Starkville City Jail
Johnny Cash Lyrics

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They put this microphone down here near my guitar
Heh, let it all hang out
I thought my guitar was out of tune at first
You sorry son of a..
It is out of tune
Is that right?
Terry, is that right?
Will you tune this son bitch for me?
Got all kinds of songs, here's one called "A boy named sue"
You want to hear that one?
You want to hear "a boy named sue"?
I do too. I'm anxious to hear it
I don't know how in the hell it's gonna sound. I'm anxious to hear it
Does that camera block your view right there, is that alright?
You want me to leave it there?
Just gonna put it there then
Where in the hell is my guitar? Oh, here it is
(Where's Luther Johnny?)
We're sorry to say, the Luther passed away seven months ago
After being with us for 13 years. Luther Perkins
And uh, the fella that is playing the guitar with us now is doing a wonderful job
'Course nobody can really replace Luther.
How about one big cheer for Luther Perkins

Yeah, I had a song called San Quentin, I was going to do
Where's my....hey, in my kit back in there where I've got all my dope
I mean, where I got all my things

There's a, there's a, there's a little red notebook back there
Would somebody, would one of the guards bring it to me
Somebody bring it to me, bring me the red notebook, and I will uh..

Hey, that, that briefcase back there of mine, you know,
That's got all the songs I stole in it

Telling it like it is, ain't I? Alright

Wrote a song yesterday. I try.
It takes a lot of imagination to write a sometimes to write a song
And to really, to really put something into it
Where somebody else can understand it and feel it .
Well we've been in several prisons
San Quentin, and Folsom prison, and the Starkville Mississippi jail
An El Paso jail. And uh.
You wouldn't believe it, one night I got in jail in Starkville Mississippi
For picking flowers.
I was walking down the street. I may sing heaven for you a little bit later
I was walking down the street....what?
Excuse me I couldn't hear you I was talking
I was walking down the street, and uh
You know, going to get me some cigarettes or something
'Bout two in the morning, after a show. I think it was
Anyway, I reached down and picked a dandelion here and a daisy there as I went along
And this car pulls up.
Said, get it the hell in here boy, what are you doing?
Said, I'm just picking flowers
Well,thirty six dollars for picking flowers and a night in jail (goddamn)
You can't hardly win can ya, goddamn
No telling what they'd do if you pull an apple or something
Well I'd like to do this song on behalf of all you guys in San Quentin
To kinda get back at whoever you want to out there
In my case, I'd like to get back at the fella down in Starkville Mississippi
That still has my thirty six dollars

Well, I left my motel room, down at the Starkville Motel,
The town had gone to sleep and I was feelin' fairly well.
I strolled along the sidewalk 'neath the sweet magnolia trees;

I was whistlin', pickin' flowers, swayin' in the southern breeze.
I found myself surrounded; one policeman said: "That's him.
Come along, wild flower child. Don't you know that it's two a.m."

They're bound to get you.
'Cause they got a curfew.
And you go to the Starkville City jail.

Well, they threw me in the car and started driving into town;
I said: "What the hell did I do?"
And he said: "Shut up and sit down."

Well, they emptied out my pockets, took my pills and guitar picks.
I said: "Wait, my name is..." "Ah, shut up."
Well, I sure was in a fix.

The sergeant put me in a cell, then he went home for the night;
I said: "Come back here, you so and so;
I ain't bein' treated right."

Well, they're bound to get you.
'Cause they got a curfew.
And you go to the Starkville City jail.

I started pacin' back and forth, and now and then I'd yell,
And kick my forty dollar shoes against the steel floor of my cell.
I'd walk awhile and kick awhile, and all night nobody came.

Then I sadly remembered that they didn't even take my name.
At 8 a.m. they let me out, I said: "Gimme them things of mine!"
They gave me a sneer and a guitar pick, and a yellow dandelion.

They're bound to get you.
'Cause they got a curfew.

And you go to the Starkville City jail.
And you go to the Starkville City jail.

Overall Meaning

The lyrics to Johnny Cash’s “Starkville City Jail” provide a glimpse into the lighthearted and humorous side of the iconic musician. The song starts off with him asking for his guitar to be tuned, and then suddenly veers into a improvisational form of storytelling where he shares anecdotes about his life and career. Johnny Cash talks about his experiences being in prison, his fellow musicians (including Luther Perkins who had passed away), and his own run-ins with the law. He even shares a story about being arrested for picking flowers in Starkville, Mississippi.

Throughout the song, Cash's playful and casual delivery belies the seriousness of the subject matter, and his ability to make even tragic events sound almost comedic. The humor and candor with which he recounts these stories (including the lyrics discussing putting his 'dope' back in his kit) adds a certain lightness to the song while maintaining the powerful message of incarceration, injustice and system-wide mistreatment.

Ultimately, the song serves as an insightful look into Johnny Cash's personality as well as the American prison and criminal justice systems.

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Written by: JOHNNY R. CASH

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind
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Comments from YouTube:


This event happened after Johnny did a concert at Mississippi State University, where the sound system quit in the middle of his show; he threw the microphone down on the stage and walked out.  I was the guy operating the sound system amplifier that quit, and I had no spare (never worked without a spare since then).  I still have the microphone he used in the concert.

Blue Widow

John A Bell should have arrested you as well for not having a spare. LoL. Let’s face it, the Cow Barn didn’t have the best sound system.
Cool story ! Thanks for sharing.

That 1 guy

That is pretty cool but you dropped the ball on that one! 😂

Joshua Herring

That’s amazing

5 More Replies...

Flutter Buff

I live in Starkville, and when jack white had a show here, there was a billboard that said "DON'T ARREST JACK FOR PICKING FLOWERS" and now I understand what that meant.


Ah, one of my favorite Johnny Cash tunes, thanks for posting!

Samandrosa jones

Thanks for posting this song, we love Johnny Cash

assessination ireland

A brilliant one from one of the greatest social poets that will ever live.  Caroline Goldsmith


And one of the biggest hypocrites, along with john lennon, in the history of mankind.


cant believe this song has so few views its one of his best imo =)

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