Okay, maybe that’s a bold statement, but so was 22-year-old Linda Ronstadt’s panty-less debut on the Johnny Cash TV show in 1969. A two-DVD best-of set of the series (which saw 58 episodes air on ABC from 1969 to 1971) released by Sony-Legacy last month includes this peculiar detail, recounted by the show’s makeup artist, Penni Lane. "At rehearsal, June [Carter Cash] noticed that Linda didn’t have any panties on, so she came running back to the dressing room, [saying], ‘Somebody get down the street and buy her some bloomers, she’s out there showing herself!’," Lane claims. "When Linda was told she would have to wear underwear, she was very upset. She said, ‘I sing better bare-butted.’" June’s response at the time? "Not in front of my Johnny!"
We asked longtime Cash manager Lou Robin, who also booked Ronstadt’s early tours, to verify this story. "That was true," he said. "June wasn’t too thrilled about it, that was Mrs. Johnny Cash speaking out. But Linda was a free spirit, and she sure could sing. John really enjoyed having her on the show. She made a total of five appearances." (Judging by the length of her skirt, it’s no wonder.) Continues Robin: "She would always come in barefooted, which was thought to be kind of unusual in those days." Something else she has in common with our beleaguered Brit! My, how times don’t change.
But all panties aside (did I just say that?), I highly recommend checking out the DVD, which includes history-making performances by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Louis Armstrong, and Ray Charles (doing "Ring of Fire"), among others. And Robin says we could see a couple more editions in the coming years, possibly one dedicated to Johnny’s many duets.