Rotblatt-Amrany Rendition of Johnny Cash “The Man In Black” Statue
1969 was considered by some to be the greatest year for music the world has ever seen with the gathering at Woodstock and the high tide for the counter-culture. But it wasn’t the Beatles who sold the most music in 1969, nor was it Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. It was Johnny Cash, partly due to two now legendary prison albums the Man in Black released during the time period that revitalized his struggling career, starting with At Folsom Prison released in 1968—a live recording from Johnny Cash’s two performances at Folsom Prison on January 13th, 1968. 13 years before, Johnny Cash had already immortalized the prison with his song “Folsom Prison Blues,” and now the town of Folsom, California is paying back Cash for putting the city on the map.
“People around the world know Folsom because of that very famous song,” Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell told The Sacramento Bee.
Over the weekend, Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash ventured out to Folsom, CA to cut the ribbon at the new Johnny Cash Trail and Overpass, which includes a pedestrian and bike bridge that replicates the castle-style guard towers of Folsom Prison’s east gate. The $3.8 million-dollar overpass at Folsom Lake Crossing Rd. and East Natoma St. will eventually connect a 2.5-mile trail named in tribute to Johnny Cash, and connect to a larger trail network that snakes around Folsom Prison, Folsom Lake, and Folsom’s City Hall. And this is just where the City of Folsom’s plans begin for their Johnny Cash-themed trail.
After the 2.5 mile trail is complete, planners want to create a 2-acre park beside the trail and overpass that will include numerous Cash-themed works of art, including a guitar-style piece of art that will be on the ground and stretch out into a nearby street, a large guitar pick-style pedestal that will include a map of the Johnny Cash trail, a “Ring of Fire” display consisting of swirling red guitar pick-style pieces, and most impressively, a 50-foot steel monument called “The Man in Black,” designed by Gary Tillery in conjunction with The Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany that will light up with flames at night. Planners in Folsom solicited the public for ideas and proposals of how to best memorialize Johnny Cash, and out of 32 final entries, they whittled it down to two winners.
The idea for the Johnny Cash-themed trail, park, and public art came from Senior Planner Jim Konopka, who thought it was the perfect way to utilize the property around the famed prison. Though public funds paid for the pedestrian overpass and trail, city planners believed private donations would be more suitable for the art projects, so the city is planning a $3 million fundraising drive to pay for the final additions.
“He was good for the city, and the city was good for him,” Robert Goss, Folsom’s Parks and Recreation director told The Sacramento Bee.
Folsom State Prison, opened in 1880, is still in operation and houses just under 2,500 inmates. Out of all of Johnny Cash’s albums, At Folsom Prison is his best selling album of all time.