/, Latest Stories/FIVE FEET HIGH AND RISING by JOHNNY CASH Story by Luke R Davies


Penrith NSW, about 1978  

I can’t remember the date or even the exact year yet but I do remember my first big ticket purchase.

I left school when I was only 14 and 9 months and have had some regrets about that decision over the years, although there were some positives too. Perhaps one is that my first job was at a workplace mostly of women – it provided me with some good grounding. I didn’t realise it at the time of course but when you’re young you never do. True wisdom comes only with some age and life experience I have since learned.

I was a trainee waiter complete with red vest and cummerbund, at a fancy hotel on the banks of the Nepean River. I was so naive that I was good at my job. I think back now and wonder how I did it – put up with dickheads who today I wouldn’t tolerate.

Anyway, with cash in hand and my older friend Les we went into Penrith to buy my very own record player I decided it should also have a radio too. I think it was a department store called Waltons. My mother used to shop there –  she often used the store’s own paper money. That’s right, back in the day before all this digital stuff and credit cards, stores would offer a line of credit and issue you with their own money. My mother took advantage of this probably too much, as she would often go into hiding when the Waltons man knocked at the door. She would send out the kids to give some lame excuse as to why she wasn’t home.

With Les’ help I decided on a PYE system. It had a radio and a turntable and speakers. I remember its cool blue light on the face of it when you turned it on. Les managed to get the salesman to throw in a pair of headphones in the deal. Sadly what I paid for it is long forgotten.

I had to buy some records now and I remember my first purchase was a Johnny Cash hits album with popular songs like Sunday Morning Coming Down, Folsom Prison etc. The song that got me was Five Feet High And Rising. I can’t say why – perhaps I was too young to appreciate Sunday Morning Coming Down. From the first time I heard Five Feet High And Rising I could relate to it, not that where we lived in the lower Blue Mountains was likely to get flooded. It just somehow touched me.

Many years later I was looking for a song that introduced each member of my group, The Recycled String Band –  something rather fun and would that feature the band’s harmonies. Five Feet High And Rising was it. We worked out an arrangement. Everyone got a verse except our drummer –  he played a wobble board till the Rolf Harris story broke and we had to re-think his part.

Today I still love that song, I still love Johnny Cash. I lost the original album, but found a copy in an op shop, as you do.

Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band won the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia Folk Recording Award 2013 for their album Not A Note Wasted. A Wangaratta musician, Luke joined The Stereo Stories Band after seeing them at the Newport Folk Festival in Melbourne in 2014..

By |2018-12-14T16:05:31+00:00December 15th, 2018|Country, Latest Stories|8 Comments


  1. Kevin Densley December 15, 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

    Wonderful, Luke! Nicely done!

  2. Luke Davies December 15, 2018 at 9:09 am - Reply

    Thanks Kevin,

    We have to thank Vin for opportunity to tell our stories. Its ironic that I live in Wangaratta and we had quite a bit of rain lately. I haven’t been affected but have a mate that the song rings altogether true. Cheers Luke

  3. Rick December 15, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Love the story and the song. Thanks Luke

  4. Chris Phillips December 15, 2018 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    A little bit of gold I took from your story Luke – “I was so naive that I was good at my job.” I love this line. Stands in contrast to your earlier line, “True wisdom comes only with some age & life experience…” – & the funny things is, they both hold truth. Life’s like that though, isn’t it? Wisdom is earned over time, but over-thinking is also our enemy. Love your stories Luke. x

  5. Kim December 16, 2018 at 9:23 am - Reply

    What a great choice of first record. My first choice was not nearly as discerning but I think I was a bit younger so I will forgive myself! It is nice to reflect on the parts of our lives that shape us. Looking forward to reading more of your writing.

  6. Luke Davies December 16, 2018 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Thanks Chris
    Glad you liked the story.
    Have a nice Christmas.
    Cheers Luke

  7. Luke Davies December 16, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the kind comments.
    Cheers Luke

  8. Smokie December 31, 2018 at 3:31 am - Reply

    It truly is a great song, Luke.

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