In one of the best examples of why The Johnny Cash Show should be remembered for narrowing the divide between musical styles, New Orleans jazz great Louis Armstrong joined Cash on the Oct. 28, 1970 episode for a performance of Jimmie Rodgers' "Standing on the Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9)."
As Cash explains in the above video, Armstrong and his wife at the time, Lil Hardin Armstrong, performed on the country music cornerstone's ninth "Blue Yodel." Neither Armstrong nor Hardin get credit as guest musicians, likely because the July 16, 1930 session in Hollywood was for Victor. At the time, Armstrong was signed to Okeh.
Forty years later, the Armstrong family's session with Rodgers was the type of United States cultural history that Cash loved sharing with the masses.
The song, set in Memphis at the corner of Beale Street and Main Street, warns local "rounders" that a "Tennessee hustler's" come to town. It's emblematic of a time when early country songs barely differed from the blues. The main "difference" was that Rodgers recorded "hillbilly" music, while African American blues singers and guitarists' recordings got promoted as "race records."
After Cash asked Armstrong to "wail like you did on the record," the jazz icon known lovingly as Satchmo said, "We'll see. Let's give it to them in black and white."
In the coming decades, Cash and Armstrong claimed their rightful spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Satchmo's involvement in country music wasn't limited to the time he and Hardin lent Rodgers a helping hand. The same year as Armstrong's appearance on Cash's TV show, the album Louis "Country Music" Armstrong hit shelves. It's chilling to hear the voice many associate with "What a Wonderful World" sing one particular verse in the often-covered classic "Miller's Cave": "I said you'll pay, both you and Davey. I must see you in your grave. They laughed at me and then I shot 'em. I took their cheatin', schemin' bones to Miller's Cave." Additional album cuts include covers of David Houston's "Almost Persuaded" and Ray Price's "Crazy Arms."
Armstrong's Cash duet and country album came the calendar year before the 69 year-old music legend's July 6, 1971 passing.
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There's plenty of footage out there of ABC's The Johnny Cash Show, including Cash's musical interactions with the Monkees, Mama Cass Elliot, Lorne Greene, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn and others. The show was filmed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. It featured Cash's wife June Carter Cash and members of her family plus regular tour mates the Statler Brothers.