Johnny Cash's 1978 Christmas special, his third in as many years, teamed the Man in Black, June Carter Cash and their family with duet partners Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge and banjo-picking comedian Steve Martin.
Martin was no stranger to country-related variety shows. One of his first big breaks came as a writer for The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. In 1974, the first episode of short-lived The Johnny Cash Show spinoff Johnny Cash and Friends featured Martin, Roy Clark, Tanya Tucker, Howard Mann and the future Ernest P. Worrell, Jim Varney. Like its predecessor, Johnny Cash and Friends was filmed in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium.
Yet Martin's coolest musical moment before becoming a Grammy winner in his own right came when the Johnny Cash Christmas Special found him on stage with two future Highwaymen for a light-hearted song and a card trick.
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After singing a duet version of Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down," Cash and Kristofferson joined voices with 33-year-old Martin for a light-hearted take on "I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home."
That same evening, a Christmastime card trick went sideways when Martin asks Cash to tell the audience that their magic trick had not been rehearsed ahead of time.
The Christmas show ended on a lighter note, with Cash singing "Silent Night" with his and June's daughters: Carlene, Tara, Rosanne, Cindy, Kathy and Rosie.
Earlier in 1978, Martin and the Toot Uncommons (the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band by a different name) recorded comedy classic "King Tut." Since then, Martin's become one of the banjo's most visible ambassadors and a credit to bluegrass and old-time music. Beyond Cash and Kristofferson, he's jammed with everyone from Earl Scruggs to Kermit the Frog.
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