Country Throwback: Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash Sing ‘There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang’ on TV in 1980

by Katie Maloney
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Forty-one years ago, outlaw country icon, Waylon Jennings and The Man in Black, Johnny Cash performed “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang.”

What brings people together more than country music? Not a whole lot if you’re talking about Cash and Jennings’s friendship. The two became longtime friends after meeting in the ’60s.

The friendship evolved into a musical collaboration when they recorded the song “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang” in 1978. The song spent 13 weeks on the chart and soared to the number two spot. As striking as the song was to listen to, it was even more powerful to watch the two perform it live. In 1980, the duo took to the stage to perform the song during The First 25 Years TV special in 1980.

The song is about an inmate who shares the most important life lessons he’s learned. Lyrics include: There ain’t no good in an evil-hearted woman. And I ain’t cut out to be no Jesse James. You don’t go writin’ hot cheques, down in Mississippi. And there ain’t no good chain gang.”

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings perform “Ain’t No Good Chain Gang.”

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings Were Roommates

Cash and Jennings were even roommates in the ’70s. Cash had fallen in love with June Carter. However, he could not stay with her because her divorce wasn’t yet finalized. So, he found an apartment nearby so that he could be close to her. Jennings shared the apartment with him. The set-up is documented in the film Walk The Line. Jennings also wrote about the two’s living situation in his memoir, Waylon: An Autobiography.

“It was like a sitcom. We were the original ‘Odd Couple,'” Jennings wrote. “I was supposed to clean up, and John was the one doing the cooking. If I’d be in one room polishing, he’d be in the other room making a mess…making himself a mess.”

Regardless of the set-up, Cash and Jennings definitely made for one of our favorite country music “odd-couples.”

Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings are depicted by Joaquin Phoenix and Shooter Jennings in the film, Walk The Line.
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