I Walk The Line

Album: Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar (1956)
Charted: 17
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Songfacts®:

  • One of his most famous songs, "I Walk The Line" details Johnny Cash's values and lifestyle. It was a promise to remain faithful to his first wife, Vivian Liberto, while he was on the road.

    Cash was 22 when he married Vivian on August 7, 1954; their daughter Rosanne was born 10 months later. Cash got a taste of temptation later in 1955 when he signed with Sun Records. He released two singles for the label that year and toured with their star, Elvis Presley, who attracted throngs of female fans at every stop. Cash wrote "I Walk The Line" as a reminder to stay true, which it turned out was not very, very easy to do. When the song took off, he became a star and was suddenly enveloped in distractions and vice.

    Constantly touring, Cash was rarely home. In 1956 he met June Carter at the Grand Ole Opry; in the early '60s, they started working together and also kindled an affair. Vivian filed for divorce in 1966; it was finalized a year later and, in 1968, Cash and Carter got married. That one took: they were together until June's death in 2003.
  • While performing the song on his TV show, Cash admitted that his eerie hum at the beginning of each verse was to get his pitch. The song required Cash to change keys several times while singing it.
  • This was a breakthrough hit for Johnny Cash, his first #1 Country song and also his first pop hit - it reached #17 on that tally.
  • Recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis on April 2, 1956, Cash played the song at a slow tempo, but his label boss, Sam Phillips, asked him to do another version at a faster pace, which ended up being the version that got pressed. The song was released on May 1, 1956.
  • Regarding the inspiration for the melody, Cash said that when he was in the Air Force, stationed in Germany, his friends borrowed his borrowed his reel-to-reel tape recorder. When he got it back, the tape - a recording by his band the Landsberg Barbarians - was on backwards, and when he played it, he heard a haunting sound that intrigued him. In his autobiography, Cash wrote that it "sounded like spooky church music."
  • Cash gave varying accounts of this song's origin story. In his first autobiography, he said he wrote it in 1955 before a show in Shreveport, Louisiana. In his next autobiography, he said it was in 1956 in Gladewater, Texas, and proffered more details, saying that as he was hashing out the lyrics, he hit on the phrase "I walk the line," which his tourmate (and labelmate at Sun Records) Carl Perkins said would be a good title. In this version of the story, the song took him just 20 minutes to write.

    Cash's bass player, Marshall Grant, told Robert Hilburn, author of Johnny Cash: The Life, that the song came to life in late March 1956. According to Grant, he was playing some slow bass runs when warming up for a show in Longview, Texas, when Cash started humming along. Cash came up with the line, "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine," and completed the song soon after.
  • On March 31, 1971, Cash closed out the finale of his television series The Johnny Cash Show with this song. The show had run since June 7, 1969, and drew a substantial audience, but was eliminated as part of the "rural purge" that cancelled many popular shows because they didn't appeal to the younger generation of television viewers who were primarily concerned with things like the Vietnam War, rock and roll, and the Hippie counterculture.
  • With a stable of stars that included Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, Sun Records merged blues, rock, gospel and country sounds. Cash was the most country of these artists, which was a concern when he started. Jack Clements, who worked with Cash, recalled to Uncut magazine April 2012: "I wasn't impressed with Cash at first, because I like recordings with class... And Cash seemed rough, but 'I Walk The line' was a class recording."
  • In his autobiography Chronicles, Bob Dylan said "I Walk the Line" is a song that's "one of the most mysterious and revolutionary of all time."
  • "Walk The Line" is the title of the 2005 Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. Witherspoon won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
  • A version by Megan Wyler and Adem Ilhan was used in popular Levi's commercials that aired in 2006. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The Voice contestant Craig Wayne Boyd reached #84 on the Hot 100 following a November 24, 2014 performance of the song on the show where he reinterpreted it as a slow, soulful ballad. It was the tune's first appearance on the chart since Jaye P. Morgan's cover reached #66 in 1960.

Comments: 34

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 2nd 1956, Elvis appeared at the Charleston High School in Charleston, Mississippi; it was the beginning of a short five day tour with fellow Sun Records label mate, Johnny Cash...
    Exactly two weeks later on January 16th Elvis' debut Top 100 record, "Heartbreak Hotel", would entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at #68...
    And later in 1956 on August 30th Johnny's first charted record, "I Walk the Line", would debut on the Top 100 at #64.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 7th 1956, Johnny Cash made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry* in Nashville, Tennessee...
    At the time his "I Walk the Line" was at #3 on Billboard's C&W Best Sellers in Stores chart, and his "So Doggone Lonesome" b/w "Folsom Prison Blues" was at #15...
    Twelve days later on July 19th "I Walk the Line" would reach #1 on Billboard's C&W Most Played on Juke Boxes chart...
    'The Man in Black', born J. R. Cash, passed away on September 12th, 2003 at the age of 71...
    May he R.I.P.
    * And backstage at the Opry that night he met June Carter for the first time, and a little under twelve years later on March 1st, 1968 they were wed.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 29th 1960, Jaye P. Morgan's covered version of "I Walk the Line" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #71...
    It was her last Top 100 record, could it be because it was a '666' record; it peaked at #66 and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
    Jaye P. morgan, born Mary Margaret Morgan, will celebrate her 83rd birthday in four months on December 3rd {2014}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 19th 1957, Johnny Cash performed "I Walk The Line" on the CBS-TV program 'The Jackie Gleason Show'...
    Six months earlier on July 15th, 1956 it peaked at #1 (for 1 week) on Billboard's C&W Best Sellers chart and spent well over a half-year on the chart (43 weeks)...
    The record was sandwiched between Elvis' songs while at #1; it was preceded by "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" and succeeded by "Don't Be Cruel" b/w "Hound Dog"...
    R.I.P. Mr. Cash (1932 - 2003) and to The King (1935 - 1977).
  • Michael Scott from Punta Gorda, Flgreat song
  • Terry from Willmar, MnListen to the chick-a chick-a rhythm in the background of this and several of Johnny's tunes (such as "Get Rhythm"). In lieu of a drummer, which he didn't have in his early days, he copied a technique he'd seen Bill Carlisle of the Carlisles do: take a dollar bill and weave it in and out of the strings just above the sound hole. When you play the song's chords in rhythm, you get a brush on snare drum sound.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyDuring his 'The Rising' tour, Bruce Springsteen opened the September 13th, 2003 show at FedEx Field, Washington, DC, with 'I WALK THE LINE' as a tribute to Johnny Cash who passed away the previous day...
  • Natasha from Rockingham, Australiajohnny Cash was my favourite country singer i miss him heaps
    RIP J.R.Cash (1932-2003)
    he would still be alive if he didnt have diabetes.
  • Shaon from Gurgaon, IndiaI never knew about Johnny Cash till the time I bought a record of best country songs and listened to "Walk The Line" ... and the rest is history. Even when me and my better half have a fight i make her listen to "I walk the line" and things patch up....
  • Rahul from Chennai, Indiai never thought i'd like this song.... but i often hum it even though i don't realize it... lol... the starting of this song is damn popular...im sure many ppl wud have heard it even b4 they listened to the whole song.
  • Briar from Hazard, KyOne of the best songs by Johnny Cash.
  • Ryan from Lesueur, MnBelieve it or not, in the the "walk the line" movie, june carter was refering to elvis' "on the line"
  • Deano from Oxford, United KingdomPURE ''CLASS'' WE ALL WALK THE LINE, that's life.
  • Ric from Erskine, United KingdomThe key changes...
    Johnny had a reel-to-reel recorder in the airforce. One day, it was playing 'eerie' music. He thought it was a catholic mass or something. He flipped the tape around and found out that someone had been playing and recording guitar licks on it at different speeds.

    He learned the guitar runs and jammed on them for years. It was backstage in Texas that he got to talking with Carl Perkins. After playing the guitar licks, Perkins suggested "Walk the Line"!
  • Theo from Johannesburg, South Africacheck out live's version of this song.pretty amazing,they've given it a darker overtone which does one of the greatest artists ever justice.
  • Sarah from Tallahassee, Fli love this song and many others by Johnny...i also love the movie they made about his life, which is titled walk the line.
  • Alden from College Park, MdLet me piggyback on Dave's correct comment. It is used VERY PROMINENTLY in the film. It is an entire montage of Cash touring without June. The song is played in its entirety as sung by Cash portrayer Joaquin Phoenix. That comment is an embarassment to this site.
  • Dan from Orange Park, FlJonathan is right about the phrase when June Carter said it in the movie, but the phrase used in the song is used like, walking a thin line between good and evil, not neither nor, or to behave in a way that doesn't put you on one side or the other of a dispute or an issue, (being careful) not to take sides, to remain neutral, in between.
  • Dan from Orange Park, FlGreat song, and Jaoquin Phoenix did a GREAT job singing it, in the movie "Walk the Line"
  • Jonathan from Johnstown, PaJo-C, The scene that it's mentioned in the movie is: Johnny and The members of his band and his touring friends are drunk and at the end, June says,"You can't walk the line,"(Because they're drunk.) Then, the next scene is Johnny and his band Recording this song.(Obviously some MAJOR time-lapse!)
  • Austin from Boston, MaYeah this song was in the movie.
  • Alex from Grand Blanc, MiUmm...I'm pretty sure "I Walk The Line" was in the movie "Walk The Line."
  • Dave from Sydney, AustraliaRIP the late Johnny Cash. You Legend.
  • Jason from New York, NyWhere the song "Walk the Line" may appear to have been inspired by June Carter based on that scene in the movie, that scene never in fact happened in real life. Johnny and June did not meet for the first time until the 1960s (according to Johnny's second autobiography, "Cash") and that scene in the movie was set in the late '50s.
  • Jonnie from St. Louis, MoI first heard this song when it was NEW. It was my introduction to Johnny Cash and I becama a fan for life. On May 31,1972, when I was on-the-air at KAAY/Little Rock, Johnny gave me a suprise call. He had just recorded a new album at his freshly built studio at his home in Hendersonville, Tenn. and wanted my opinion of it. He was kind, gracious and talked to me for almost an hour on-the-air. I will never forget the generous nature of this truly Legendary Performer.
    Thanks again, Johnny...you were the BEST. PERIOD.
  • Laura from San Antonio, TxJessica from Brookings,SD is right about "Walk the Line" being about his first wife; this is a well known fact.

    In the movie they did play it after June makes a comment but that doesnt mean they wrote it right then and its not how it happened in real life. I remember thinking its giving the wrong impression.
  • Jessica from Brookings, SdActually this song is about how Johnny will be faithful to his first wife.
  • Jo-c from Lima, PeruActually, the band records Walk The Line on the movie after June tells the boys, "You can't walk no line" or something like that.
  • Andy from Arlington, VaMy songfact seems to have been "modified" somewhat, as I never said that the song was never used in the movie. In fact I haven't seen the movie yet.
  • Ann from My HouseActually the song was written with the inspiration that "June" would not walk the line for Johnny and the band. Johnny was stating that he would gladly walk the line for her. The movie while about his life story was more a focus on the June/Johnny relationship. "The Ring of Fire" was sort of Junes (written by June Carter) answer to that. Johhny happily sang that.
  • Ashley Jade from Cleveland, GaYeah, the song does appear in the movie but only for a brief moment. Apparently there is controversy going around because American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry sang this last week and is accused of copying a version done by the band Live back in 2001
  • Spencer from Los Angeles, CaBy "a long time," I mean after I saw the movie, around right when it came out.
  • Spencer from Los Angeles, CaHey, someone stole my songfact. I submitted that one about the movie a long time ago.
  • Dave from Ulverston, EnglandActually this song is used in the movie "Walk the Line".
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