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Mean As Hell!

This collection is unavailable via iTunes and Amazon.com. __________________________________________________________

From the vinyl LP

Columbia Stereo
CS 9246

Johnny Cash
Mean As Hell!
Ballads From The True West
With the Statler Brothers and The Carter Family

Side One:

The Shifting, Whispering Sands, Part 1
V.C. Gilbert - M. Hadler

I Ride An Old Paint
Arr. Johnny Cash

The Road To Kaintuck
J. Carter

A Letter From Home
M. Carter - D. Dean

Mean As Hell
J. Cash

25 Minutes To Go
S. Silverstein

Side Two:

Mister Garfield
J. Elliot - Arr: Johnny Cash

The Blizzard
H. Howard

The Streets Of Laredo
Arr. Johnny Cash

Sweet Betsy From Pike
Arr. Johnny Cash

P. La Farge

Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie
Arr. Johnny Cash


Produced by Don Law and Frank Jones
The selections in this album are included in "Johnny Cash Sings The Ballads of The True West" C2L 38/C2S 848*


Notes by Johnny Cash
Abridged from "Johnny Cash Sings the Ballads of The True West"

Four years ago, Columbia Records album producer Don Law said to me, "John, think about making an album of Western songs." I thought about it, and Don knew I would attempt it when I was ready. Later, as a guest in my house, he brought me two books on Western lore. But nothing was mentioned about a Western album. Instead, we talked about fishing.

A few months ago, Don Law called me, "Johnny, old boy, aren't we about ready to do that Western album?" I was afraid he'd ask that. I said "Yes," then locked myself in my room full of books and took out pen and paper to begin sketching my plans for the songs and stories that would go into MEAN AS HELL!

We aren't sorry for the modern sounds and modern arrangements on classics like I Ride an Old Paint or The Streets of Laredo; after all, they were meant to be heard on twentieth-century record players and transistor radios! For today that same west wind is blowing, although buckboards and saddles are lying out there turning to dust or crumbling from dry rot.

How did I get ready for this album? I followed trails in my Jeep and on foot, and I slept under mesquite bushes and in gullies. I heard the timber wolves, looked for golden nuggets in old creek beds, sat for hours beneath a manzanita bush in an ancient Indian burial ground, breathed the west wind and heard the tales it tells only to those who listen.

I replaced a wooden grave marker of some man in the Arizona who "never made it." I walked across alkali flats where others had walked before me, but hadn't made it. I ate mesquite beans and squeezed the water from a barrel cactus. I was saved once by a forest ranger, lying flat on my face, starving. I learned to throw a bowie knife and kill a jack rabbit at forty yards, not for the sport but because I was hungry. I learned of the true West the hard way - a la 1965.

Yes, it was an obsession, but I learned the ways of the West. It's still there, and even though the people I sing about are gone, I saw something of what their life was like. Most of it I enjoyed. Some of it was mean as hell. But it's the same West: it's wild and hot and unbelievable till you try it on foot. It was the true West.

Here are a few words about some of the songs, including some definitions of cowboy lingo.

The Road To Kaintuck. This was about one of the first main roads leading West that was blazed by Daniel Boone. Others were the Dug Road, the Old Reedy Creek Road, the Road Down Troublesome. The Road to Moccasin Gap runs along Clinch Mountain, through Big Moccasin Gap, near Gate City, Tennessee.

The Shifting, Whispering Sands, Part 1. This one has special meaning for me, I often go to an old, abandoned ranch near Maricopa, California, in my 1946 Jeep. No electricity, no running water, no phone. I sleep in a little shack heated by a wood-burning stove and use candles for light. There are rabbits, deer, badgers, coyotes, squirrels and, once in a while, a bear. I know the 480 acres like the back of my hand. I've spent hours walking around the original homesteaders' homesites. The buildings are long fallen and crumbling into dust. I found a buckboard that fell apart when I tried to move it. There's a windmill that sways in the wind. I sat under a manzanita bush one hot day with pen and paper, all set for a song inspiration. I looked around and discovered I was in an Indian burial graveyard - and I won't show you where it is. (This is the ranch, incidentally, where Frank Bez photographed the albums cover picture.) Out there at night, the stars seem twice as bright as anywhere else. You have to "gaze on high at the heavens, where you're hoping you'll be going when you die."

I Ride an Old Paint. Definitions you might find helpful: Montan = Montana; Hooley-ann = a roping term for a fast loop over the horse's head; Coulee = a ravine, a creek bed; Draw = a shallow drain for rainfall, among other meanings; Dogie = a maverick's scrubby calf; another meaning, for some cowboys, is laced shoes.

Mister Garfield. This song was brough to me by folk singer Jack Elliott. I wrote most of the song's dialogue. It is eighty years old and to my knowledge has never been recorded. Jack recorded "The Ballad of Charles Guiteau," about the man who shot President Garfield.

The Streets Of Laredo. A British tune, the original is supposed to be about a man who died of syphilis in a London hospital. The second and third verses here (author unknown) are from "Cowboy Songs" by John Lomax, published in 1910.

A Letter From Home. I asked Mother Maybelle Carter one night to write me a Western song for this album. The next morning she gave me this. Since the Bible on the plains was as uncommon as a letter from home, many cowboys called it that.

Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie. In those days, there simply wasn't a way to transport a dead man across hundreds of miles of open country. Anyway, after he died, maybe he didn't mind being buried on the lone prairie.

Other Johnny Cash albums you will enjoy:

Johnny Cash Sings the Ballads of The True West ... C2L 38/C2S 838*
Orange Blossom Special ... Cl 2309/CS 9109*
Bitter Tears ... CL 2248/CS 9048*
I Walk The Line ... CL 2190/CS 8990*
Ring of Fire ... CL 2053/CS 8853*
Blood, Sweat and Tears ... CL 1930/CS 8730*
The Sound of Johnny Cash ... CL 1802/CS 8602*
Hymns From The Heart ... CL 1722/CS 8522*
Ride This Train ... CL 1464/CS 8255*
Now, There Was a Song! ... CL 1463/CS 8254*
Songs of Our Soil ... CL 1339/CS 8148*
The Fabulous Johhny Cash ... CL 1253/CS 8122*


SIDE I: THE SHIFTING, WHISPERING SANDS Part 1 - Gallatin Music Corp. (BMI) ... 2:53
I RIDE AN OLD PAINT - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 2:56
THE ROAD TO KAINTUCK - Coppercreek Pub. Co. (BMI) ... 2:42
A LETTER FROM HOME - Coppercreek Pub. Co. (BMI) ... 2:32
MEAN AS HELL - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:07
25 MINUTES TO GO - Hollis Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:11

MISTER GARFIELD - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:46
THE BLIZZARD - Red River Songs, Inc. & Tuckahoe Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:50
THE STREETS OF LAREDO - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:39
SWEET BETSY FROM PIKE - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 3:14
STAMPEDE - Piedmont Music Co., Inc. (ASCAP) ... 2:57
BURY ME NOT ON THE LONE PRAIRIE - Southwind Music, Inc. (BMI) ... 2:27


Cover Photo: Frank Bez

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