Ryman Auditorium Showcases Cash Artifacts for 65th Anniversary

Behind the scenes at the Ryman Auditorium, a young Johnny Cash prepared for his Grand Ole Opry debut. The man who, in the years that followed, became known as “Man in Black, wore a black suit. His fame was on the rise. It was July 7, 1956, a time some call the golden age of country music.

June Carter was tuning her guitar, preparing to take the stage, when Cash jostled her.

Perhaps with prophetic ability – but more likely a stunned nervousness after seeing the voice he had long heard on the radio – Cash blurted out a line that would come true 12 years later.

“I’m going to marry you someday,” Cash said.

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the iconic couple’s first exchange at the Mother Church of Country Music, four pieces from Johnny Cash Museum are on loan to the Ryman Auditorium.

For Ryman CEO Gary Levy, the partnership is obvious.

“There is probably no bigger name in the history of country music than Johnny Cash,” Levy said. “And there is no larger hall with significance for country music than the Ryman Auditorium. So, you know, on the 65th anniversary, let’s bring the two around.

Levy sees the exhibition as a way to revisit a time when the two musicians were together at the Ryman.

“There are all of these songs that were written in country music that really showcase the love stories and it’s probably the most famous love story in country music here,” Levy said. .

AFTER:The Hendersonville property where Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash lived sold for $ 3.2 million

Cash and Carter were married when they first met, but they later developed a professional relationship when he invited Carter to be a part of “The Johnny Cash Show”. The two would share a dozen years and many miles on tour before they were married until death parted them.

Starting July 7, the auditorium will house the outfits Cash and Carter wore at the Ryman, a Mario Cuevas costume and a long cream dress with a lace blouse and a gold collar. The collection will also include an Oscar Schmidt autoharp that belonged to Carter’s mother, Maybelle, and Cash’s handwritten lyrics to “Flesh and Blood,” written on the back cover of a Hendersonville Jr. High newsletter.

Photo of Johnny Cash's handwritten lyrics for the song

These objects were collected and preserved by Bill Miller, founder of the Johnny Cash Museum.

Miller was not only a longtime Cash fan, but a close friend.

The outlaw character Cash had, as a musician who struggled with drug addiction and had many run-ins with law enforcement, differed from the relationship he and Miller shared. It was mostly ordinary. They toured Fashion Island in Newport Beach and lined up to see Pale Rider at the mall cinema.

“Despite that, that amazing aura, you know, John might just put people at ease,” Miller said. “When, you know, when they went through the initial shock of meeting him.”

The two used to swap, Miller said. He loved to collect and Cash was interested in American history. A business deal, for example, ten letters from Abraham Lincoln for a guitar used by Johnny Cash.

Slowly and surely, Miller’s collection of memorabilia grew. He would spend more than any bidder on eBay and ease the burden on parents of dealing with priceless pieces. It wasn’t until libraries started approaching him that he realized he had a world-class collection.

Photo of Oscar Schmidt's autoharp originally owned by Mother Maybelle Carter and later by June Carter Cash taken in the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash Dressing Room at the Ryman on Tuesday June 29, 2021. The article is part of 'a new Johnny Cash exhibit at Ryman.

“I had no idea the scale and scope because it wasn’t cataloged, it wasn’t written, it was just,” Okay, here’s that guitar put in the closet, here’s this, that, put it in the closet, ‘”Miller said.

Eight years ago, Miller realized that Nashville, the world’s epicenter of country music, did not have a proper tribute for his late friend. After the fires and museum closures, only the graves of Johnny and June were left.

“No one really cared about him in this city, certainly not in terms of his physical presence,” Miller said.

So he packed his house and artifacts in California and headed to Tennessee to open the Johnny Cash Museum on South 3rd Avenue.

Johnny Cash:Farewell to the man in black, 16 years later

Visitors to the Ryman will be able to see the exhibits on display if they purchase an auditorium tour or if they purchase a $ 40 bundle ticket that allows entry to the Ryman and Johnny Cash Museum.

This is the first time Ryman has done a pop-up exhibit, so there is no foolproof date for their return to the Miller Museum.

To obtain tickets for the Ryman Auditorium, visit ryman.com or call 615-889-3060.

Contact Arcelia at amartin1@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @arcelitamartin.

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