The gates of Folsom State Prison closed behind Gene Beley. It was 1968, and it was the first time the 28-year-old had ever been to state prison.
“When you walk through there and they shut that door,” he says, “you realize that many men who have that happen never see their freedom again. It’s pretty daunting.”
Unlike the people he met inside, though, Beley wasn’t there to do time. The young reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press was there to see country music star Johnny Cash perform for the prisoners.
It turned out to be a historic day. Cash’s January 13, 1968 performance at the California prison wasn’t just galvanizing—it revived Cash’s flagging career, produced a hit album, and has become the stuff of music legend. And Beley, who was one of just a handful of non-prisoners to witness the concert, still feels its reverberations today. More