Starkville, Miss. to re-issue pardon for Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Has Johnny Cash’s spirit rested easier since the city of Starkville, Miss. posthumously pardoned him last Fall for a 1965 public intoxication arrest? Whatever the case may be, the inaugural Flower Pickin’ Festival—named for the the Man in Black’s insistence that he was merely admiring some purty plants and NOT drunkenly relieving himself upon them when police apprehended him (as the rumors goes)—was a hit, so it’s no surprise that this weekend’s second-annual event offers even more classic country and Cash family blessings. “I don’t usually participate in these Johnny Cash tribute events, to tell you the truth,” said Johnny Cash’s daughter and Flower Pickin’ Festival headliner Rosanne Cash, as reported by the Commercial Dispatch. “I don’t feel a need to honor my dad in that way—the public expressions can be a bit much sometimes. But this Starkville festival has so many elements that are just too hard to resist—the location, the history, the humor and the family. I really look forward to it.”

Another daughter of Johnny’s, Kathy Cash Tittle, will be present in support of her musician husband Johnny Tittle, who was a member of Merle Haggard’s touring band at age 18 and played alongside Johnny in the ‘80s.

And, despite his having been recently indicted in a 2007 shooting in a Texas Bar, Cash’s old friend and songwriter Billy Joe Shaver will offer up a few tunes himself. (Wrote Ward after news of the indictment broke: “While we'll keep him in our prayers, he shouldn't expect to get a pardon out of us.”)

Back again will be Johnny’s original bassist, Marshall Grant, who actually lent a organizational hand to founder Robbie Ward. The Dispatch reports they’re expecting up to 8,000 people, which is twice as many as last year. Partial proceeds will go to the Starkville Boys & Girls Club and the Palmer Home for Children, according to the event’s website.

Ward conceived the Flower Pickin’ Festival after writing a newspaper story on Cash’s time in the Starkville City Jail. The article was featured a year after the singer’s death in 2003, and ultimately inspired Ward to mull the fact that of all the times the legendary singer was jailed (seven), only a stint in the Starkville slammer became the subject of a song.

The most cathartic moment of the weekend is likely to come during the renewal of the symbolic pardon to Cash, whose life, Ward told Paste last year, was all about redemption. “Cash lived a hard lie through his drinking and drug abuse,” he said, “but he learned from it and transcended.”

Adds the Web site:

“The city of Starkville and Oktibbeha County issued symbolic pardons during the first festival, but we need them to renew the annual pardon … It’s not about Johnny Cash getting arrested; it’s about what his life symbolized to so many people — that no matter what happens in life you can redeem yourself.”

See Johnny recount his Starkville experience:

And see the links below for more information and a full schedule of this weekend's events.

Related links:
News: Starkville to pardon former jailbird Johnny Cash

Got news tips for Paste? E-mail