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Date: Thursday, September 29, 2022
Time: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Cost: $15 +tax
Join us on Thursday, September 29, 7:00pm for an in-depth talk with journalist Gene Beley about his time with Johnny Cash at the January 13, 1968 Folsom Prison concerts and recordings!
It was early January 1968 when Gene Beley and Dan Poush, a writer-photographer team working for the Star-Free Press out of Ventura, California, and national magazine freelancers, were invited to go to Folsom Prison. Beley notes: “In those days, before the At Folsom Prison album changed the singer’s life, our newspaper tended to write only negative stories about Cash. His own infamy had begun to overshadow the musical accomplishments of his earlier years; in short, Cash’s career was truly on the skids at that time.”
Though Johnny Cash was the star of the show and his visit to Folsom Prison was hugely impactful on his career, the concert was also the story of supporting players—from the connections laid by his good friend, Revered Floyd Gressett, to the adventurous nature of Columbia Records’ maverick A&R man Bob Johnston, to the calming influence of June Carter (not yet Cash), to the meaningful contributions of Folsom Prison inmate Glen Sherley, whose song “Greystone Chapel” ended up on the historic album.
Gene Beley will share memories, photos, personal stories, and audio clips from that fateful weekend, giving attendees behind-the-scenes access to Johnny Cash’s redemptive visit to Folsom State Prison on January 13, 1968, along with other successful concerts in 1968 and 1969.
This program is complementary programming for 1968: A Folsom Redemption, a special exhibit on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum from September 1 to October 20, 2022. Ticket-holders to the Gene Beley talk can tour the exhibit for free from 6:00 to 6:45pm before the program begins at 7:00pm.
1968: A Folsom Redemption is a Program of ExhibitsUSA, a national division of Mid-America Arts Alliance and The National Endowment for the Arts.
About Gene Beley
Gene Beley has an M.S. from U.C.L.A. 1967, and a B.A. from San Jose State College, 1963. He was lucky enough to have U.C.L.A. professors like William Dozier, producer of Batman and The Green Hornet. While a student at U.C.L.A., Beley worked at NBC TV in Burbank as a videotape coordinator and assistant to the elections unit manager. After U.C.L.A., he went to work for the Ventura Star Free Press daily newspaper as a general assignments reporter and photographer. During his tenure there, he became friends with writer Ray Bradbury and singer, Johnny Cash. Cash invited Dan Poush, the chief photographer on the paper, and Beley to go to a weekend concert with him at Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968. That day has had a lifetime influence on Beley’s life. Beley got to hang out with Johnny Cash, June Carter and the band at many other concerts during the following two years. In more recent years Beley became the go-to guy for media photos on Cash and sold thousands of them through the Folsom Prison Museum’s gift shop.
Beley was also the only one who recorded the “Night Before Rehearsal” of the now historic Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison concert. Sony Music made the rehearsal into a separate album and packaged it into a box set for the 50th anniversary celebration—all in 78 RPM records for collectors. Beley has also appeared in three Johnny Cash documentary movies as a commentator on Cash’s life during his redemption years of 1968-1969.
Beley founded his own newspaper, Country News, from 1989 to 2005 in Morgan Hill, CA where he did it all… sold the ads, wrote the articles, took the photos, and supervised the printing on a big press at the Salinas, Ca newspaper. In 2005, while waiting for his editor wife, Jill, to retire, Beley lived on a boat in the California Delta and finished writing his first book, RAY BRADBURY UNCENSORED, the only unauthorized biography on his late, great mentor and author of books like Fahrenheit 451 and the screenwriter for Moby Dick and It Came from Outer Space, a 1953 3-D pioneering science-fiction movie.
In addition to his writing and publishing career, Beley has been an entrepreneur. In the 1960s, while still a reporter-photographer, he began learning the game business with Foosball tables when no one knew what they were. When he moved from Ventura to Los Angeles to take a job as the West Coast Editor for ARCO’s publications, he continued this side coin-op business and began a specialty of converting aging billiard rooms in bowling centers to electronic game arcades. That’s back when pinballs were illegal but a California Supreme Court case changed all that and exploded his business. Beley quit ARCO and never looked back from self-employment again. Beley diversified into radio controlled show-entertainment robots just before the Star Wars movie and surfed that wave with Fortune 500 type companies and department stores hiring his robots as an attention-getter at trade shows, sales meetings and special events. One of the first 5’ 2” fiberglass robots was sold to the Playboy Mansion for Hugh Hefner’s 1980 Christmas present and was featured in the January 1981 Playboy Magazine.
Today Beley and his wife recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and enjoy their retirement life in another lakefront home in Stockton, California.