Columbia Records recording artist Johnny Cash walked through the gates of a California prison on Jan. 13, 1968, with his wife, band members and a small entourage.

He recorded two shows, and the resulting album, “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison,” made American music history.

In a similar vein, Scott Plante, who lives in the Manchester suburb of Raymond, entered the state prison in Berlin on Sept. 29 and performed for about 75 inmates housed in the prison’s Focus drug recovery unit.

There are some similarities. Both Cash and Plante struggled with addictions. And both use music to connect with and inspire others.

But there are differences, too.

Cash was already a well-known performer with more than a dozen albums to his credit at the time. Plante — a singer-songwriter whose guitar playing is now sidelined by a fractured arm — is only starting to get noticed. Nowadays, popularity isn’t measured by record albums or radio airplay, but digital hits; his most popular music video exceeds a respectable 200,000 views on Facebook.

Another difference is prison cred. Cash fancied himself as advocate for the downtrodden and was embraced by inmates, but he never did time in prison. Plante spent 3½ years at the Berlin prison, and his homecoming message was as much about success on the outside as songs on the inside.

Plante was the first Focus inmate to return since the program’s inception in 2014.

“We hear from people when they come back (for parole violations). We don’t hear from those who don’t come back,” said Diane York, who runs the Focus program, a separate unit where inmates focus on abstinence and recovery.

“These guys need to hear about hope.”

Plante entered Focus five years ago when his final glide path to freedom — a halfway house stint — crashed. He regularly used drugs while in prison. He overdosed in a Manchester halfway house bathroom and returned to Berlin.

He’s been sober for almost five years, and many of his songs deal with addiction, recovery and mental illness.

Still, it was nerve-wracking to enter a one-time home he had never wanted to return to, he said.

Corrections officers rifled through his gear. And authorities gave Plante and his fiance emergency buttons to push in case they were attacked.

“You never know how these men are going to respond to something motivational,” Plante said, “but I had to go in and do what I do.”

Plante said he has suffered from depression, psychiatric illnesses and suicidal thoughts. He fell into drugs and turned to burglary to get money to feed his addiction, which landed him in prison for three years.

He is a compact man. His face of 36 years shows some wear, but his nose and chin are chiseled with sharp angles. He wears his hair short, the top impeccably combed, furthering a 1950s clean-cut image that contrasts with a prison background.

Many of his songs lean toward pop, with driving beats, orchestrations and backup vocal. In the “Destiny” video, he moves and sings through a church graveyard, at times a healthy person with a future, at others a zombie of self-destruction and drug abuse.

“I know I’ll be there. I got a fire inside that is bellowing high, and I can’t fail. This is my destiny,” he sings.

In “The Light,” a girlfriend picks him off the floor and drives him to an emergency room as he gazes from a mountaintop. “I can’t bear the scene of you watching over me in a casket as the tears roll down your face.”

Recently, Plante signed with an artistic manager, the Los Angeles-based Jennifer Devoe Muse, who hosts an internet radio show with 400,000 listeners. She hopes to book Plante at concerts and festivals, raise his profile and eventually win a distribution contract.

“His music comes from experiences he’s had. It’s genuine. It’s not someone writing about stupid things like girls, girls, girls,” Muse said.

Plante’s music and its recovery themes are right for the times, she said.

“It speaks to a real place in all of us who have experienced these demons,” Muse said.

Of course, Plante is not the first singer to battle or sing about addiction, said Brett Hestla, a Tennessee-based musician and music producer who has worked with Plante on his productions. But few former prisoners chase the risky, elusive dream of music stardom.

“We need people like that to be successful and to be heard,” said Hestla, who used to tour with the alt-metal band Creed. “It shows courage to come into an industry where temptation is still rampant.”

At this point, it’s all about fan base. Plante’s Facebook channel has 4,300 members; Instagram counts 4,100 followers. “Destiny” has been seen 204,000 times on Facebook; his most popular YouTube production, “New Beginnings,” has 85,000 views.

While respectable, he can’t make a living off those numbers. Plante said he could make more money and get more gigs singing covers, but he won’t. He’s performed at recovery events and Seacoast venues. Earlier this month he performed after races at Londonderry Speedway.

He said he likes the idea of following Cash’s example, but said he can’t be compared to one of America’s most well-known, beloved performers. Except maybe in one way.

“I’m the guy,” he said, “who won’t quit.”

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