The entire idea of “In the Jailhouse Now” is ironic. That is what makes it such an amusing and enjoyable story even after all these years.
Story of the Song
At the beginning of the story, the narrator talks about his friend named Ramblin Bob. Bob used to steal, gamble and rob. Bob thought he will never get caught, but he was wrong. Now, he is in jail. The narrator continued the story of how he lectured Bob to stop those vices. However, it is too late, he is already in jail. The narrator is even kind of mocking Bob, that no one will bail him. In the last part, the narrator talks about how she met a girl named Susie. They ended up having a crazy night together. Crazy as it is, they ended up in jail as well.
“In the Jailhouse Now” is an American novelty song originally found in variety show performances from the early 20th century, usually attributed to Jimmie Rodgers. On February 15, 1928, Rodgers covered “In the Jailhouse Now” in Camden, New Jersey. He sings while playing the guitar, and accompanied by Ellsworth T. Cozzens playing the banjo. Rodgers followed up a sequel titled “In the Jailhouse Now – No. 2” in 1930 featuring the story of a man named Campbell.
Since then, many other musicians have covered the song. Artists who have sung it include Tommy Duncan, Webb Pierce, Pink Anderson, Johnny Cash, Jim Jackson, Leon Russell, Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions (featuring Jerry Garcia), Merle Haggard, Doc Watson, Prism, Suzy Bogguss (with Chet Atkins), and Tim Blake Nelson with The Soggy Bottom Boys in the film and soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou? The song shows up under different titles including “He’s in the Jailhouse Now”. Several versions change the lyrics as well, like “She’s in the graveyard now” in the chorus.
Johnny Cash Version
Here is Cash’s version of “In the Jailhouse Now”. Some of the original lyrics were changed from Rodger’s version. When Johnny Cash recorded the song in 1962, he used lyrics that are different from Jimmie Rodgers’ versions which Cash learned from the African-American jug band musicians in Memphis