Bobby Karl Works The Johnny Cash Museum

Tommy Joanne Cash11

Tommy Cash and Joanne Cash Yates

Let’s get the “reviewing” part of this story out of the way, right away. Are you ready? Here’s the review: The new Johnny Cash Museum is awesome.

That’s it. Seven words. Now I’ll tell you why. At Thursday morning’s Private Viewing of Nashville’s newest attraction (April 25), a treasure trove of memorabilia was unveiled. In addition to items from the old House of Cash museum in Hendersonville, the new facility includes contributions from fans, artifacts taken from other museums and, most of all, the stunning collection of a man named Bill Miller.

“I became a fan and a collector as a boy,” said Miller at the event. “I saw my first Johnny Cash show at age 12. And I kept going back, again and again. Eventually they said, ‘Just give him a backstage pass.’ So I got to know Johnny, and Johnny was also a collector. We swapped things.”

Miller says “We’ve scoured the world” for the items on display in this terrific  museum on 3rd Avenue South, just off Broadway downtown.

You enter and depart through the gift shop, which has the coolest Cash t-shirts ever, by the way. Your first stop inside is the Dyess, Arkansas section of the museum, which spotlights Johnny’s childhood. Vintage family photos are displayed, alongside the star’s Sears guitar, his boyhood toys, a cotton-picking sack filled with cotton bolls and the family’s wooden radio. Nearby is a case displaying the instruments of The Tennessee Three.

Johnny’s sister, Joanne Cash Yates, became teary-eyed as she looked at the memorabilia. His brother, Tommy Cash, graciously accepted compliments from attendees.

The next section of the museum spotlights Johnny’s years in the Air Force. His uniform, service papers and transmitter are in cases. Many of the items have never been seen by the public before.

Cash inside11In the Memphis/Sun Records section are Johnny’s J-200 Gibson guitar as well as collectible 45 r.p.m. and 78 r.p.m. records. “Johnny Cash may be the only artist who charted in every format while he was living, including digital downloads,” Miller said.

The San Quentin exhibit spotlights the recordings that Johnny made at prison concerts. It includes jailhouse tin cups, a set list, guard badges, a cell door, the lyrics to “Folsom Prison Blues” and the Grammy Award that resulted.

A section spotlighting the 1960s showcases a red silk shirt, his “Man in Black” suit, his first custom-made leather boots, Maybelle Carter’s autoharp, Johnny and June Carter’s wedding license, posters, letters, lyrics and manuscripts. Nearby is a wall of Gold and Platinum records. In front of it are Johnny’s CMA Awards in individual display cases.

A video room is dedicated to the star’s patriotism. Another room displays posters from the various films he appeared in, as well as a wealth of costumes and hats. The museum also contains antique furniture from Johnny and June’s home. The old sign from the House of Cash museum is there as well.

“It had been taken to Arkansas, but we got it back,” said Johnny’s niece Kelly Hancock, who used to work at the old museum. “So now I’m back at the House of Cash.”

In another room, there are artifacts from Johnny’s time spent in The Highwaymen with Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. Beyond that are items relating to his late-career revival with producer Rick Rubin. A studio console, books written by Cash, his paintings and drawings and various other artifacts are also there.Cash Inside 2 photo11111

Scattered throughout the museum are listening stations and video viewing stations highlighting everything from “I Walk the Line” to “Hurt.” There is an event space available for rent behind the exhibit area.

“We’re having a ‘soft’ opening tomorrow [Friday, April 26] and then a Grand Opening in June, when there are more people in town,” said Kelly. “The Johnny Cash [postage] stamp comes out on June 5.

“There will be a lot more,” she promised. “We’re still adding things.”

“The collecting continues,” confirmed Bill Miller. “My wife thinks it’s a sickness.”

Peter Cooper, Sherod Robertson, Shannon Miller, Tom Roland, Chuck Dauphin, Pam Lewis, Mark Logsdon and the other members of the media at the preview event were enthusiastically taking notes and snapshots.

Here’s my advice: Go and experience The Johnny Cash Museum NOW, before the rest of the world finds out that it’s open and it becomes too crowded to enjoy properly.

 

 

 

 

 

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