Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Who was Glen Sherley?

Who was Glen Sherley?
Cash and Sherley

The evening before Johnny Cash was to perform at Folsom Prison, a minister handed the singer a copy of a recording made by inmate Glen Sherley. The song was “Greystone Chapel,” and Cash performed it the next day during his historical Folsom concert on January 13, 1968.

When Johnny Cash discovered the troubled Sherley, Sherley had been serving a three-year sentence for armed robbery. That same year, country singer Eddy Arnold recorded a Glen Sherley song, “Portrait of my Woman,” and had great success with it. The song’s success afforded Sherley the opportunity to record a live album while still serving time. But things would start to unravel quickly for Sherley as he struggled with stardom.

When Sherley was released from Folsom Prison in 1971, Cash met him at the front gates and took the convict under his wing, offering him a publishing contract for Cash’s own House of Cash.

Sherley had great difficulty surviving on the outside. According to Marshall Grant who played bass for Johnny Cash, Sherley clearly exhibited pathological behavior while touring with Johnny. He periodically made comments about killing members of Cash’s band and even threatened them. Eventually, Cash grew concerned about Sherley’s behavior and fired him.

Glen Sherley faded into obscurity. He ended up working for a cattle company, battling drugs and alcohol and living in his truck. In 1978, Sherley tragically died of a self-inflicted headshot wound.

We still have Glen Sherley’s songs, but his legend has withered to an occasional 250-word blog post.