Johnny Cash Museum to Host 'Birthday Bash' for Late Country Icon

Jan Persson/Redferns

The Johnny Cash Museum has quickly became one of the top-rated tourist attractions in Nashville since its' opening last year. To commemorate the February 26 anniversary of the legend's birth (he would 82), an event is being planned that promises to be one of the most anticipated in Music City – the Johnny Cash Birthday Bash.

In a three day event kicking off February 28th, fans will be treated to appearances by Johnny Cash family members and former band members in series of activities anchored at the Museum. Bill Miller, longtime Cash historian and founder of JCM, tells Billboard that while the event itself is not new, it has gotten bigger with each passing year.

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"We've been doing this for seven or eight years. We held the first ones out in Verona, CA. We decided that it would be a fun way to celebrate Johnny's birthday. We invited some of his family, friends, and colleagues. It was really just a tremendous time for Cash fans, and a great time for fellowship. There hadn't really been organized for his fans to participate in much less hang out with Johnny's relative, peers, producers, and those that knew him well. We did it, and the first one was a success, then we did a few more, and that led to a Johnny Cash Cruise."

After the cruise, Miller's time and attention were devoted to the Museum's opening in downtown Nashville. With that piece of the puzzle firmly in play, he feels it makes sense-to bring the Bash to Nashville, as the event will feature many of those who knew "The Man In Black" best.

"We're bringing together Johnny Western – who used to emcee the Johnny Cash package shows in the 60s, and there are few others who got to experience the crazy side of Johnny Cash any more than he did," Miller stressed. "If he wasn't in the shape to go on stage, Johnny Western had to go make excuses and talk until the audience made him bring Johnny on. They were very close. John Carter Cash will be there, as will his son Joe. We're actually going to have four generations of the Cash family there, which will be a first for a public event. His sister Joanne Cash Yates and brother Tommy Cash will be there to celebrate and entertain, and there will be a house band to back everyone," he says.

Miller says one of his favorite aspects of the Bash is that "Everybody hangs with everybody. There's no backstage. During the celebration, nobody hides or runs away. It's a celebration in the truest form where everybody is relaxed, and everybody loves Johnny."

Though it has been over a decade since his passing, Miller says "His legacy looms larger than life. With just about anybody who has passed, there comes a point where there will be a decline, and less interest. It's just the natural evolution of things. So the fact people bring their children to the Museum, and they are two, three, and four years old, and they know his songs, know who he is, and they can sing his songs never fails to amaze me. There are new generations of fans coming up. There's something unique about his music that really seems to reach young children. I think it's due to his authenticity. People the music and the message. He's a fascinating person."

A one-time member of the Johnny Cash Fan Club, Miller says the reaction to the Museum has warmed his heart. " I'm grateful that people say it feels so personal, and you feel like Johnny is there. I'm gratified and thrilled. I didn't expect any of this.  I hoped that it would be successful, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be getting accolades from Billboard, The New York Post, or the National Geographic. I'm still waiting to wake up from the dream, but it's not due to us – It's due to Johnny Cash.  We provided a conduit for people to get to know him, but the drawing card is the Man In Black. We're just honored to have a place where people can come and experience him."

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