Tennessee Flat Top Box

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"Tennessee Flat Top Box"
Single by Johnny Cash
from the album Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash
B-side "Tall Men"[1]
Released December 1961
Format 7" single
Genre Country
Length 3:00
Label Columbia #42147
Writer(s) Johnny Cash
Producer(s) Don Law, Frank Jones
Johnny Cash singles chronology
"The Rebel Johnny Yuma"
"Tennessee Flat Top Box"
"The Big Battle"

"Tennessee Flat Top Box" is a song written and recorded by American country music singer Johnny Cash. It was released as a single in late 1961, reaching 11 on the Billboard country singles charts and 84 on the pop charts.[1] The song's name refers to a steel stringed acoustic guitar.


The song is a story of a little boy aspiring to be a country singer, who starts his career at a local cabaret in a South Texas border town. He has no physical abilities, only his ability to play the guitar, which he loves so much that making money is secondary to him. He becomes so popular that girls "from there to Austin" would secretly leave home and pawn jewelry for money to make the trip to hear him play, and "all the girls from nine to ninety, were snapping fingers, tapping toes, and begging him: 'Don't stop.'"

Ultimately he disappears from the local scene, only to re-emerge on television, having fulfilled his dream.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1961) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 11
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 84

Rosanne Cash version[edit]

"Tennessee Flat Top Box"
Single by Rosanne Cash
from the album King's Record Shop
B-side "Why Don't You Quit Leaving Me Alone"[2]
Released November 1987
Format 7" single
Genre Country
Length 3:12
Label Columbia #07624
Producer(s) Rodney Crowell
Rosanne Cash singles chronology
"The Way We Make a Broken Heart"
"Tennessee Flat Top Box"
"It's Such a Small World"

Cash's daughter Rosanne Cash recorded a cover version of "Tennessee Flat Top Box" in 1987 on her album King's Record Shop. Released in November 1987 as that album's third single, it was also the third of four consecutive number-one country hits from that album,[2] peaking in February 1988. Randy Scruggs played the acoustic guitar solos on it.[3]

Rosanne Cash recorded the song at the suggestion of her then-husband and fellow country singer, Rodney Crowell. When she recorded the song, she was unaware that her father wrote it, and assumed that it was in the public domain.[4] Johnny later told Rosanne that her success with the song was "one of [his] greatest fulfillments."[4] The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll cited Rosanne's cover as a "healing of her strained relationship with her dad."[5] Following her father's death in 2003, Rosanne Cash performed the song during The Johnny Cash Memorial Tribute concert TV special.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1987–1988) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 1
Preceded by
"Wheels" by Restless Heart
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

February 13, 1988
Succeeded by
"Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star" by Merle Haggard
RPM Country Tracks
number-one single

February 20, 1988

Rock Band Music Gaming Platform[edit]

A version was made available to download on January 4, 2011 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and MIDI compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to vocals.


  1. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 85. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, p. 87
  3. ^ Brackett, Nathan. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 150. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  4. ^ a b Miller, Stephen (2003). Johnny Cash: The Life of an American Icon. Omnibus Press. p. 297. ISBN 0-7119-9626-1. 
  5. ^ George-Warren, Holly. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. 2001. et al. (3 ed.). p. 158. ISBN 0-7432-0120-5.