When Johnny Cash went to church

Almost five years after he did his famous show at Folsom Prison, on October 3rd 1972, Johnny Cash played at the Österåker correctional institution north of Stockholm, Sweden. Just like the gig at Folsom was turned into a record (one of Mr. Cash’s best, if you ask me) this concert was released on record as well (At Österåker, 1973).

What I guess most people don’t know is that the day before he played at Österåker, he performed at “Kungliga Tennishallen” (The Royal Tennis Hall) and after that show, Mr. Cash attended a sermon at the Pentecostal church “Filadelfiakyrkan” in Stockholm city. Mr. Cash had been invited by pastor Lewi Pethrus who at the time had connections with a Pentecostal church in Nashville.

What I’m certain even fewer people know of is that at this sermon there was a group of people from the parish who played psalms and hymns. And in this group there was a young man, just out of his teens, who played the contrabass.

When Johnny Cash was about to go on stage, a person from his crew asks this young man if he would be so kind as to accompany Mr. Cash on his bass while he performs the old psalm “How Great Thou Art” before he went on to speak to the parish about himself, the substance abuse that nearly ended his life, and when he found his way.

This very special appearance by the legend Johnny Cash had the church packed with people. Something like this had never been heard of in the Christian community in Stockholm at the time and for those who where there, I am sure it was an experience to remember. Especially for the young man on the bass.

That young man was my dad.