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Hey, Porter!
by Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two
Johnny Cash's first single, recorded in 1954 following a stint as an Air Force enlistee in Germany, was released the following year by local Memphis label Sun, a fledgling outfit run by Sam Phillips that would soon become a national hit-parade powerhouse on the back of recordings by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Cash himself. Phillips added the excited punctuation to the record's first release; later pressings and recordings simply read "Hey Porter." Cash wrote the song in his barracks as he prepared to return to the United States following his tour of duty; it came first as a poem he composed while yearning for the South, his family, and his fiancee Vivian Liberto. He re-recorded it numerous times throughout his career.

In 2013 I spent the year studying The Complete Columbia Album Collection, a 63-disc set of Cash's recordings with that label. Cash has long been a favorite of mine, but that deep dive cemented his stature in my record collection. That Christmas my brother gave me a copy of Robert Hilburn's Cash biography A Life, published that same year. I got a little Cashed out in 2013 (no pun intended) and it's taken me until now to start reading. The wait was worth it, and as I progress through the book I'm finding myself stopping to listen to the recordings being discussed. As of today I'm at the point where Phillips has just released Cash's third single, "I Walk the Line," but it's his first release that I keep going back to for now. It's good to be listening to Johnny Cash again.
1955 - Sun
Posted: 18th January 2019
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