It’s been 40 years since Glen Sherley, the legendary song writer who created the song “Greystone Chapel,” took his own life at age 42, according to For The Californian.
Sherley wrote the song about the chapel in Folsom State Prison, where he was serving time for armed robbery when Johnny Cash came to perform there in 1968.
“Inside the walls of prison, my body may be. But my lord has set my heart free,” Sherley wrote. Cash heard those words on Sherley’s demo tape and learned them in time to perform “Greystone Chapel” at the prison on Jan. 11, 1986.
Later the song was released on the album titled “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.”
Sherley was born in Oklahoma March 9, 1936. He moved from Oklahoma to California to pursue a new start. He hoped to escape the Dust Bowl that plagued Oklahoma at the time.
California proved troublesome for him, however. Crimes he committed as a teen landed him in state prison, according to the article.
Cash pushed for Sherley’s release from prison and afterward sponsored him, giving him opportunities to perform.
Upon his parole, Sherley made his own album, “Glen Sherley, Live at Vacaville, California.”
Not long after his release, however, Sherley found his way back into crime and drugs. Because of this, Cash released him from his music group, according to the article. On May 11, 1978, Sherley’s brother found his body in the trailer they shared in Gonzalez, California, according to The Californian. He had taken his own life.
As children, his daughter Ronda and her brother Bruce accompanied their aunt, who frequently visited Sherley at the various prison in which he served time. Sherley sister would provide Glen new recording tapes and pick up full reels on her visits to the prisons, according to the article.
Recently, Ronda and family have re-released some of his music. The album is titled, “Glen Sherley’s: Released Again.” On it , Sherley introduces “Greystone Chapel.”
“I’d like to try and do one for you that some of you may have heard already. Because ‘The Man’ took it and made it his.”
Rhonda thinks Cash and Sherley formed a friendship because of their music and because they had endured many of the same struggles. She hopes to release more of their father’s music, describing it as “ About real stuff, heartbreak, loss, that type of thing – and that to me is country music and that’s what my Dad wrote about.”