Folsom Prison Blues chords by Johnny Cash

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Folsom Prison Blues | Chords + Lyrics


| N.C C | C7 | F |

Verse 1

| F | F |
I hear the train a-comin’, it’s rolling ’round the bend.
| F | F |
And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when.
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
I’m stuck in Folsom prison, and time keeps draggin’ on.
| C7 | C7 | F |
But that train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone.

Verse 2

| F | F |
When I was just a baby my mama told me.
| F | F |
“Son, always be a good boy, don’t ever play with guns”.
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
| C7 | C7 | F |
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.

Solo 1

| F | F | F | F |
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
| C7 | C7 | F |

Verse 3

| F | F |
I bet there’s rich folks eating in a fancy dining car
| F | F |
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee and smoking big cigars
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
Well I know I had it coming, I know I can’t be free
| C7 | C7 | F |
But those people keep a-movin’, and that’s what tortures me.

Solo 2

| F | F | F | F |
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
| C7 | C7 | F |

Verse 4

| F | F |
Well if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine.
| F | F |
I bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line.
| Bb | Bb | F | F |
Far from Folsom prison, that’s where I want to stay.
| C7 | C7 | F | C7 | F |
And I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.

Folsom Prison Blues Chords: Learn the progressions

Folsom Prison Blues guitar lesson + TAB T

Johnny Cash loves messing with time signatures and dropping bars, in Folsom Prison Blues, he’s taken the last bar out, creating an 11-bar blues.

I find this fascinating as I didn’t even realise it was happening until I started counting!

The intro is 3 bars and uses the same lick that comes back at the end of each verse.

The chords for the intro are V – I, here’s the TAB for how to play it on one acoustic guitar.

Folsom Prison Blues chords and TAB intro

What I’ve done here is combine the electric guitar lick with the bass and acoustic strumming guitar. The little dots you see above all 8th notes mean you should play them short.

For the F chord, you need to play it using the thumb over the neck so you can release it, creating that short note. The fretting hand needs to be bounding off the strings to create the short notes and that country groove.

Try the TAB along with the original recording and you’ll see how all those little parts have been incorporated.

If it feels weird, that’s because Johnny has tuned down from 440Hz to 434Hz. Use my online guitar tuner to reach the same frequency.

Here are the chords for a Folsom Prison Blues verse, they never change (apart from the outro which adds two bars) and move almost like a standard 12-bar.

||: F (I) | F | F | F |
| Bb (IV) | Bb | F (I) | F |
| C7 (V) | C7 | F (I) :||

Members get TAB for how to play the full verse, I found that the faster rhythm (including 16th notes), worked best if placed in various places along the progression, not always being on beat 3 as you see in the intro.

In fact, it’s only on beat 3 during the intro and at the end of the verse.

Here’s a link to the complete lesson: Folsom Prison Blues – Guitar Lesson with TAB.

Folsom Prison Blues was recorded in Folsom Prison!

In 1968, Johnny Cash played a gig at Folsom Prison and recorded it for his live album At Folsom Prison.

As a single from this album, Folsom Prison Blues reached #1 in the country charts and won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal the following year.

Before the success of singing the tune in the actual prison, Cash had written and recorded it already in 1955, on his debut album Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar!

From this album, Folsom Prison Blues was released as the second single, and he started almost all his gigs with it.

Folsom Prison Blues Chords | Related Pages

Intermediate Acoustic

There are many more Intermediate Acoustic Songs with chords similar to Folsom Prison Blues.

Most intermediate acoustic tunes can’t be played using just basic open-position chords. We have to move up the fretboard and play CAGED barre chords as well.

We incorporate bass lines, add licks, extend chords, and play vocal melodies. Most importantly, we’ll invent second guitar parts and play these songs together.

Five similar tunes with chords and lyrics

When you can play Folsom Prison Blues' chords, try these five tunes from the songbook.

Johnny Cash tunes

Johnny Cash wrote Folsom Prison Blues.

Johnny Cash’s recording career started in 1955 on Sun Records (the same label as Elvis) and ended in 2002 with a masterpiece produced by Rick Rubin.

His best tunes include Ring of Fire, A Boy Named Sue, Hurt, Man in Black, Folsom Prison Blues, Get Rhythm, Personal Jesus, and I Walk The Line.

Johnny Cash on the web

Listen to Johnny Cash on Spotify.

Country & Folk

When you can play Folsom Prison Blues, check out these Country and Folk tunes as well.

In the primarily acoustic genres of Country & Folk, you must acquire what matters the most: A repertoire. Nothing else will give you the gig.

Learn tunes by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, America, Don McLean, and many more.

About me | Dan Lundholm

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson about Folsom Prison Blues chords.

This was a guitar lesson about Folsom Prison Blues chords, by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and learn guitar with Spytunes.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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