Reporting Scott T. Sterling
While rock stars are notorious for their rebellious and law-breaking ways, stars of country music are no less volatile, and have racked up some impressive arrest records and mug shots in the process.
Unfortunately, some of country music’s wildest arrests didn’t result in police station photo session, like the time Kenny Chesney took off astride a Mounted Reserve deputy’s horse in Buffalo, NY, at the 2000 George Strait Country Music Festival. Tim McGraw was arrested as well in that incident, since he and members of his entourage assaulted officers attempting to corral Chesney and the hijacked horse. Both stars and McGraw’s road manger were later acquitted of all charges.
Still, the rabble-rousing mug shot collection of country music superstars doing time in the booking department of police stations is a harsh reminder that rock and roll doesn’t have a monopoly on bona fide law-breaking rebels. Here are the top ten county music mug shots.
2012 was a rough year for country star Randy Travis. He was busted in February of that year for public intoxication in Sanger, Texas, where he was found drinking from a bottle of wine while parked in a church parking lot. It was a much more serious situation that August, when he crashed his Trans Am (again in Texas), with police finding the singer lying naked in the road and smelling of booze. Travis would go on to threaten the arresting officers. Ultimately, he would plead guilty and thank those same officers in court, where he received two years of probation.
In 2008, the founding member of the legendary southern rock band was cited for DUI after a traffic accident in Milton, GA. Rossington kept it real with the arresting officers, telling them, “I know I am drunk. I do not want to take the evaluations,” when asked to perform field sobriety tests. It didn’t help that he was slurring his speech, reeked of booze and nearly fell down more than once while being questioned by the cops.
It’s no surprise that the famously marijuana-friendly Nelson would eventually run afoul of the law for his love of the cannabis. In 2010, he was caught with six ounces of kind bud on his tour bus in Sierra Blanca, TX. Nelson had no problem admitting it was his weed, and went to the Hudspeth County jail, where he was released on $2500 bail. Sierra Blanca is notorious for high-profile drug busts, having also popped Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple and Nelly for drug possession.
Atkins faced some extremely serious charges back in 2011 when his then-wife Tammy Jo Atkins, claimed that her husband attempted to suffocate her after a night of heavy drinking. The country superstar filed for divorce in the aftermath, claiming she fabricated the entire story (including her statement that the couple’s then 10-year-old son witnessed the entire ordeal). He was ultimately cleared of all charges, with the judge going so far as to have the incident expunged from his record.
The rock and roll pioneer known as “The Killer” might have been taken his murderous nickname a little too far when he arrested in 1976 parked outside of Elvis Presley’s Graceland estate brandishing a gun, demanding to see Presley. “He was outta his mind, man,” recalled Presley’s cousin Harold Loyd, who was the guard on duty at Graceland that night, according to the Elvis Information Network. “He was screamin’, hollerin’, and cussin’. ‘Get on the goddamn phone. I know you got an intercom system. Call up there and tell Elvis I wanna visit with him. Who the hell does he think he is? Tell him the Killer’s here to see him.’” Loyd instead called the cops, who arrested Lewis for the gun and being drunk in public.
In 2003, the legendary country singer was arrested in Phoenix, AZ, on charges of drunk driving and assaulting one of the arresting officers, resulting in this grizzled mug shot. “Yesterday, I was arrested and put in jail,” he explained in a statement after the unfortunate incident. “Even at my age, I learned a valuable lesson. I apologize to my wife, my family, my friends and my fans,” the then-67-year-old “Rhinestone Cowboy” crooner confessed. The arresting officers stated at the time that Campbell’s mood “would go from combative to congenial,” during his brief stay behind bars, which included “a short jailhouse concert,” according to CNN. In 2011, he would announce that he’d been diagnosed with the Alzheimer’s disease.
Hank Williams Jr. had to cut short a hunting trip and turn himself into Memphis police back in 2006 on a bizarre assault charge. A 19-year-old waitress claimed that the the conservative country superstar choked and lifted her off her feet by her throat after she refused to kiss him in a hotel lobby. Williams claimed the woman was just looking for a big payday, and only pressed charges after he refused to give her “an outlandish amount of money” which she demanded in a letter. Almost a year later, the woman’s charges were dismissed.
Way back in 1965, “The Man in Black” was arrested at the El Paso International Airport in Texas for having over 1000 illegal drugs tablets in his possession while returning from Mexico, where he claimed he bought the contraband on the streets of Juarez. “It was bad, very bad, misconduct on my part,” Cash is reported as saying upon arrest. “I had several beers, [and] I guess I was so tired I lost my faculties.” He would go on to plead guilty to a misdemeanor, paying a $1000 fine and receiving a 3-day suspended sentence.
Becoming famous as one-half of the successful ‘80s mother-daughter duo the Judds with her mom Naomi, Wynonna Judd ran afoul of the law in November of 2003 when she was arrested for DUI in Nashville, TN. Police officers smelled booze on her breath during a routine traffic stop for speeding. Recording a blood alcohol level twice Tennessee’s legal limit, Judd received an 11-month, 29-day suspended sentence, probation and a $350 fine.
The Louisiana country star and his girlfriend Jennifer Tant had a good, old-fashioned dust-up at a Nashville bar in 2008 when the inebriated couple took an argument home, where it turned physical. According to People, Cagle assaulted Tant with a purse, while her weapon of choice during the altercation was an umbrella. Each suffered injuries, with police claiming that “both parties went from being compliant with the officers to being disorderly on numerous occasions.” When the incident landed in court, Cagle was found not guilty of domestic abuse charges, with Tant pleading the Fifth instead of testifying.