Country music has long had a link to the outlaw life, dating back to the earliest years of the genre. Famously — or infamously — Outlaw County is one of the most beloved styles of music across the nation, made popular by artists like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. However, while many country music stars are fairly law-abiding folks, there have been few who've spent time behind bars.
In more recent years, it's been artists like Morgan Wallen and Sam Hunt who have found themselves on the opposite side of the law. Both singers were arrested on intoxication-related charges. A number of classic country artists, such as Randy Travis and Glen Campbell, have been thrown in the slammer as well, as noted by The Boot. Scroll down to read about more iconic country music stars who've spent time inside a jail cell.
Johnny Cash is an interesting case because he wrote and sang about committing a lot more crimes than he actually did. He was arrested on two separate occasions though, as reported by Saving Country Music. In 1965, Cash was picked up near El Paso, Texas trying to cross the border from Mexico with 1,163 Equanil and Dexedrine tablets hidden in his guitar case.
However, since these medications were not illegal narcotics but, rather, prescription-based, the "Ring of Fire" singer got a suspended sentence. Then, Cash was arrested the very next year for a truly heinous crime... picking flowers. That's right. Country music legend Johnny Cash trespassed onto someone else's property and picked their flowers. The owner of the land pressed charges and Cash ended up spending time in Starkville County Jail, which he subsequently titled one of his songs.prevnext
As you can probably already imagine, Willie Nelson has had multiple run-ins with law enforcement, and pretty much all of them involve possession of marijuana. He was first arrested for possession in 1974, in Dallas, Texas. Then, two decades later in 1994, he was arrested for it again near Waco, Texas when a police officer found his car pulled over and did a search. He discovered a joint in the car's ashtray and a bag of marijuana.
In 2006, Nelson was arrested again in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana for "one-and-a-half pounds of marijuana and 3 ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms." In addition to Willie, his sister and his manager were both arrested as well, eventually all receiving 6 months of probation. His most recent arrest to date was in 2010 when the "On The Road Again" singer was nabbed at the Sierra Blanca, Texas border checkpoint for possession of 6 ounces of marijuana.prevnext
David Allen Coe
Infamous outlaw country singer-songwriter David Allen Coe is maybe the only star on the list to have actually been to jail before finding fame. Coe was born in Akron, Ohio in 1931. At the age of 9, he was sent to the Starr Commonwealth For Boys reform school. The "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" singer went on to spend the better part of the next two decades in and out of correctional facilities, including a three-year stint at the Ohio Penitentiary.
Coe has claimed in the past that he spent some time behind bars with fellow country singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins. He also credits Hawkins for being one of the first to encourage him in his pursuit of songwriting. After finishing one of his prison sentences in 1967, Coe headed to Nashville and eventually caught the attention of Music Row.prevnext
Glen Campbell struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction decades ago but reportedly kicked the bad habits in the late '80s. However, in November of 2006, Campbell wound up getting arrested near his Phoenix, Arizona home, after drunkenly committing a hit-and-run in his BMW.
Then, while he was being processed for the arrest, he kneed a police officer in the leg, which resulted in Campbell getting an additional charge of "aggravated assault of a police officer." The country singer pleaded down a few of his counts but ultimately spent 10 days behind bars.prevnext
Hank Williams is in many respects considered to be country music's first superstar. He was also equally as known for his struggle with alcohol addiction which reportedly led to more than a few encounters with the law. The only time it appears to have ended up getting Williams arrested, though, was in 1952 when he was booked for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in Alexander City, Alabama.
In 1971, Chief Winfred Patterson, who was the man that arrested Hank, spoke about the arrest, saying to the Alabama Journal that Hank was "more or less having DT's (delirium tremens). He was running up and down the hall, yelling that someone was whipping old ladies and he was going to stop them." One of Williams' friends posted his bond, as well as paid the fine so that the singer could be released.prevnext
Hank Williams Jr.
You'd expect the son — and namesake — of Hank Williams to probably have gotten sideways of the law on more than one occasion. In reality, Hank Jr. has only ever had one official case of charges being brought against him on the record, and even those were eventually dropped.
Back in 2006, a 19-year-old girl claimed that Hank Jr. choked her after she refused to give him a kiss. The country singer turned himself in and was processed. Ultimately, no concrete evidence could be found to confirm the allegations and all the charges were dropped.prevnext
Johnny Paycheck is quite possibly the country music star whose career was most impacted by winding up behind bars. In the early '80s, he was charged with statutory rape, but pled the case down to a misdemeanor and was forced to pay a fine. You'd think this kind of brush with the law might be a deterrent, but Paycheck put himself in a situation years later that he wouldn't get out of so easily.
In 1985 Paycheck was sentenced to seven years in jail after being convicted of shooting a man at the North High Lounge in Hillsboro, Ohio. The country singer was said to have fired a .22 pistol at the man, with the bullet grazing just past the man's head. Paycheck claimed he fired in self-defense and attempted to overturn his conviction.
Finally, in 1989, after unsuccessfully appealing his case, Paycheck began serving his prison sentence. The "Take This Job and Shove It" singer spent 22 months in prison. He was eventually pardoned by then-governor of Ohio, Richard Celeste.prev