Jackson (song)

"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,[1] 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.

Single by Johnny Cash and June Carter
from the album Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter
B-side"Pack Up Your Sorrows"
ReleasedFebruary 6, 1967
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber (as Gaby Rodgers)
Producer(s)Don Law and Frank Jones
Johnny Cash and June Carter singles chronology
"It Ain't Me Babe"
"Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man"


Actress Gaby Rodgers is cited as co-author[2] 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.[3]


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.

Which Jackson?

There has been much speculation regarding which Jackson the song is about, but Wheeler said: "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." [4] 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".[4] 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."[4] Carl Perkins lived in Jackson, Tennessee.[5]

Notable recordings

The song appeared on The Kingston Trio album Sunny Side!, released in 1963.

Johnny Cash and June Carter released a version in February 1967,[6] 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.[7]

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood released a version in July 1967,[8] reaching #14 on the US Charts that year. Their cover also peaked at number four in South Africa.[9] The song was featured in Nancy Sinatra's 1967 TV special: Movin' With Nancy.[10]

Other notable versions include:


Pepper Sprout, a Midwestern gourmet restaurant in Dubuque, Iowa, was named after the lyrics in "Jackson."[13]

The group Prefab Sprout took their name from a mishearing of the lyrics.[14]

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.[15]



  1. Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 221.
  2. "Full 03". Spectropop.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  3. "Billy Edd Wheeler". Spectropop.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  4. Audra, Buick (24 August 2012). "'Jackson' by Billy Edd Wheeler". Retrieved 23 June 2013.
  5. Perkins, Carl; McGee, David (1996). Go, Cat, Go!. New York: Hyperion Press. ISBN 0-7868-6073-1. OCLC 32895064..
  6. "Original versions of Jackson by Johnny Cash & June Carter". SecondHandSongs. 1963-06-07. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  7. "The Help (Music From the Motion Picture)". Amazon.com. July 26, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  8. Andrew Eric Stowell. "1967 Top 40 Hits - Rock And Pop Music - Retro Hits - The Tunes You Grew Up With". Retro Hits. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  9. http://www.rock.co.za/files/springbok_top_20_(H).html
  10. Nancy Sinatra (2000). Movin' with Nancy (Song listing). Chatsworth, CA: Image Intertainment.
  11. Florence + The Machine w/ Josh Homme - "Jackson" on YouTube
  12. Pansy Division w/ Calvin Johnson - "Jackson" on YouTube
  13. Pepper Sprout :: Midwest Cuisine :: Dubuque, Iowa Peppersprout.com. Retrieved on 4-04-10.
  14. Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums
  15. Video on YouTube
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