Johnny Cash's grandson sings 'Folsom Prison Blues' and sounds exactly like his legendary grandfather

5 December 2023, 12:27

Johnny Cash's grandson Thomas Gabriel has covered his signature song 'Folsom Prison Blues', and sounds exactly like his grandfather.
Johnny Cash's grandson Thomas Gabriel has covered his signature song 'Folsom Prison Blues', and sounds exactly like his grandfather. Picture: Thomas Gabriel Official YouTube/Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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Country music wouldn't have been the same without him.

Johnny Cash, the legendary 'Man In Black', revolutionised the music genre by introducing a unique brand of darkness, despair, and macabre humour in his songwriting.

Songs like 'Ring Of Fire', 'A Boy Named Sue', and 'I Walk The Line' are instantly recognisable due to his lyricism and deep, steady and calming tone of voice.

The country music rebel made a lasting impact, the proof of which is in his multitude of Grammy Award and Country Music Association award wins, alongside selling over 90 million records worldwide.

His relationship with wife June Carter, both off and on the stage, provided Cash with his greatest inspiration, a lifelong love that was portrayed in the 2005 biopic I Walk The Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Even until the end, he continued to write and perform, producing some of the most affecting music of his entire career.

It's been twenty years since Johnny Cash died in 2003, yet his music (and voice) has been brought back to life.

His grandson, Thomas Gabriel, has recently performed a handful of Cash's legendary songs including 'Folsom Prison Blues', and sounds exactly like his grandfather.

Johnny Cash, the 'Man In Black' in 1966. (Photo by Screen Archives/Getty Images)
Johnny Cash, the 'Man In Black' in 1966. (Photo by Screen Archives/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Thomas Gabriel is the eldest grandson of Johnny Cash, who was born in 1973 and is now a musician in his own right.

His mother Kathy was one of four children Cash had with his first wife, Vivian Cash, who was the inspiration for his 1956 hit 'I Walk The Line'.

Though Johnny Cash is recognised worldwide as a music legend, most people wouldn't know who is grandson is, especially those who don't closely follow the country music world.

But that's likely about to change, with Gabriel's recent and immaculate performance of his grandfather's signature song.

Folsom Prison Blues | Thomas Gabriel (Live at Cash Cabin with Justin Johnson & John Carter Cash)

Recording a performance of 'Folsom Prison Blues' - the song Johnny Cash would kick off his concerts with after introducing himself - in the Cash Cabin, Gabriel plays alongside Johnny and June's only son John Carter Cash.

It's the first performance in a series in which Thomas will sing his grandfather's classics, and based on this entry, he's doing them more than justice as he sounds almost identical.

Despite being 50 years old, Thomas Gabriel only released his debut album, Long Way Home, in 2018.

But he's been around music his entire life, following a similar path to his grandfather, both in terms of Johnny Cash's musical footsteps as well as his turbulent personal life.

Going on tour with Cash and June Carter from an early age, Gabriel took up the guitar at the age of 11, with the intention of pursuing a career in music himself.

By the age of 13, he'd started drinking, after which his grandfather pushed him towards law enforcement rather than the music industry.

After a career as a police officer, Gabriel was fired after issues with substance abuse, which led to several convictions and a stint in prison.

But it was his time in prison that turned his life around, and reignited his love affair with music, which kept him focused throughout his sentence.

In a 2019 interview, Gabriel admitted his grandfather never saw him sober, revealing: "That altered reality was all that made sense to me."

He turned it around after reaching his lowest low, however. "I had some clarity, I hit my knees one night, and I was as drunk as I could be, high as I could be, and it went away for a little while."

"I had prayed for I know an hour straight, and cried harder than I had ever in my life," Gabriel remembered.

Using music and his grandfather's songs to stay on the straight and narrow, he said at the time: "I feel closer to my grandfather now than I ever have."