BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – Johnny Cash’s trip to Folsom Prison is one of country music legends, but on Thursday night you can speak to someone who was there and helped document the whole affair.
Gene Beley was 28 years old and a fresh journalism graduate when he met Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. Through his time as a reporter and Cash’s photographer, Beley was in the front row for many of the performer’s most famous moments.
“Our constellations were perfectly aligned that day,” Beley said. “There was something in the air, that was magical, I think.”
Beley’s exhibit is titled “1968: A Folsom Redemption” and he plans to take guests through the story from the concert’s creation as an idea by Reverend Floyd Gressett to the continuing story of its impact. For Beley, Johnny Cash was very different from the persona he took to the stage.
“He was an intellectual, and completely different from his public image, at that time especially,” Beley said. “He was totally on the skids when I first met him.”
Another large part of Beley’s exhibit is inspirational: as a serial entrepreneur and author, he wants to encourage others to follow their heart.
“One of the things I hope to achieve tomorrow is to inspire others,” Beley said. “That you can turn dreams into reality if you’re prepared.”
Tickets are $15 per attendee, and Beley’s talk begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday. You can buy tickets online or at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum that night.