Johnny Cash & June Carter – Jackson
We got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper sprout
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson
Ever since the fire went ou-out
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson, look out Ja-ackson town
Well, go on down to Jackson
Go ahead and wreck your-our health
Go play your hand you big-talkin’ man
Make a big fool o-of yourself
Yeah, go to Jackson, go comb your hair
Honey, I’m gonna snowball Jackson, see-ee if I-I care
When I breeze into that city
People gonna stoop and bow (Hah!)
All them women gonna make me
Teach ’em what they don’t know how-ow
I’m goin’ to Jackson, you turn ‘n’ loosen my coat
‘Cause I’m goin’ to Jackson
“Goodbye,” that’s a-all she wrote
But they’ll laugh at you in Jackson
And I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony-y Keg
They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound
With your tail tucked between your legs
Yeah, go to Jackson, you big-talkin’ man
And I’ll be waitin’ in Jackson, behind my Jaypan fan
Well now, we got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper Sprout
We’ve been talkin’ ‘bou-out Jackson
Ever since the fire went ou-out
I’m goin’ to Jackson, and that’s a fact
Yeah, we’re goin’ to Jackson, ain’t never comin’ back
Well, we got married in a fever
Hotter than a pepper sprout’
And we’ve been talkin’ ‘bou-out Jackson
Ever since the fire went… [fade]
Johnny Cash & June Carter singing Jackson at the Ralph Emery Show. This is from 1967.
“Jackson” is a song written in 1963 by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber and first recorded by Wheeler. It is best known from two 1967 releases: a pop hit single by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, which reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 39 Easy Listening, and a country hit single by Johnny Cash and June Carter, which reached number two on the Billboard Country Singles chart and has become more appreciated by non-country audiences in recent years as a result of Cash’s continued popularity and its use in the 2011 film The Help.
Actress Gaby Rodgers is cited as co-author of “Jackson”, because Leiber used his then-wife’s name as a pseudonym in writing the song with Wheeler. First recorded in 1963 by Wheeler, he explains the evolution of the song, and Leiber’s contribution:
‘Jackson’ came to me when I read the script for Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (I was too broke to see the play on Broadway)…When I played it for Jerry [Leiber], he said ‘Your first verses suck,’ or words to that effect. ‘Throw them away and start the song with your last verse, “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.”‘ When I protested to Jerry that I couldn’t start the song with the climax, he said, ‘Oh, yes you can.’ So I rewrote the song and thanks to Jerry’s editing and help, it worked. I recorded the song on my first Kapp Records album, with Joan Sommer, an old friend from Berea, Kentucky, singing the woman’s part. Johnny Cash learned the song from that album, A New Bag of Songs, produced by Jerry and Mike.
There has been much speculation regarding which Jackson the song is about; but, according to Wheeler, “Actually, I didn’t have a specific Jackson in mind. I just liked the sharp consonant sound, as opposed to soft-sounding words like Nashville.” Though Wheeler had no particular Jackson in mind when writing the song, subsequent recordings have narrowed attributions to Jackson, Tennessee: The previous source also quotes Charlie Daniels as having recorded “Jackson” with these lines, “I ain’t talking ’bout Jackson, Mississippi. I’m talking ’bout Jackson, Tennessee”. And, Johnny Cash is quoted in the video from the same source: “Well, I was gonna take her down to see Carl Perkins in Jackson.” Carl Perkins lived in Jackson, Tennessee.
The song is about a married couple who find (according to the lyrics) that the “fire” has gone out of their relationship. It relates the desire of both partners to travel to “Jackson” where they each expect to be welcomed as someone far better suited to the city’s lively night life than the other is.
Johnny Cash and June Carter released a version in February 1967, reaching #2 on the US Country charts and winning a Grammy Award in 1968 for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group. This version was reprised by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, performing as Johnny Cash and June Carter, in the 2005 film, Walk the Line, and also appears on the soundtrack of 2011 film The Help.
Other notable versions include:
- Finnish singers Carola Standertskjöld and Lasse Mårtenson recorded the song in 1967 as a duet, under the title of Mä lähden Stadiin (‘I’m goin’ to town (i.e. to Helsinki)’). They performed it on the Finnish television in a program called Jatkoaika (‘extra time’), also in 1967.
- INXS and Jenny Morris recorded this for the Australian cassette EP Dekadance; it was later included on The Best of Jenny Morris: The Story So Far.
- Florence + the Machine recorded it for their live album Florence + The Machine MTV Unplugged featuring lead singer Florence Welch and Josh Homme on vocals.
- Pansy Division recorded a version, with Calvin Johnson, in 1994 on a 7″ single.
- Adam Young of Owl City posted a version of the song to his SoundCloud account in 2015.
- Carolina Chocolate Drops.
- Swiss band Hillbilly Moon Explosion have recorded a version, with “Sparky” Phillips, which is available on YouTube.
- In 2017, Adam Harvey and Beccy Cole included the song on their album, The Great Country Songbook Volume 2.
Jackson is featured in the Pilot episode and Finale of Defiance; in the Pilot the two main characters listen to the song and then sing along. In the Finale one of those characters, Nolan asks if a recording of the song is available, and quotes one line of it as he leaves Earth.
- American country music parody artist Cledus T. Judd released a parody of “Jackson” titled “Jackson (Alan That Is)” on his 1996 album, I Stoled This Record.