In the early morning hours of May 11, 1965, country legend Johnny Cash just wanted to pick flowers on the side of the street in Starkville after performing a show at Mississippi State University, but the Starkville police didn’t like it. that idea.
Cash was arrested for public drunkenness and held in Oktibbeha County Jail. After his night behind bars, Cash notably commemorated his experience through song.
Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mississippi Country Music Trail Commission and Visit Mississippi honored Cash and his experience in the “Starkville City Jail” with the 35th Mississippi Country Music Trail marker, unveiled Friday near the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and North Jackson Street.
The Mississippi Country Music Trail commemorates country music singers through their contributions and stories statewide. Visit Mississippi director of tourism Craig Ray said he knew the time had come to honor “the man in black” at the “largest open-air museum in the whole world.”
âAt these events, we always rely on the locals to help us promote and organize the events, so we’ve been planning this for so long, and we’re just thrilled to have it on a big and beautiful chamber of commerce. weather day, “said Ray.” It was a great turnout, and it was such a great story.â¦ With our markers, we want to have these community stories.
Country artist Marty Stuart, from Philadelphia, Mississippi, was in attendance. He created the original concept of the Mississippi Country Music Trail, Ray said.
Stuart got his start in Cash’s backup group. He paid tribute to the late Cash, who died in 2003, at the ceremony by performing “Starkville City Jail” with Cash’s own guitar.
âJohnny Cash was a master of the show,â Stuart said. âI cut construction sites in my neighborhood to have enough money to buy Johnny Cash’s record San Quentin, that’s where this song existed. When you walk into a town and play a gig, the last thing you think about is probably getting arrested and spending the night in jail. But he took the worst case scenario and turned it into a folk tune.
After Cash’s original concert in 1965, he performed at the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity house on campus. Fellowship members attended the event, including Harry Freeman, who was at the Pike House the night Cash performed.
âI never thought then, of all the things I’ve done in my life, this is why I get my picture taken,â Freeman said.
Cash was symbolically pardoned for his arrest in Starkville in 2007 during the inaugural Johnny Cash Flower Pickin ‘Festival.
Local attorney and state representative Rob Roberson said Cash was someone who deserved to be honored because of his continued fight for social justice.
âHe was able to say something about our country without stepping on itâ¦â said Roberson. âHe wasn’t one of those people who would see something that needed to be changed and say nothing about it – he said it. He also said how proud he was of his country. If I have one thing to say, we need more Johnny Cash. We need more people who are ready to say what is wrong, but who are ready to be proud of where they are from.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said she is excited to have a Mississippi Country Music Trail marker in Starkville and hopes it will bring tourism and economic growth.
“I’m so glad Mr. Cash didn’t realize this was the Oktibbeha County Jail,” Spruill said. âIt wouldn’t have been a good song. I’m glad he called it Starkville. We got a name out of it and from that we get this wonderful event for one of the track markers. I’m so excited because it will bring people to town and be a part of our community even if they’re just sightseeing.
The Mississippi Music Trail markers, placed statewide, honor other artists such as Stuart, Faith Hill, Conway Twitty, Elvis Presley, among others.