A Boy Named Sue

original song written, composed, and performed by Shel Silverstein; popularized by Johnny Cash

"A Boy Named Sue" is a song written by Shel Silverstein. It was first made popular by Johnny Cash. Cash was at the height of his popularity when he recorded the song live at California's San Quentin State Prison at a concert on February 24, 1969. The concert was taped by Granada Television. It was later shown as a television program. Carl Perkins played guitar during the performance.

The sound recording of the concert was later released on Cash's At San Quentin album by Columbia Records. Cash also sang the song as a comedy performance in December 1969 at Madison Square Garden.

The song became Cash's biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was his only top ten single there, spending three weeks at No. 2 in 1969. The track was also at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts that same year. It was certified Gold on August 14, 1969, by the RIAA.

Shel Silverstein's recording was released the same year as "Boy Named Sue". It was a single on his album Boy Named Sue (and His Other Country Songs). It was produced by Chet Atkins and Felton Jarvis.

The songEdit

The story of the song was inspired by the writer Jean Shepherd, a close friend of Shel Silverstein. He was often made fun of as a child because of his feminine-sounding name.[1]

In his autobiography, Cash wrote that he had just been given the song and only read it a couple of times. It was included in that concert just to try it out. He did not know the words when he first sang it. On the video recording, he can be seen regularly looking at a piece of paper. Cash was surprised at how well the song went over with the audience.[2]


  1. Bergmann, Eugene B.: Excelsior, You Fathead! The Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd, 2005.
  2. Cash, Johnny: Cash: The Autobiography, 1997