Hello! I’m Johnny Cash.
Not really, but if you’re reading this, you may have read that opening line using the recognizable voice of Johnny Cash.
If you didn’t, then maybe you’re due for a visit at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. It’s full of history about the musician, artist, humanitarian and actor. Beyond simply looking at artifacts from his life, you can interact with videos, listen to music and even get your photo taken with Johnny Cash.
Here’s what you can expect from the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Early Years of Johnny Cash
Like most museums about people, the Johnny Cash museum begins with his early years. You learn a little about his childhood years, growing up in Arkansas. He came from a large family of seven kids – he was the fourth.
Johnny Cash also served in the military. He joined the United States Air Force in 1950 and served as a radio operator. He was stationed in Germany, where he started his first band – The Landsberg Barbarians.
If you want to read about Johnny Cash through the decades, be sure to read all you can on the panels along the wall on your right.
Don’t miss stopping by the pair of headphones on the right side of the hallway. It’s a fun opportunity to hear the evolution of recorded music. While wearing the headphones, you can listen to a song recorded on vinyl records, 8 Track, 4 Track, CD and even MP3. It’s interesting to hear the scratchy sound of a vinyl record versus the more modern recordings.
As the first hallway comes to an end, you’ll notice some jail cell setup. I didn’t know that Johnny Cash visited prisons often to perform for the inmates. In fact, one of his more well-known songs is the Folsom Prison Blues. It was recorded in the late 1950s.
Ragged Old Flag Exhibit
One of my favorite exhibits was a poem written by Johnny Cash in 1974. The setup around the exhibit is shown above, but you can sit in that room while watching a performance of Johnny Cash of Ragged Old Flag. It’s a passionate description that makes you proud to be an American.
Directly behind this exhibit is a display about Johnny Cash’s interactions with the White House. You can see the National Medal of the Arts, which was presented to Johnny in 2002 by President George W. Bush. There’s also two outfits on display – Johnny’s tuxedo and his wife June Carter’s dress. They were worn at the White House when the duo performed in the East Room for President Nixon in 1970.
Interactive Exhibits for Every Visitor
The museum had numerous interactive exhibits. Almost every room had a pair of headphones we could wear to hear music or watch a video of the music icon.
A series of exhibits showed us videos of Johnny Cash’s music through the decades. You can select a song from that decade and watch a video of him performing it.
One interactive exhibit I enjoyed playing with allowed us to do more than just listen to music. We were able to control the mixing board. We could increase the volume of the vocals, remove the drums, or max out the music with no vocals. It was fun to try different combinations to highlight different parts of the music.
Johnny Cash in the Movies
Johnny Cash was more than a musician. He was also a television and movie star. In 1969, he starred in the Johnny Cash Show, which featured various musicians like Kenny Rogers, Louis Armstrong and Linda Ronstadt.
Johnny Cash also starred on the Big Screen. He played a gunfighter opposite Kirk Douglas in the movie “Gunfight.” Others included “Five Minutes to Live,” “Stage Coach” and several others.
You can sit in a small theater and watch highlights from some of Johnny’s biggest television and Hollywood productions.
The Later Years of Johnny Cash
As you walk down the final hall toward the exit of the Johnny Cash museum, you’ll see a wrap up of some of Johnny Cash’s final decades. One display highlights The Highway Men. It was a group of four of country music’s biggest icons: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. The group released three albums between 1985 and the 1990s.
The final exhibit of the museum is about “Hurt.” The song was originally done by Nine Inch Nails – but Johnny Cash covered it in 2002 with a music video that received much acclaim. The music video was filmed, in part, at the original Johnny Cash museum in Hendersonville. The throne-like chair used in the music video is featured in the museum, next to a TV screen showing the powerful music video: Hurt.
After his death, the new owner of the House of Cash (the Johnny Cash Museum) was renovating the house when it burned down. The new Johnny Cash Museum opened in downtown Nashville in 2013.
After you finish learning about the iconic Johnny Cash, you can exit the museum and shop in the gift shop to your heart’s content. There’s also a little cafe in the museum if you need a little refresher.
After Your Visit
As you tour Nashville, you’ll likely hear a live band slip in a Johnny Cash song. There are many delicious places to stop for a bite and hear live music. Check out NashHouse Spoon and Saloon, due west of the Johnny Cash Museum, for lunch or dinner; and some great country music.
Good to Know
Where: 119 3rd Avenue South, Nashville
When: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
How much: General admission is $19.95. Youth (ages 6-15) are $15.95. Children 5 and under are free with paying adult.
How long: About one hour
Amenities: You’ll find restrooms, a cafe and gift shop.
Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to the Johnny Cash Museum for the purpose of review. All opinions are my own.