Johnny Cash Is Honored with Mississippi Country Music Trail Marker for His Night at "Starkville City Jail"

·2 min read

Let's hear it for the Man in Black.

As the Associated Press recently reported, a new marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail denotes the night that Johnny Cash spent in the Oktibbeha County Jail in 1965. The crime? Cash was taken to the jail after being arrested for public drunkenness when he was discovered picking flowers at a private home following his concert at Mississippi State University.

His time in the slammer was not served in vain, as his evening at the Oktibbeha County Jail become the inspiration for his famous tune, "Starkville City Jail," that appears on his 1969 live album Johnny Cash at San Quentin. That album just happens to be a recording of his famous live performance from another jail, the San Quentin State Prison.

"I'm so delighted that Mr. Cash did not realize it was the Oktibbeha County Jail," Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said, per the AP. "That wouldn't have been a good song. I'm delighted that he called it Starkville."

Johnny Cash c. 1965
Johnny Cash c. 1965

Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If you live in or are visiting Mississippi, the Mississippi Country Music Trail is a great way to get to know the musical riches of the state. With markers for everyone from Conway Twitty and Charley Pride in the Delta region and Faith Hill in the Capital/River region and Elvis in Tupelo, there's much to explore. Check out the maps for the various markers here.

This spring has ushered in some more exciting news for Johnny Cash fans, with Arkansas announcing that they will celebrate Cash with an annual "Johnny Cash Day" on his birthday, February 26. Though he didn't spend his whole life in The Natural State, Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, and his childhood home was located in Dyess, Arkansas.

But back to Mississippi. The Oktibbeha County Jail sure comes to life on in Cash's catchy "Starkville City Jail" tune. Guess it's true: The best ideas come from the most unexpected of situations.