“A Boy Named Sue” Performed by Johnny Cash (1969)

February 18, 2010


The 1969 Grammy for Best Country Song went to   “A Boy Named Sue ” -  Shel Silverstein, Songwriter.

The  1969 Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male went to    “A Boy Named Sue”  sung by Johnny Cash.

Like the so-called labeled  Soul Gospel song “Oh Happy Day”  in the last post — this Country Song was a staple on AM radio when it came out and everyone loved it! It is another song that defies category IMHO.  I realize that the record industry insists on  charting music by category,  but frankly in the Sixties and into the Seventies for me and my friends and family good music was good music no matter what the genre!

I loved Johnny Cash ever since I first heard “Get Rhythm” and ” I Walk  The Line”  as a little girl in the Fifties. “Daddy Sang Bass” is still a fave and on my mp3 player to this day!

The Double Grammy winner “Sue”  song topped both the Adult Contemporary and Country Singles Charts at #1 and the Billboard Hot 100 at #2.

In his autobiography Cash wrote that he had just received the song and only read over it a couple of times. It was included in that concert to try it out; he didn’t know the words and on the filmed recording, he can be seen regularly referring to a piece of paper. Cash was surprised at how well the song went over with the audience – the rough, spontaneous performance with sparse accompaniment was included in the Johnny Cash At San Quentin album, ultimately becoming one of Cash’s biggest hits.

According to Shel Silverstein’s biographer Mitch Myers, it was June Carter Cash who encouraged her husband to perform the song. Silverstein introduced it to them at what they called a “Guitar Pull,” where musicians would pass a guitar around and play their songs. (SOURCE:WIKI Page “A Boy Named Sue”)

This is live at San Quentin in 1969.

“A Boy Named Sue”  Composed by Shel Silverstein

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn’t leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don’t blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me “Sue.”

Well, he must o’ thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a’ lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I’d get red
And some guy’d laugh and I’d bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain’t easy for a boy named “Sue.”

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I’d roam from town to town to hide my shame.
But I made a vow to the moon and stars
That I’d search the honky-tonks and bars
And kill that man who gave me that awful name.

Well, it was Gatlinburg in mid-July
And I just hit town and my throat was dry,
I thought I’d stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon on a street of mud,
There at a table, dealing stud,
Sat the dirty, mangy dog that named me “Sue.”

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
From a worn-out picture that my mother’d had,
And I knew that scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old,
And I looked at him and my blood ran cold
And I said: “My name is ‘Sue!’ How do you do!
Now your gonna die!!”

Well, I hit him hard right between the eyes
And he went down, but to my surprise,
He come up with a knife and cut off a piece of my ear.
But I busted a chair right across his teeth
And we crashed through the wall and into the street
Kicking and a’ gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell ya, I’ve fought tougher men
But I really can’t remember when,
He kicked like a mule and he bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laugh and then I heard him cuss,
He went for his gun and I pulled mine first,
He stood there lookin’ at me and I saw him smile.

And he said: “Son, this world is rough
And if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
And I knew I wouldn’t be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you’d have to get tough or die
And it’s the name that helped to make you strong.”

He said: “Now you just fought one hell of a fight
And I know you hate me, and you got the right
To kill me now, and I wouldn’t blame you if you do.
But ya ought to thank me, before I die,
For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
Cause I’m the son-of-a-bitch that named you “Sue.’”

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun
And I called him my pa, and he called me his son,
And I came away with a different point of view.
And I think about him, now and then,
Every time I try and every time I win,
And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him
Bill or George! Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!

Now I have shared with you some of my favorite Johnny Cash songs. What are some of your please?

Musically Yours,

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Filed under:A Boy Named Sue,Capitol Records,Country Crossover,Country Pop,Grammy Gold,Johnny Cash,Magnificent Male Vocalists,Novelty Songs,Shel Silverstein,Sixties

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