1. Entertainment
Send to a Friend via Email

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Rockers In Jail

Oldies artists who've done significant and/or notorious time in prison


James Brown mug shot, 1988

James Brown mug shot, 1988

source: beginnertriathlete.com
Many rock and rollers have done a night or two in jail -- it almost seems part of the job description at this point. But unlike blues and country artists, rockers don't usually stay there long. This list presents a number of exceptions: rock, soul and blues artists who found themselves in the jug for extended and/or notorious stretches. Many of them barely missed being sent up for decades, maybe even life.

Chuck Berry

Incarceration: Four years (1944-1947), Kansas City, MO; three years (1961-1963); Springfield, MO, four months (1979), Lompoc, CA
Crimes: armed robbery, Mann Act violation, tax evasion
Details: In 1944, Berry was accused of robbing a bakery, a barber shop and a clothing store, though he later claimed he merely carjacked a man so he could have a ride home. In 1961 Berry transported a 14-year-old across state lines to work as a "hat-check girl" in his St. Louis club; she was later found to be prostituting herself. In 1979, Berry served more time for federal income tax evasion.

Gary U.S. Bonds

Incarceration: Six days (1967), Norfolk, VA
Crimes: reckless driving
Details: Bonds once claimed to have been wrongly sent to a local work farm for running over a neighbor's dog; he claims the charges were trumped-up for living in a non-segregated neighborhood and being "sort of cocky." Soon after, he moved to New York, where he lives today.

James Brown

Incarceration: Three years (1949), Toccoa, GA; three years (1988-1991), Columbia, SC
Crimes: Robbery (1949), possession of illegal drugs, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, numerous traffic violations (1988)
Details: In 1949, at the age of 17, Brown was accused of stealing clothes from parked cars. In 1988, in the most notorious of his eight arrests, Brown led police on a two-state car chase after bursting into his office complex, waving a loaded pistol, and demanding the public gathering there stop using his restrooms. He was later found to be on PCP at the time.

David Crosby

Incarceration: Eleven months (1985), Huntsville, TX
Crimes: possession of cocaine, illegal weapons
Details: The former Byrds and CSNY member had already run afoul of the law when he was discovered with cocaine residue and unlicensed handguns twice in 1982, and later, still on parole, was accused by two females of assault and battery.

Gary Glitter

Incarceration: Two months (1999), Bristol, England; Three years (2006-2008), Binh Thuan, Vietnam
Crimes: possession of child pornography; sex with minors
Details: The English glam hero of the 70s was found to have child porn on his laptop when he took it in for repair in 1997; Glitter escaped charges by moving to Spain and then Vietnam, where he was later charged with having sex with two underage girls. Upon release, he was eventually extradited to the UK, where he lives in anonymity to avoid angry citizens.

Ronald Isley

Incarceration: 37 months (2008-present), Terre Haute, IN
Crimes: tax evasion
Details: The founder and leader of the seminal funk and soul group The Isley Brothers was convicted of five counts of tax evasion (with fines totaling $3.1 million) and one count of willful failure to file a tax return in 2007.

Rick James

Incarceration: Two years (1993-1995), Folsom, CA
Crimes: kidnapping, assault, drug possession
Details: Funkster Rick James was already awaiting sentencing for allegeldy kidnapping and assaulting music executive Mary Sauger at Hollywood's St. James Club and Hotel when he was arrested for holding another woman hostage and assaulting and raping her for the better part of a week while smoking crack cocaine.

Jonathan King

Incarceration: Three and a half years (2001-2004), Kent, England
Crimes: indecent assault, sex with minors
Details: Best known to music fans for his 1965 hit "Everyone's Gone To The Moon," King was charged with having sex with six different teenage boys between 1983 and 1989.


Incarceration: Two years (1915-1917), Harrison County, TX; seven years (1918-1925), Gulfport, MS; four years (1930-1934), Angola, LA
Crimes: concealed weapon, murder
Details: The blues-folk singer who introduced the world to "Goodnight Irene" and "Midnight Special" was first jailed in 1915 for assaulting a Dallas prostitute, then escaping the chain gang and living under another name until he killed a man in an argument over a woman and was sentenced to 30 years. A song he wrote begging for clemency actually got him pardoned, but five years later he was back in jail, convicted of attempted homicide in a similar incident. Now discovered by white musical folklorist Alan Lomax, he sang his way free again.

Paul McCartney

Incarceration: Ten days (1980), Tokyo, Japan
Crimes: possession of illegal drugs
Details: The ex-Beatle infamously spent ten days in a Japanese jail after customs agents at the Tokyo airport found 7.7 ounces of marijuana in his luggage. Though facing a possible seven-year sentence, he was deported and banned forever from returning (though he eventually returned to Tokyo and performed there in 1990.

Ozzy Osbourne

Incarceration: Six weeks (1966), Birmingham, England
Crimes: breaking and entering
Details: Believe it or not, famous rock madman Ozzy's only real jail time was done when he was 17 and not yet famous, arrested for stealing clothes from a shop. He was also reportedly sent back a year later for assaulting a police officer.
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Oldies Music
  4. Oldies History
  5. Oldie Rock and Roll Artists Who've Been in Jail

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.