In 1967, the most iconic country couple Johnny Cash and June Carter, released a version of the iconic duet “Jackson.” Not only did it reach No. 2 on the US Country charts, but it also won a Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group.
Perhaps no other country couple has inspired more respectful admiration than Johnny Cash and his beloved wife, June Carter. Their love story is the best the country industry has ever seen. And to this day, they remain to be one of the most famous and celebrated couples.
Several years later, Cash and Carter’s “Jackson” was reprised by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, who portrayed Cash and Carter in the 2005 biopic, Walk the Line.
The Story Behind The Iconic Duet
Written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber, “Jackson” tells the tale of a married couple who finds their relationship to no longer have the fire it once had. The couple decided to take a trip to “Jackson,” where each has the expectation of being welcomed as someone far better match for the city’s lively nightlife.
“They’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony 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,” the song goes.
“Jackson” came to Wheeler while he was studying at Yale. When he was trying to write a song, he came across Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – a play that examines the intricacies of the middle-aged couple’s marriage.
“He’s working for the college, and his wife is the daughter of the president of the college, and she gives him the dickens. I mean, it’s mean. Mean spirited,” Wheeler said. “It is natural for a couple to spar in good faith, good spirit, but this was not [that]. This was mean. For some reason, when I was trying to write a song, I remembered that, and it really inspired me. Now that’s a stretch, isn’t it!”
There have also been so many speculations about which Jackson the song is about, but according to Wheeler, he does not have any Jackson in mind. “I needed a town, and I tried Nashville and some others, and that was too soft. I wanted something that really got you, so I finally got Jackson,” he said.
Wheeler first recorded the song in 1963, but it was Johnny Cash and June Carter who made it a country hit. “Jackson” also became a pop hit single when Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s version reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 39 Easy Listening.
You can listen to “Jackson” in the video below.
Johnny Cash, June Carter