10 ridiculously underrated songs by Johnny Cash

These songs should be in heavy rotation on your playlist.

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“ROCK ISLAND LINE” (1957)

By the time Johnny recorded “Rock Island Line,” the American folk classic had already been performed by the giants of American roots music from Lead Belly to Woody Guthrie. That didn’t stop 25 year-old Johnny from putting his own spin on it, writing several new verses. He used it as the lead-off track on his first full studio album.

Though you may not agree with my assessment, I think Johnny does here what Tina Turner would later do in her famous version of “Proud Mary.” He starts off nice and slow. Johnny often used spoken intros to his songs, which he does here, and even as he transitions into the lyric, his voice is slow and easy.  Then he hits the chorus and he shows that this laid-back country crooner could rock as fast as anyone out there.

Thirty years later, on his famous cover of “I’ve Been Everywhere," Johnny surprised a lot of people by just how fast he spit out lyrics. If you had ever heard his version of “Rock Island Line,” there would have been no surprise at all. Johnny may not have written the original version of this song, but he did add the perfect lyric ‘’ “Well, the engineer said before he died – That there were two more drinks that he’d like to try – The doctor 'What could that be?' – “A hot cup of coffee and cold glass of tea.”

“LUTHER PLAYED THE BOOGIE WOOGIE” (1959)

“Luther Played the Boogie Woogie” was released as a single by Sun early in 1959, and then released on a compilation album later that year. By the time it came out, Johnny and the Tennessee Two had already left Sun for Columbia Records.

Luther, of course, was Luther Perkins, who played a Fender Esquire and provided a lot of the bounce in Johnny’s early songs. Johnny liked singing songs about performing. He would score hits later with his recording of Jack Clements’s “The One On The Right,” and Carl Perkins’ “Daddy Sang Bass.” “Luther…” is the most fun of them all. It is “The One On The Right” without the politics (though it is a riotously funny song), and “Daddy Sang Bass” without the religion. It is pure boogie-woogie.