On This Day in 1958: Johnny Cash Is Signed to Columbia Records and Produces 60 Incredible Albums

On July 9, 1958, the legendary Johnny Cash officially signed with Columbia Records. The label would be where Cash would stay for the next 30 years of his career, and where he would release over 60 incredible albums.

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The Early Days of Johnny Cash and Columbia Records

Before Johnny Cash signed with Columbia Records, he was signed to the small label Sun Records in 1954. Initially his first breakthrough into the music industry, Cash eventually felt somewhat constrained by his contract with Sam Phillips’ label. Just as well, he learned that he was being paid less than the standard rate in royalties. Elvis Presley had already left Sun Records, and Cash was ready to do the same.

From the local fame Cash had garnered through his work with Sun Records, he caught the attention of Columbia Records. In 1958, they offered him a pretty impressive contract, and Cash left Sun Records to sign with the major label.

Cash started out with gospel albums for Columbia with his second overall album and first with the major label, The Fabulous Johnny Cash. From then on, he recorded over 60 albums with Columbia, including the 1964 record I Walk The Line and the 1968 live album Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison.

Columbia Records Famously Drops Johnny Cash

The collaborative album Heroes with Waylon Jennings, released in 1986, was Cash’s final album under Columbia Records before they dropped him. (Though, it is worth mentioning that he returned for a Highwaymen follow-up album in 1990.) The label allegedly believed that his albums were no longer selling well and wanted to focus on newer talent.

Cash bounced from label to label for a few years, until we got one of the greatest comebacks in country music history. He was signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings and released the 1994 comeback album American Recordings… which was recorded from the comfort of his living room. They don’t make them like Cash anymore!

Photo by Hulton Archive

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