I didn't explain what the line was that bothered Cash, or what it got changed to. Better, I thought, to let Prine tell the story himself.
(There's some odd editing in this video, which begins with a snippet of another song and comes back to that other song later. For the record, that's Prine with Iris DeMent singing his "In Spite of Ourselves," which has an interesting story of its own. Prine was in one movie, "Daddy and Them," written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who asked Prine in a bit of wonderful casting to play his brother. And their father is played by Andy Griffith. I watched the movie a month or so ago, and while it had some very good things in it, I wasn't crazy about it -- but Prine was absolutely wonderful. And Thornton asked if Prine would write an end-credits song for the film. But that's another matter -- this is Prine about the change for Johnny Cash.)
But good as Johnny Cash's vocal interpretation is, we can't go without hearing the song performed properly. As I mentioned the other day, "Sam Stone" is the first song I ever heard from Prine, probably in the early-'70s, and remains one of my two favorites. (The other is probably "Souvenirs.") It was on, of all places, a classical music station, WFMT in Chicago, which once a week had a folk-Broadway-comedy-odds-and-end show every Saturday night, "The Midnight Special," which I listened to as a kid, lying in bed late at night with the lights off. That's where I also heard Steve Goodman for the first time, as well as the third of their Chicago folk triumvirate, Bonnie Koloc. So, here is another bonus with John Prine getting "Sam Stone" right.
And with a little bit of kismet whimsy, before he gets to the song we hear him tell a story about the number he just finished singing -- which was a duet of that very same "In Spite of Ourselves" with Iris DeMent! So, you get to hear a bit more about it...