The Johnny Cash Museum is a museum in Nashville thatfeatures the most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cashitems and mementos in the world. It was opened in April 2013 to honor the life and music of the country superstar that was often referred to as the “Man in Black”. It is an 18,000 square-foot museum that is located in the busy South of Broadway neighborhood.
The original museum that honors the star was known as House of Cash which was located in Hendersonville, Tennessee. However, it has been closed for many years and had fallen into a state of disrepair. In 2007, Johnny Cash’s lakeside home in Hendersonville burned in an accidental fire during renovations in 2007. His personal friends, Shannon and Bill Miller, donated their personal collection of memorabilia to found the current Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville.
In 2013, The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville was opened to the public with the restored original House of Cash sign as one of its exhibits.
Johnny Cash, “The Man in Black”, was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, author, and actor. He is known to be one of the bestselling recording artists of all time. He had recorded music in a lot of different styles throughout his lifetime and these include country, gospel, blues, and rock and roll.
He was born in Kingsland, Arkansas on February 26, 1932. He grew up in a poor farming community and he was the son of poor Southern Baptist sharecroppers. He had 6 siblings. When Johnny Cash was three years old, he moved with his family to Dyess, Arkansas for his father to take advantage of the New Deal farming programs that were instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. They lived in a five-room house and farmed 20 acres of cotton and other crops.
Johnny Cash spent the next 15 years in the fields working with his parents and sibling for them to be able to pay off their debts. It wasn’t easy but their family found escape from some of the hardship through music. He was just twelve years old when he began writing songs and showed love for the music that enveloped his life. With this, his mother scraped enough money so that Johnny could take singing lessons. His teacher was fascinated with his unique singing styles after just three lessons and told him to stop taking lessons and never depart from his natural voice.
Religion also had a strong impact on Johnny Cash’s childhood. His mom was an earnest member of the Pentecostal Church of God and his older brother named Jack seemed committed to joining the priesthood, until he died tragically due to an electric-saw incident in 1944. Johnny Cash’s childhood including his early farming life and religion became recurring themes in his career.
In 1950, he joined the Air Force after he graduated high school. He was sent for training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. That is where he met his future wife, Vivian Liberto. He spent four years in the Air Force and he was stationed in Landsberg, West Germany. He worked there as a radio intercept officer, overhearing Soviet radio traffic. It was also there where he turned more of his attention toward music. He formed the Landsberg Barbarians with a few of his Air Force buddies which gave him a chance to play live shows, learn more about playing the guitar, and take a shot at songwriting.
After his discharge in July 1954, he married Vivian and they lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He worked there as an appliance salesman while pursuing music on the side. Johnny Cash co-founded a band called Tennessee Two. After a couple of years, he and the Tennessee Two had scored hits with songs like “Walk the Line”.
However, in the 1960s, his career was nearly disrupted by a serious substance-abuse problem. He and Vivian got divorced. Fortunately, he got the lifeline he needed from his marriage with June Carter, his old touring companion, and as well as from his acclaimed album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968. He began hosting The Johnny Cash Show in 1969. It was a TV variety series that showcased contemporary musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Bob Dylan. That same year, he took home two Grammy Awards for the live album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.
Johnny Cash and his wife experienced more joy in the early 1970 when their first and only child was born. That decade, his success continued. Johnny Cash joined the country super group called the Highwaymen in later years. They released a series of recordings with producer Rick Rubin between 1985 and 1995.
In the late 1990s, Johnny Cash’s health became more of an issue and in 1998, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Even with his health problems, he still continued to make music. He was able to release an album in 2002 called American IV: The Man Comes Around. It was a mix of originals and covers. However, over the next year, his health continued to decline. He was also devastated when June Carter, his long-time love, died in May 2003. Not long after June Carter’s death, Johnny Cash died on September 12, 2003 due to complications from diabetes.
The Johnny Cash Museum chronicles the life of Cash from his early years and Air Force career to his personal life and music career which includes memorabilia from his famous prison concerts. When you visit this museum, you will be able to observe his life in chronological order. There are over 1,000 artifacts on display which consist of personal items, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits.
There’s one exhibit in the museum that is called the “Progression of Sound”. It focuses on Cash’s crossovers into different styles and genres of music on various types of recording media such as CDs, 8-tracks, and LPs.
There’s also a section in the museum that focuses on Sun Records. It was the Memphis label that helped launch Johnny Cash’s career along with the careers of Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. Aside from the items that belong to Johnny Cash, there are also other items here that belong to other artists such as a pair of glasses worn by Roy Orbison, a drum set that belongs to Fluke Holland, and a microphone that was used by Elvis Presley. When you visit the museum, you will be allowed to play video footages of Johnny Cash’s collaborations with other legendary performers.
Some of the numerous Johnny Cash artifacts you can find in the museum are, stage costumes, handwritten letters and notes, handwritten lyrics, yearbook page, vintage guitar amps, Air Force uniform, Gold and Platinum records, music instruments, school report cars, family piano, Grammy and CMA awards, personal belongings such as photographs, and his birth certificate.
The museum has received some recognition from different travel-based organizations since it was opened. It is also one of only six attractions in Nashville that earned a AAA Gem rating. Aside from that, both National Geographic and Forbes ranked the Johnny Cash Museum near the top of their lists for travel destinations. It also ranked number one music museum in the world by Forbes, Conde’ Nast, and National Geographic Traveler. It was also named by Money Magazine as the Best Culture Stop in Nashville.
Johnny Cash Museum Café
After seeing all the exhibits in the museum, you can try the Johnny Cash Museum Café for downtown Nashville’s finest award winning coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and more. It is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
If you’re a fan of Johnny Cash, or you’re simply a music lover, then you wouldn’t want to miss visiting the Johnny Cash Museum when you go to Nashville. It is a great museum that will tell you all about the life and career of Johnny Cash.