Johnny Cash produced countless hits in his long career, but none may have been as iconic as his rendition of “A Boy Named Sue.” The song was an unexpected hit for Cash, who first only improvised his live performance of the song at the San Quentin State Prison. The audience’s extremely positive reaction prompted Cash to release it as a single, and it went on to be a commercial and critical success, earning a Grammy and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for three weeks.
One little known fact about the song is that it was originally written by Shel Silverstein, noted poet and author of children’s books. By the end of the 1950s, Silverstein had dabbled in songwriting and in 1969 he released “A Boy Named Sue” alongside other country songs. Silverstein is known to have written the song after a conversation with his friend Jean Shepherd, who expressed his childhood frustration at being made fun of because he had what others thought of as a girl’s name.