I was only 5 years old when Columbo first came on the air. Suffice to say, I didn’t start watching it from the start. I vaguely remember my parents having it on from time to time. My mother was a Columbo fan. I didn’t really become a fan until I was around 16 years old. It happened quite by chance.
I was home alone and decided to turn on the TV. Serendipity reared its wondrous head as an episode of Columbo was on the screen. It was the episode featuring Johnny Cash as gospel singer Tommy Brown whose wife wanted all the money to go to the church. Tommy Brown just wanted to party and chase skirts. So it’s quite understandable that he would feel the need to off the nagging (capital B).
Anyway, I turned it on mid-episode after the nagging wife (I later learned played wonderfully by Ida Lupino). The point I turned the TV on was when Johnny Cash was throwing a post murder party and playing a version of Kris Kristofferson’s song Sunday Morning Coming Down. TV was a lot more prudish at the time so you can imagine my 16 year old delight to turn on the TV and hearing Johnny Cash singing “On a Sunday morning sidewalk, wishing Lord that I was stoned.”
I was hooked. I started watching all the reruns of Columbo that I could find. It also turned me into a big Johnny Cash fan. I still view his version of Sunday Morning Coming Down as the best version of that song. That’s pretty good considering Ray Stevens did the first version and this song was also covered by Willie Nelson, Roy Clark, Waylon Jennings and Lynn Anderson.
Later in life I would face many Sunday morning sidewalks wishing that I was stoned but that’s a tale for another time—or possibly a tale best left untold. But sitting here listening to a Shawn Mullins version of the song just got me to thinking about this episode and the best version of one of the finest songs in the Kris Kristofferson canon.