early one morning while making the rounds, I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down. I went right home and I went to bed. I put that loving .44 beneath my head.

Mr. BELEY: And it's like June Carter said after the show, `John looks as mean as they do, and they identified with him.'

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: You have a drink of water?

(Soundbite of audience noise)

Unidentified Man #1: Give the man a drink! Get him a drink!

Mr. BELEY: My image of hard-core criminals changed that day, because a lot of them looked baby-faced, like the guy that might live next door to you.

(Soundbite of recording)

Unidentified Man #2: He's going on to get some water. Come on.

Mr. BELEY: And, sure, there were the Hell's Angel type, bikers that looked like they'd kill you if they get the chance. The highlight of the concert for me was the Glen Sherley song.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: Thank you very much. This next song was written by a man right here in Folsom Prison, and last night was the first time I've ever sung this song.

Mr. BELEY: The night before, he held a rehearsal at the hotel there.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: A, D and C. ...(Unintelligible). No.

Mr. BELEY: And Cash's friend Reverend Gressett said, `John, I've got a tape here that I promised this woman that you would listen to. Her brother is in Folsom Prison, and he's written a song.' We put that tape on, and it was "Greystone Chapel" by Glen Sherley.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. GLEN SHERLEY (Inmate/Singer): (Singing) Inside the walls of prison my body may be, but my Lord has set my soul free.

Mr. BELEY: And it was so good, I was kidding him, I said, `John, if they let this guy out of prison, he'll put you out of business.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. SHERLEY: (Singing) You wouldn't think God had a place...

Mr. BELEY: And he s--`I want to record it. I want to record it.' He says, `Bring the tape recorder to my room so I can copy down the lyrics. I'm going to record it tomorrow.'

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: (Singing) Now this a gray stone chapel here at Folsom stands a hundred years old, made of granite rock. It takes a ring of keys to move here at Folsom.

Mr. BELEY: These reel-to-reel tapes have been sitting around gathering dust at my place.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: (Singing) of God is never locked.

Mr. BELEY: My wife has always wanted me to get rid of all this stuff, but this pack rat refused to do it, thank God.

(Soundbite of recording)

Mr. CASH: (Singing) body may be, but my Lord has set my soul free.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

Mr. CASH: (Singing) ...(Unintelligible).

NORRIS: Gene Beley says he plans to be in line tonight when "Walk the Line" opens. You can read a longer version of his story at

(Soundbite of recording; music; cheering and applause)

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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