After climbing the “Stairway To Heaven” in our first song choice to listen to with a premium cigar, we’ve landed behind bars in the second of our musical mini-series.
Ironically, there’s arguably no better form of escapism than kicking back with a flavorful smoke and putting on a classic tune. Folsom Prison Blues certainly fits the bill, ranked 51 by Rolling Stone magazine on its list of the 100 greatest country songs ever.
Let’s push play and find out more about this rockabilly anthem, as well as a recommended top-shelf stogie to enjoy while you listen.
Who wrote Folsom Prison Blues?
Legendary country singer-songwriter Johnny Cash first recorded the song in 1955 for his debut album Johnny Cash with his Hot and Blue Guitar! It became one of the country singer-songwriter’s signature songs that kicked off many of his concerts after greeting the audience with his trademark introduction, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
Folsom Prison Blues was inspired by the film Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison (1951), which first opened Cash’s eyes to the harsh prison conditions before the 1944 California prison reform.
A passionate prison reformer who believed in rehabilitation, Cash was keen to perform at a prison since he first wrote the song.
His first prison performance was at Huntsville State Prison in 1957. However, it was the two historic concerts at Folsom State Prison on January 13th, 1968, that spawned a milestone live album for “The Man in Black.” Lifting the spirits of a thousand prisoners, he went on to inspire many behind cell walls to turn their lives around and contribute positively to society when they were released.
During the live performances, many prisoners hesitated to respond too raucously, as they feared punishment from the guards if they cheered too loud during songs such as “25 Minutes to Go.”
Cash’s powerful music (in particular, Folsom Prison Blues) became part of a lifelong campaign for prison reform, even meeting with President Richard Nixon to force the issue.
With the album Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (1968) incarcerating just over 45 minutes of your precious time, try giving the below stogie a toast the next time you spin this classic album (and song).
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Strength: Medium – Full
- Wrapper: San Andrés
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Sizes Available:
Inspired by “Cocaine Blues” — another Cash hit taken off the 1968 live album — the Jericho Hill from Crowned Heads is a medium to full-bodied stogie with a bold profile and bright citrus notes. The size names all harken back to songs on the 1968 live album.
Cloaked in a dark and sultry earthy-brown San Andrés wrapper covering a Nicaraguan binder and filler, the name comes from a lyric in the song “In walked the sheriff from Jericho Hill.”
It tells the story of a man named Willy Lee, who goes down a destructive path that includes killing a woman brought on by the influence of whiskey and cocaine. Lee is captured in Juarez, Mexico, and is brought to justice by the sheriff from Jericho Hill.
The Jericho Hill is tightly packed, with its dense, strong wrapper leading to the round triple cap. This aromatic stick locks you in with its rich syrup and dark molasses sweetness while the cold draw pumps out some deep earth and woodsy hits.
Once you’ve used your lighter to spark a ring of fire, you can enjoy a bold, rich, and tasty smoke that’s not shy on flavor. The first third is heavily earth-driven with a wood overtone, although a subtle spice builds up as you go through the nose.
Puffs in the second third deliver leather, cedar, coffee, and more earth, while some pepper picks up the pace just past the midway point. It is especially prominent in the retrohale. The pepper is reminiscent of a classic peppercorn sauce accompaniment for a glorious cut of steak, with its warm creaminess cutting through the rich flavor profile.
Sauntering up the final third of Jericho Hill, the characteristic sweet-spicy taste of the Mexican leaf comes to the fore with flourishes of dry cocoa and earthy bitterness. While the profile is still earthy at its core, the woodsy notes are more profound, with some pine creeping in, alongside a hint of leather.
Another welcome surprise in the closing stages is the zesty background hit of candied orange sweetness, which helps bring the bend into balance.
Following JFK’s assassination in 1968, Folsom Prison Blues was soon at the center of controversy. Radio stations ceased playing it due to the deathly line, “I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die.” Cash protested against the record label’s desire to remove the line, but they ultimately got their way.
Despite this, Cash credited the album’s success with revitalizing his career, igniting a trend that would inspire many other artists to play concerts in prison, including the Sex Pistols.
At JR Cigars, you might think, “They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smoking big cigars,” but we are always here to ensure you experience the best cigars while listening to your favorite songs.