Danny Wilson and Tracy Schlapp created FOLSOM50 with their band Luther's Boots to commemorate Johnny Cash’s legendary prison concerts. The performance resonated with Cash’s belief in reinvention, his own redemption — a biographical thread that ran through all of Cash’s catalog. During 2018, Luther’s Boots performed concerts in eleven of the fourteen Oregon prisons. Rather than replicating the shows, Luther’s Boots reinterpreted Cash’s music and styling by drawing from Cash’s ability to transmit the emotional complexity of hillbilly music. The songs from the At Folsom Prison live recording were styled by the band with an ear to contemporary audiences.
HOW DO YOU SING A CASH SONG?
AND OTHER QUESTIONS
The project started with a thought on a summer day: I would like to play “At Folsom Prison” start to finish to mark the 50th anniversary of the record. Response: That would be really interesting if you did it in prison. Tinder ignited! As it turns out, folks light up when you mention Johnny Cash. The band came together, prisons were interested, grants written (with results hanging in the balance), and the lovely Polaris Hall in NE Portland was made available to help raise funds for a tour. Good ideas become great ideas through hard work and collaboration. The band worked tirelessly to find a way to both engage with the musical heritage and find their place in the songs. There is no imitating Cash’s voice, rather, it is bringing his spirit to life through intentions. What would Johnny do? Well, he might smile a little wryly.
ACCOUSTIC PERFORMANCE & STORYTELLING
“CASH: Music, Legacy, & Redemption” a musical/lecture describes the FOLSOM50 project through acoustic excerpts of Cash songs, punctuated with the story of bringing a concert and art to adults in custody. The FOLSOM50 shows were designed to broadcast the experience of folks inside in order to educate people about the needs of adults in custody. After touring the prisons statewide, the band members have experienced the power of making a positive connection. The lecture is designed to cultivate an audience of students, artists, and citizens willing to advocate for adults in custody. We believe in the seeds that are sown when people are brought into a space filled with art, music, and ideas.
JOHNNY CASH: MUSIC, LEGACY, & REDEMPTION
FOLSOM50 Co-producer, Tracy Schlapp has writing an essays that will unfold during the year of rehearsals and performances with the band Luther’s Boots.
“Part 1: Music” was distributed in artist books and used as show programs in prison. The essay looks closely at the prison concerts and the music and contextualizes it through Cash's biography, his own writing, and the songs themselves.
The Oregon Arts Commission provided a generous grant to publish a limited-edition Scoutbook to help document the project.
AND ON THE LETTERPRESS . . .
People who know Nashville's Ryman Auditorium (the mother church and home of the Grand Ole Opry) know Hatch Show Print. For over 100 years, this letterpress shop has been using movable type and hand-carved images to sell tickets to events — think rock stars to wrestlers, musicians, and magicians. Cumbersome Multiples has created letterpress postcards, posters, and even show programs to further the legacy. Work is available for sale to help raise funds for the Oregon State Prison tour.
Go to the shop to find Cumbersome goods.