The Johnny Cash Museum, located in downtown Nashville, had its soft opening in late April, but will be throwing an all-day Grand Opening event on May 30.
For founder Bill Miller, the opening marks the end of a long process — one that has taken a lot of twists and turns since they began the process in the winter of 2012. But, with good reason — he wanted to get it right.
“It’s been the longest journey of my life,” Miller tells Billboard. “There were so many challenges, but also this deep-rooted responsibility that I have -some may call it a sickness – to create authenticity and present something to people to make them feel as if they knew Johnny. There have been hundreds of nights where we have been up designing things, wording, re-wording, designing, and scrapping.”
Miller says he and his staff tried to approach the Museum from several different viewpoints. “You have to look at it through the eyes of someone who may have discovered him through ‘Walk The Line,’ or someone who has been a fan of his since the 1950s. Our audience is all of those – from a five year old child to their great grandmother. So, putting something like this together isn’t simply a matter of taking a bunch of cool memorabilia and hanging it on the wall. If you walk through, you’ll find that every artifact plays a role as a supporting star in the overall story.”
Miller says that Cash’s reach continues to grow – almost a decade after his passing. “To this day, he touches new generations. What we tried to do was to present the entire story. So, if we had a school class coming through here, by the time they walked out the door, they would be able to write a credible report to turn in to the teacher.”
He compares the opening to raising a child. “This museum and its’ artifacts belong to the world – not me. I’ve released them now, so it’s like releasing your child after they graduate from high school. You cry your eyes out. You’re scared and worried, but when they move on to that next town with a smile on their face, it’s a relief. You let them go, but they’re doing well. That’s why today was important. You’re hoping that when it all comes together, that it all tells the story. We could be like the Hard Rock Cafe, and have a lot of cool displays up – but you want to tell the story. Either do it right, or not at all. I pray we’ve accomplished that.”
One person who feels Miller and company did just that was Johnny’s younger brother, Tommy. “It’s indescribable,” he said in summing up the moment. “There’s so much to comprehend. I knew all of the memorabilia was somewhere, but to see it all in one building is an awesome experience. I could spend a week in here and probably not see every single thing. It’s something that people that come to Nashville from all over the world will want to see.”
The items on display, run the gamut of his life and career. From his grade school report card all the way to a Crucifixion ring given to him in the last year of his life, all points in his career – from Sam Phillips and Sun Records to his final American Recordings sessions with Rick Rubin – are covered in the collection. A video loop shows some of his acting work over the years, ranging from films like “Five Minutes To Live” and “The Pride Of Jesse Hallam” to appearances in TV series such as “Columbo” and “The Simpsons.”
For more information about the Museum, go to facebook.com/johnnycashmuseum.