Singing about 'the slammer'

Jan 19, 2012

The Hoosegow, the Big House, The Clink, Up The River, The Pen. We’ve never been ourselves, but we did time listening to scores of songs about "the slammer."

The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world—one in a hundred Americans are currently behind bars.

It’s hard to imagine these clean-cut youngsters knowing anything about jail, but they swear it’s a true story. Here’s the Kingston Trio from around 1965 and “Tijuana Jail”:

Another shocking stat: 30% of Americans, by age 23 have been arrested.

And 100% of the Soggy Bottom Boys were jailbirds:

If we did have to go to the lock-up, we’d prefer to have these guys as cellmates, Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder from Stir Crazy:

Johnny Cash cultivated an outlaw image, assisted by his hits “Folsom Prison Blues” and “San Quentin”. Though he was arrested 7 times, once for picking flowers, he never spent more than a night in jail. Here’s a clip of “Folsom Prison Blues”:

Every week on “Record bin Roulette,” KPLU’s John Kessler and John Maynard put an insightful and fun spin on a century's worth of discarded vinyl. The feature is published here and airs on KPLU 88.5 every Thursday during Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on Weekend Saturday Edition.