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Journalist in Concert: Gene Beley at Folsom Prison

October 2, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Journalist in Concert: Gene Beley at Folsom Prison photo of Johnny Cash on stage at Folsom Prison
Photograph of journalist Gene Beley

Photo by John Muir

The second event in our 2019 Atkinson Speaker Series features journalist Gene Beley who will give us the back story of how he and photographer Dan Poush got invited to fly with Johnny Cash and June Carter from Los Angeles to Sacramento for a weekend concert at Folsom Prison, Jan. 13, 1968.  That one-day smash hit concert that redeemed Cash from his bad boy days to the top of the music world led to much more for Beley and Poush, too. 

They met up with him at other concerts in California the following year and kept taking photos and writing more stories about them.  Beley will tell how he began taking photos at Johnny Cash’s parents’ home in Oak View near Ventura before they left to go to Folsom Prison a few days later. Those photos show John as just an uncle arm wrestling his young nephew at the kitchen table and with his parents and sister, Reba Hancock, his business manager. 

Beley will tell some behind the scenes stories of how the song Greystone Chapel, written and song by a Folsom Prison inmate on a small demo tape, was discovered the night before the famous concert while Cash was sitting in a motel room with Beley, Poush, and Cash’s good friend, Rev. Floyd Gressett. Following Beley’s presentation, Dr. Robert Cochran, Director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies will interview Beley and moderate a Q and A session. 

This event is free, but an RSVP is appreciated. Text Journalist to 91999 or use this secure link.

About Gene Beley

Gene Beley, a graduate of both San Jose State University and U.C.L.A.’s journalism school, was working as a reporter for the Ventura Star-Free Press in 1968 when he met Johnny Cash. Beley is coming to Fayettsville to tell you the great back story of how he and Dan Poush, the Chief Photographer at the newspaper, got invited to go to the Folsom Prison with Cash and June Carter for the Folsom concert on January 13, 1968 that has become one of the most historic concerts of all time. Beley and Poush often teamed up to do national magazine freelance stories on a variety of subjects.  They never dreamed at the time this was more than going to a county fair type event with a singer down on his luck and had recently been arrested for smuggling pep pills in his guitar across the Mexican border.  Thanks to one of Cash’s best friends, the Rev. Floyd Gressett from the Ventura Avenue Community Church, Beley and Poush got to go to many other Cash concerts each time the band returned to California. Beley and Poush had total access before, during the shows, and even afterwards, hanging out with Cash, June Carter and Rev. Gressett. 

Beley is the only one who recorded the night before rehearsal of the Folsom Prison concert.  Sony bought that from Beley in 2018 and made it into an album that was inserted into a 50th Anniversary box set—all in 78-RPM records that is now a collector’s item.  Cash also allowed him to record the actual Folsom Prison concert for Beley’s research and that is now at Bill Miller’s Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville.

Beley and Poush worked with Exhibits USA in Kansas City for two years to produce the exhibit of 1968: A Folsom Redemption.  These two journalists captured those key years that catapulted Cash back to the top of the music world.  Beley is hoping to relate this photo exhibition on a more personal level for each person attending the exhibit because all of us seem to have a time in our lives when we can choose redemption for ourselves. 


October 2, 2019
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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