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Honoring the life and memory of the “Man in Black,” the Johnny Cash Museum features a wide collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to the career of this legendary performer. The exhibits highlight various periods in his life, such as his stint in the Air Force and marriage to June Carter. The collection includes Cash’s costumes, handwritten letters and other personal mementos.
In 1932, John R. “Johnny” Cash was born into a hardscrabble family in Kingsland, Arkansas. Known for his deep bass voice, he became one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Among the best-selling recording artists of all time, this entertainer touched numerous musical genres, including country, rock and roll, blues and gospel. As a result, Cash has been inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Gospel Music as well as the Nashville Songwriters and Memphis Music Halls of Fame. This legendary Grammy Award-winning performer is one of only a handful of multiple inductees. He was renowned for championing prison reform and held concerts inside penitentiaries like Folsom and San Quentin. His signature apparel earned him the moniker “The Man in Black.” Cash passed away less than four months after his beloved wife, June Carter Cash, in 2003.
The Museum’s History
The original House of Cash Museum was located in the artist’s former home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. While closed for restoration work in 2007, the property was destroyed by a fire. This incident left fans of the superstar without a place to celebrate his legacy. Opened in 2013, the current museum on Third Avenue South in downtown Nashville was the brainchild of Shannon and Bill Miller, a close friend of Cash who donated his personal collection of artifacts and memorabilia. The Johnny Cash Museum is one of Nashville’s must-see attractions and ranks at the top of Forbes and National Geographic Travel lists. Officially authorized by his estate, the Johnny Cash Museum features state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and a gift shop. It is one of only six Nashville attractions to earn the prestigious AAA Gem rating.
Appealing to Johnny Cash and country music fans, the museum houses a treasure trove of rarities associated with the life and career of the celebrated artist. The expansive collection highlights different periods in his life as it takes you from his humble beginnings as a child on his family’s cotton farm to his time at the top of the music charts. Unique pieces include personal letters, vintage guitar amps and his San Quentin prison jumpsuit costume. In addition to his Future Farmers of America membership card and a page from his yearbook, visitors will see an early radio similar to the one on which his family used to listen to the Grand Ole Opry. The old Martin guitar on display has a folded dollar bill weaved between the strings. Cash used the bill to create percussion sounds before he hired a drummer in the 1950s. His U.S. Air Force uniform is also on display. Stationed in Germany in 1953 as a radio operator, Cash was the first military operator to hear the news of Josef Stalin’s death.
The museum collection includes stage outfits, gold and platinum records and a remarkable assortment of his instruments as well as a tin cup from Folsom Prison. The records and awards lining the walls of the museum’s Progression of Sound exhibit chronicle Cash’s musical journey through the different genres and crossover work that distinguished his influential career. You can view the evolution of music technology with the display of various media formats, including LPs, CDs and 8-track tapes. A carefully reconstructed stonewall salvaged from the razed Hendersonville home is located inside the museum along with family furnishings and mementos. It provides a glimpse into the personal life and his relationship with his second wife June. Built from various parts manufactured from 1949 through 1973, the car was inspired by Cash’s hit song of the same name. Museum visitors can be photographed sitting inside the famous automobile.
A section of the museum is dedicated to his time with Sun Records, the music label that helped launch Cash’s career as well as those of other famous artists like Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Items on display include a pair of Orbison’s signature glasses and a microphone used by Elvis. The museum has video footage that features the personal interactions between these legendary performers. Another exhibit chronicles Cash’s extensive career in television and the movies. In addition to hosting his own variety show, Cash played roles in several popular TV programs, including Hee Haw and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. He also lent his voice to an episode of the Simpsons. Small theaters within the museum allow fans to watch clips of his various performances. There are a number of costumes and props from the hit biographical film Walk the Line on display as well.
As you exit the museum, you will see a video of Cash’s cover performance of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt, which was the entertainer’s last hit record. The museum faithfully depicts virtually every aspect of the prolific entertainer’s life and career.
The Johnny Cash Museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The facility may have reduced hours or be closed for special events and certain holidays. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan to visit the museum early in the morning or a few hours before it closes.
This three-dimensional, interactive journey through the life of this international icon has been highly rated by Nashville Parent magazine as a kid-friendly museum that appeals to visitors of all ages.
In addition to periodic rainstorms, Nashville experiences sultry summer weather as well as temperatures near freezing in the winter. Taking the fun indoors is a great way to avoid harsh weather and still enjoy the sights and sounds of Music City.
The Johnny Cash Museum is located in the SoBro, or South of Broadway, neighborhood. Take an interactive and entertaining Old Town Trolley sightseeing tour and avoid city traffic and the hassle of finding a place to park. Offering views of the best of Nashville, an Old Town Trolley tour provides a fun and informative narration about Music City’s most popular points of interest, including the Johnny Cash Museum. Step off the trolley and enjoy the museum as well as the surrounding attractions at your own pace. When you are finished, climb on board the next trolley. With the largest fleet in Music City, the Nation’s Storyteller ensures that a trolley comes by every few minutes.
Along with its signature handmade clusters, the Goo Goo Shop offers a wide range of vintage candies and other confections as well as Music City-themed souvenirs. Goo Goo clusters have been a Southern favorite for more than a century. These delicious confections feature chocolate, marshmallow, caramel and peanuts. The 4,000-square-foot retail space also displays a variety of historic artifacts.
Situated in a park one block southwest of the Johnny Cash Museum, the Music City Walk of Fame is a star-studded tribute that honors residents who have made an important and lasting contribution to the City of Nashville. Established in 2006, it commemorates each honoree with a terrazzo and stainless steel star embedded in the sidewalk.
Completed in 2006, the architecturally significant Schermerhorn Symphony Center hosts the award-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra. The center is a fine example of 21st century New Classical architecture. In addition to its excellent acoustics, the concert hall is one of the few venues of its kind in the country that features natural light. The grounds also include a public garden. Tours of the building are offered Wednesday and Saturday afternoons beginning at 1 p.m.
One block north of the museum is the stretch of Lower Broadway known as the Honky Tonk Highway. This section of the city’s main east–west thoroughfare is lined with country western-themed shops and well known restaurants serving barbecue and the city’s signature hot chicken. It is also home to world-famous music venues like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge that have launched the careers of numerous legendary performers.