Listen: Big River /Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two JohnnyCashBigRiver.mp3
Originally released during March ’58 by Sun Records in the US, it’s UK London American counterpart was issued two months later on May 12. Recorded with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant, aka The Tennessee Two, ‘Big River’ was the earliest Johnny Cash record I recall hearing.
Others would disagree, but as the singles lost more and more of his rockabilly side, I became less and less of a fan.
My cousins were in the jukebox business. I’d go to their warehouse on a Saturday with my Dad, and just wander around in the maze of these fantastically designed machines, dozens waiting to be rented, tuned up or repaired. I had free reign to play any of them, their coin boxes conveniently disabled, hence no charge. What a treat. Seems they all had either The McGuire Sisters’ ‘Sugartime’ and/or this Johnny Cash single in them. I played both over and over and over.
Without doubt, a roomful of Seeburg and Rock-Ola jukeboxes as a constant Saturday morning replacement to cartoons will mold a little kid’s tastes and priorities. Walking proof, that’s me, thankfully.
The models which played the 45′s upright were my favorites. I glued myself to them and watched record after record spin. The turntable carousel moving left and right along it’s rails, pulling out singles at every stop and playing them vertically. How was this possible?
In an effort to repeat the process at home, I used masking tape to lock records onto my turntable, then balance it upright with one hand, as the other held down the tonearm. Mind you, this failed over and over. I only wish I had half the hours back invested in attempting to make it all happen.
Many years later, in ’86, I finally found the mint Seeburg 222 above, with it’s pink upright turnable carousel, for sale outside of Athens, Georgia. Murray Attaway knew of this antique dealer who specialized in renovating jukeboxes. His retail set up was in the family’s barn, beautifully converted to accommodate not only jukeboxes but thousands of trinkets, dishes, furniture pieces, appliances, clothes, records, books. A museum of sorts.
Got it professionally carted and shipped home to New York, where it’s one of my prized possessions and all these year later, again, eats up hours while I sit watching my 45′s play vertically. Which is precisely how I spent this cold November Sunday afternoon, said Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two’s 7″ thrown on, creating the perfect time travel moment.