Visitors soak in the sights as the Johnny Cash Museum celebrated its grand opening in Nashville, Tenn., on May 30, 2013 with a day full of contests, prizes and limited-time offers to fans and patrons.(Photo: Gannett/Larry McCormack, The Tennessean)
NASHVILLE -- Roger Johansson flew from Sweden to Nashville for the grand opening of the Johnny Cash Museum.
He was among the first 300 people to visit the museum within the first four hours after it opened Thursday. Fans hailed from Ireland, Sweden, Michigan and California to see the clothes Cash wore during his performances, as well as some of his records, guitars and pictures.
"One thing is that the music is so genuine, you can feel it," Johansson said. "You believe the song when he sings it. It brings everyone from all over the world together."
The museum's grand opening represented a major moment for Cash fans. Johnny and his wife, June Carter Cash, died months apart in 2003 in Nashville. His house burned down in 2007, leaving fans without any real destination to visit, according to Shannon Miller, who founded the museum with her husband, Bill.
"Elvis has Graceland, but there was really nothing left anymore for us," Shannon Miller said. "We really needed to bring it back to Tennessee. We needed to have something for all of the fans. We're just really happy to be able to tell the fans there's a place to come celebrate Johnny Cash."
The museum, on Third Avenue in downtown Nashville, features a treasure trove of Cash relics acquired through various donors and collectors. Bill Miller, a close friend of the Cashes, donated his own expansive collection of Cash-related rarities, which he had been piecing together one item at a time for four decades.
"Every artifact here helps to tell the story, and this needed to be in Nashville," Bill Miller said.
At a media walk-through in late April, Cash siblings Joanne Cash Yates and Tommy Cash smiled to see their brother's old Martin guitar with a folded dollar bill stuck through the strings: In the 1950s, before he had a drummer, Cash used a dollar bill to create a percussive effect when he strummed the instrument.
There was a display filled with family photos and artifacts from the Cashes' hardscrabble 1940s days in Dyess, Ark. There was a radio like the one the family used to listen to the "Grand Ole Opry." There was Johnny's Future Farmers of America card, and a school yearbook page.
Daughter Cathy Cash-Tittle became emotional upon seeing her parents' marriage certificate for the first time. Others in the family gasped to see a stone wall that was part of Johnny and June's Hendersonville home before it burned. There were tin cups from Folsom Prison, where Cash recorded a classic album. There were stage outfits, awards, gold and platinum albums, and a remarkable collection of instruments from Cash, The Carter Family and supporting musicians Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant and W.S. "Fluke" Holland.
"It's just unbelievable," said Tommy Cash, who followed his brother into the music industry and recorded hits including "Six White Horses." "I'm amazed at what's here. People from all over the world will come and see this."
Judy Morris, a Northern Ireland native on a music tour of Tennessee, said Thursday that Cash's music is timeless and resonates with all ages.
"I think people can just really connect to him, and I think a lot of young people can connect to his rebelliousness," Morris said.
For more information on the Johnny Cash Museum, visit http://johnnycashmuseum.net.
Quint Qualls and Peter Cooper, The Tennessean