Dark as a Dungeon

"Dark as a Dungeon"
Song by Merle Travis
Released 1946 (1946)
Songwriter(s) Merle Travis

"Dark as a Dungeon" is a song written by singer-songwriter Merle Travis. It is a lament about the danger and drudgery of being a coal miner in a shaft mine. It has become a rallying song among miners seeking improved working conditions.

The song achieved much of its fame when it was performed by Johnny Cash in his Folsom Prison concert (At Folsom Prison). During this live performance, one of the prisoners in the background was laughing, and Cash started to chuckle. He gently admonished the man, "No laughing during the song, please!" The man yelled something about "Hell!" and Cash answered, "I know, 'hell'!" When he finished the song, Cash made a comment that was largely repeated, somewhat out of context, by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2005 film Walk the Line: "I just wanted to tell you that this show is being recorded for an album released on Columbia Records, so you can't say 'hell' or 'shit' or anything like that."[1]

Recorded versions

Published versions


  1. ^ Gross, Jason (November 18, 2008). "Prisoners Are the Best Audience: The Challenge of 'At Folsom Prison'". PopMatters. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  2. ^ "Queens of the Stone Age - Dark as a Dungeon (Johnny Cash cover / Portland, 2005)". youtube.com. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
  3. ^ "Dark As a Dungeon - Amy Grant: Lee C. Camp and Friends: MP3 Downloads". Retrieved 2011-01-01.
  4. ^ Reed, Ryan (June 28, 2017). "Hear John Mellencamp's Reverent 'Dark as a Dungeon' for Coal Mining Doc". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 29, 2017.

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