Jackson: a gay homage to Johnny and June

Tony Madden

Complete with mile-high platinum blonde hair and the ever-elusive fringe mask, drag queen Trixie Mattel and rising country star Orville Peck paid a queered, campy homage to Johnny Cash and June Carter with their cover of “Jackson,” one of the iconic couple’s breakout hits from 1967.

A classic country duet, “Jackson” tells the story of a marriage that burned fast and bright but has since lost its heat. The solution: A trip down to Jackson, Mississippi to get a little rowdy.


“We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout. We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson ever since the fire went out,” the pair sings.


“I’m goin’ to Jackson; I’m gonna mess around,” Cash sings. “Yeah I’m goin’ to Jackson. Look out Jackson town!”


Carter retorts playfully: “They’ll laugh at you in Jackson, and I’ll be dancin’ on a Pony Keg. They’ll lead you ’round town like a scalded hound with your tail tucked between your legs.”

Although Peck and Mattel are no Johnny and June, they’re not meant to be. They pay a touching homage to country’s most iconic power couple, but make a point to leave their own mark on “Jackson.” There’s something truly satisfying about a song with such an overtly straight storyline being sung by a gay man and a drag queen.


The instrumentation remains nearly identical to the Cash-Carter version, but Mattel trades June’s alto Virginia drawl for a crisper, more annunciated tenor. Cash’s sturdy, rumbling vocals make way for Peck’s vibratos, which lie in the sweet spot somewhere between Marty Robbins and Merle Haggard.

In a word, Trixie Mattel and Orville Peck’s cover of “Jackson” is gratifying. The faces of country music continue to evolve, and I look forward to more queer forces in the genre.