I don’t care where you are in the world; if you tell someone you’re from Nashville, you will almost inevitably get this response, “Ah! Johnny Cash!”
He is unquestionably our single greatest icon, and at a ceremony Tuesday morning (2/14) it was officially announced that Cash is getting his own museum in Music City.
The event was billed as a “Press Conference and Social.” It was social, all right. The attending mob was so packed together that you couldn’t help being “social.”
Mayor Karl Dean said that it was appropriate that the gig was being staged on Valentine’s Day, because, “Everybody loves Johnny Cash.” He added, “The one name that will draw people to Nashville over and over again is Johnny Cash.” Both statements are abundantly true.
Museum founder Bill Miller was deeply emotional during his remarks. He choked up when reminiscing about his late friend of more than 30 years.
“This is something for Johnny,” Miller said, “something that Johnny deserves. We intend to make this the best single celebrity museum in the world.”
The press conference was held at the museum’s site, 119 3rd Avenue South, downtown. The facility, set to open this summer, will eventually include a permanent exhibit that will be “a walk through Johnny Cash’s life,” space for rotating exhibits, a 250-seat performance venue, radio and TV facilities, food vendors, a store and an archive in 18,000 square feet of space. The historic former warehouse is just behind the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and just around the corner from the Music City Convention Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, plus an easy stroll from the hubbub of Lower Broadway.
Miller promises it will have, “the most comprehensive Johnny Cash collection in the world.” A portion of the iconic Cash lakeside home will be excavated and rebuilt in the museum, thanks to the generosity of current owners Barry & Linda Gibb. Various displays will recreate Cash’s Arkansas cotton-patch childhood, his time in the Air Force and other significant biographical milestones.
“There is no death in this museum,” Miller vows. “Johnny Cash is everywhere.” In addition to Miller’s extensive collection of artifacts, the museum will incorporate materials from the Cash estate and interactive components.
Many members of the Cash family attended, including brother Tommy Cash, sister Joanne Cash, Rosanne’s daughter Chelsea Crowell, Johnny’s daughter-in-law Laura Cash, grandson Joey Cash and niece Kelly Hancock.
Son John Carter Cash said, “Seeing this come together is a blessing. It’s the unity of spirit that made this happen.
“My mother and father had a way of preserving their integrity. I truly believe my dad would be excited about this.” He dedicated the museum to, “people who love and respect Dad and what he did and how he touched the world.”
Cash publicist Hugh Waddell added to the throng, “God bless you, and God bless Johnny Cash.”
Massed shoulder to shoulder were Bonnie Sugarman, Craig Hayes, David Olney, Bonita Hill, Doak Turner, Bill Carter, Jimmy Carter, Chuck Thompson, Shannon Miller, Heather Byrd, Pam Lewis and a blue-zillion Cash fan club members. We schmoozed and sampled a barbecue lunch. Souvenir Johnny Cash Valentine’s Day red M&Ms and commemorative Cash “backstage” laminates were given to the V.I.P. attendees. The space was decorated with wall-sized Johnny Cash photographic portraits.
Johnny Cash’s Facebook page still has more than 8 million followers, way more than most living entertainers. He has 17 Grammy Awards, has sold more than 100 million records and is a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.