About the Festival

May 11, 1965
Johnny Cash was arrested for public drunkenness in Starkville, MS in the early morning of May 11, 1965 following a performance at Mississippi State University. He spent one night in jail and paid a fine of $36.

Febrary 24, 1969
Cash sang about his run-in with “the law” in Starkville on his album, “At San Quentin (The Complete Live Concert),” recorded in 1969.

View “Starkville City Jail” lyrics

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?” 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…” “Awe 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.

September 12, 2004
As a reporter for the for the Starkville Bureau of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Robbie Ward had heard of Cash’s exploits in town and wanted to find a local story to commemorate the first anniversary of his passing. After months of research, Ward found what he was looking for. It turns out that a young man named “Smokey” Evans shared the cell with Cash back on 1965, and Ward was the first to interview him about that night.

Flower Pickin’ Festival executive director Robbie Ward wrote an article about Johnny Cash’s shoes staying in Starkville after he left the “Starkville City Jail.”

At this point, Ward felt that there was still another chapter to be written in this story. For millions of fans, the life of Johnny Cash is a model of redemption. With this in mind, Ward approached Starkville City officials with the idea of issuing a symbolic pardon to the “Man in Black.”

November 2-4, 2007
Pardoning ceremony
At the first Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival, fans from all over the world join the Cash family and friends on Main Street in Starkville for “Three Days to Celebrate On Night in Jail.” Marty Stuart headlined a full day of music on Saturday, and Johnny’s sister Joanne Cash lead a Sunday Gospel redemption performance.

The City of Starkville and local law enforcement officials issued a symbolic pardon to Johnny Cash, with an expiration date of one year, ensuring that the .

For more information check out the many articles available on our press page.