The lyrics were inspired by a poster. Jackson recalled the story behind the song during the Nashville stop of his Honky-Tonky Highway Tour
, Jackson shared the story behind "Wanted" with the large crowd. (Source The Boot
"I was playing this bar in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Back then, we'd play the whole week; we'd play every night, five or six nights, from about seven or eight at night until about two in the morning.
It was our first night there, and I was wore out. I had driven the van. I was kind of peculiar about my van — I wouldn't let any of my boys drive it. So after I drove the van, set up, did the soundcheck, I went back to the hotel, took a shower, and we did the set. By the time we got through, I had been awake for 43 hours or something like that. But I was young, and I liked Mountain Dew a lot.
I woke up the next day, and it was pouring down rain, and I was in this motel in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. With nothing to do, I thought I'd try to write a song. I was sitting there with my guitar, kind of strumming around. I had the TV on, and this ol' John Wayne western was playing. The dude walked into this bar, saw this poster was over his head, and I started singing this chorus, 'Wanted.'"