Tue. Sep 27th, 2022

Johnny Cash is king in Nashville: His tunes, legacy and legend rule the Music City

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Cash is king. 

The image, memory and music of late entertainment legend Johnny Cash all still prevail in Nashville today as if he were headlining tonight on Lower Broadway. 

J.R. Cash — his given name — visited Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, as a teenager in 1950. 

A chance encounter that day with young country music icon June Carter, whose family laid the cornerstone of country music in the 1920s, foreshadowed the future of the genre — and led to one of the most legendary romances in entertainment history. 

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Cash returned to perform at the Ryman Auditorium as a rising star fresh out of the U.S. Army in 1956. He grew to own the town from 1969 to 1971 when his nationally televised ABC variety program, “The Johnny Cash Show,” was recorded at the landmark venue. 

“He had a couple rules he wanted to set,” Lisa Errington, assistant manager of museum and tours for Ryman Auditorium, told Fox News Digital this past weekend in a backstage interview at the arena.

A mural inside Johnny Cash's Bar and BBQ in downtown Nashville promotes an early-career performance by the legendary entertainer.

A mural inside Johnny Cash’s Bar and BBQ in downtown Nashville promotes an early-career performance by the legendary entertainer.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

“The first was that he was going to have creative control over who was going to be performing,” she said. 

“He didn’t want it to just be kind of country folks. He wanted to have who he wanted.”

Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, among others, all performed on “The Johnny Cash Show” at the host’s request.

“It really ensured that this building was more than country music,” said Errington.

“Cash placed 134 singles on the Billboard charts, including at least two a year for 38 consecutive years.”

The array of performers helped cement Cash’s image as a cross-genre talent and elevated Nashville’s reputation as the Music City.

Nashville’s visitors today still crave lots of Cash, nearly two decades after he died in 2003. 

The Johnny Cash Museum is one of the Music City’s most popular cultural attractions.

Johnny Cash met June Carter, sparking one of the most famous romances in entertainment history, from about this spot behind the stage at the Ryman Auditorium, according to music legend.

Johnny Cash met June Carter, sparking one of the most famous romances in entertainment history, from about this spot behind the stage at the Ryman Auditorium, according to music legend.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Among its highlights: an eye-popping display of each Cash chart single in 45 RPM vinyl. 

It’s an incredible collection of more than 100 Billboard hits across multiple decades and genres. 

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His first, “Cry, Cry, Cry” was released in 1955; his last, a haunting remake of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails, stunned the music world in 2002, the year before he died at 71 years old. 

“In total, Cash placed 134 singles on the Billboard charts including at least two a year for a 38 consecutive year period,” the museum says. 

Johnny Cash's image is seen everywhere in the Music City, including in this ad during a Grand Ole Opry performance promoting Cash sites in downtown Nashville. 

Johnny Cash’s image is seen everywhere in the Music City, including in this ad during a Grand Ole Opry performance promoting Cash sites in downtown Nashville. 
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Music City visitors can get their fill of cold beer, southern fare and country tunes new and old next door to the museum at Johnny Cash’s Bar & BBQ. 

A giant mural painted on a white brick wall inside touts “The Fabulous Johnny Cash Show.” 

The Man in Black appears in photos, other murals and on billboards throughout Nashville, most notably in its raucous downtown honky-tonk district. 

New artists still reverently sing about Cash in their latest tunes today. 

His grave in Hendersonville, about 20 miles northeast of the city, is a popular pilgrimage site today.

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Cash has been immortalized beyond his own career in songs by entertainment A-listers Jason Aldean, Kid Rock and Lenny Kravitz, among others.

New artists still reverently sing about Cash in their latest tunes today. 

Johnny Cash's Bar and BBQ is a popular entertainment venue in downtown Nashville.

Johnny Cash’s Bar and BBQ is a popular entertainment venue in downtown Nashville.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

“By thе light of the jukebox in three-quarter timе/Like Dolly and Porter, Carter and Cash,” Madison Kozak, a 25-year-old country music newcomer from Ontario, sang Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry.

She was performing her just-released song, “If We Were A Country Song.”

The romance between June Carter and Johnny Cash still lingers over country music lore today. 

Their story was brought to the silver screen in the 2005 Hollywood hit “Walk the Line” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Lisa Errington, an assistant curator at the Ryman Auditorium, with a poster of Johnny Cash. One of the highlights of a tour of the auditorium is a visit to the Johnny and June Carter Cash dressing room.

Lisa Errington, an assistant curator at the Ryman Auditorium, with a poster of Johnny Cash. One of the highlights of a tour of the auditorium is a visit to the Johnny and June Carter Cash dressing room.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

Ryman Auditorium offers tourists a more intimate look. 

Visitors can see area where the two first met that day backstage in 1950, while the Johnny and June Carter Cash dressing room is one of the star attractions of a tour.

“He saw June and he fell in love. He thought she was amazing, the bee’s knees,” said Errington of Ryman Auditorium. 

“We want to tell their story, tell their love story.”

June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash are shown during a performance. 

June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash are shown during a performance. 
(GAB Archive/Redferns)

The couple married in 1968. 

Cash’s impact across genres and his ability to tap into the emotions of music fans today is most evident at the Johnny Cash Museum, just a block from Ryman Auditorium on the opposite side of Broadway in downtown Nashville.

It’s a small but busy attraction just steps from the main drag of Broadway that leaves some visitors bursting with pride and others choking back tears.

A small portion of a wall of album covers at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. Across from the album covers is a display of vinyl records representing Cash's incredible 134 Billboard hit singles. 

A small portion of a wall of album covers at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. Across from the album covers is a display of vinyl records representing Cash’s incredible 134 Billboard hit singles. 
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

A video of Cash performing his patriotic 1974 ode “Ragged Old Flag” plays on a continuous loop at the museum projected onto an American flag.

Visitors quietly clapped and whispered “Yes!” as Cash concludes: “On second thought, I do like to brag/’Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”

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One couple choked back tears as they watched an intensely powerful video for Cash’s version of “Hurt,” his last hit song in 2002. 

The Johnny Cash Museum is a popular tourist destination in downtown Nashville. It is one of many examples of the entertainer's legend lording over the Music City.

The Johnny Cash Museum is a popular tourist destination in downtown Nashville. It is one of many examples of the entertainer’s legend lording over the Music City.
(Kerry J. Byrne/Fox News Digital)

It was a success six years earlier for songwriter Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. 

Cash’s haunting version won Country Music Association Video of the Year and Single of the Year, American Music Awards Song of the Year and the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video.

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“Wow, (I felt like) I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore,” Reznor is quoted saying at the exhibit. 

Even the much younger songwriter had to admit that Cash is king.



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