In the beginning, Johnny Cash and his backing group, The Tennessee Two, were thought as musically unable to drive audience. But, did you know that a gospel song, “I Was There When It Happened”, led the three to musical greatness?
Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar is the debut album of Johnny Csh in 1957. The album contained four of his hit singles: “I Walk the Line,” “Cry! Cry! Cry!,” “So Doggone Lonesome,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” His first gospel song, “I Was There When It Happened”, was also within the album. This was one of the first albums ever issued on Sam Phillips’ Sun Records label.
The Hymn Writer, Fern Jones
Fern Jones is the woman behind the wonderful lyrics to the gospel song “I Was There When It Happened. Her name is probably not something you came across with at all. However, she was responsible for producing an inspiring gospel album at the birth of the rock’n’roll era. Radio exposures and their custom albums helped bring Fern Jones’ music to the masses. Such was “I Was There When It Happened”. Fern Jones sold it to Jimmie Davis. Therefore, Jimmie Davis was credited as a co-writer, who added himself to the credits in exchange for publishing the song and trying to make it popular.
Spiritual Start for Johnny Cash
Subsequently, “I Was There When It Happened” became one of the favorite songs of the young Johnny Cash. He and his backing group, The Tennessee Two, really planned to record only gospel when they were starting. They auditioned this piece for Sun Records because “I Was There When It Happened” was the only song they knew when they went there. They had been performing it at churches and high school dances. When they did this, Johnny Cash said,
“Well, I want to be a gospel artist so we’ll sing that one.”
Sun Records sent them home for a few days to write another song until they were immediately signed. However, Johnny Cash’s love for God is evident whenever he sings “I Was There When It Happened” as a personal testimony in every performance that he could.
Yes, I know when Jesus saved me (saved my soul)
The very moment He forgave me (made me whole)
He took away my heavy burdens
Lord, He gave me peace within (peace within).
This hymn makes us admit that we were one with Jesus when His sacrifices happened. By that admission, our faith strengthens as we proclaim how He saved us and took away our burdens.
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I Was There When It Happened, Johnny Cash