Johnny Cash's Childhood Home Is Now A National Historic Place, And You Can Take A Peek Inside


Johnny Cash's Childhood Home Is Now A National Historic Place, And You Can Take A Peek Inside

On September 12, 2003, America lost one of its greatest musical talents, Johnny Cash.

The country-folk music crooner passed away from complications of diabetes at the age of 71, according to his manager Lou Robin.

Cash had an extremely successful career that spanned over four decades and inspired multiple generations. He had dozens of hit songs, including "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," and "Ring of Fire," and won multiple Grammy and CMA awards.

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However, what really set Cash apart from the rest of the artists of his time, like Elvis Presley, was his humble demeanor and lyrics that the average person could relate to.  

Nicknamed the Man in Black because of his signature all-black attire that represented the unfortunate people of the world, Cash was more than just an entertainer.

He used his platform to highlight social issues that plagued the nation, including poverty, addiction, and an unfair justice system.

This is could be credited to his humble beginnings, and his first-hand experience with poverty and loss.

Cash, who was born at the height of the Great Depression in 1932, was one of seven children in a poor Arkansas family.

Johnny Cash at his boyhood homeJohnny Cash

When he was three years old, his family moved to Dyess, a small Arkansas town near Tennessee. They settled into a farmhouse that was built in 1934 as part of the Dyess Resettlement Colony by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

Cash lived in this five-room home until he completed high school, and enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1950.

His family's experiences and economic struggles while living in Dyess shaped him and inspired many of his songs, including "Five Feet High and Rising" and "Pickin' Time."

"When we grew up, it was second nature that we wouldn't live in Dyess when we were grown," said Cash. "It was the aim of every person to get a better job. But if I hadn't grown up there, I wouldn't be what I am now. It was the foundation for what I became."

After Cash died, the house was restored in 2012 and turned into a museum. People travel from all around the world to see the property, which still has most of its original furnishings.

There's a gift shop on the property, and Big Lake National Wildlife Refuse is nearby.

The house served as a filming location of the 2005 biopic Walk The Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as his wife and occasional duet partner, June Carter Cash.

On May 4, 2018, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program announced that the house, which is now owned by Arkansas State University, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"People who visit this site typically leave with the comment, 'Now we understand where his music came from,'" said Ruth Hawkins, director of Arkansas State University's Heritage Sites.

UA Little Rock Public Radio

Since we all can't make it to Arkansas, let's take a virtual tour of the iconic home:

The Living Room

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"I'm just thrilled that they could take what was basic here and make it into a beautiful home like it was in 1935," Cash's younger brother Tommy Cash told NPR.

"I'm just overwhelmed. I can't imagine this is really happening. And all the rooms, they looked huge when we were kids. Mama was a great housekeeper, and she made it very homey for us."

Cash's mother, Carrie, was an avid piano player. She would often gather her children around the piano in the living room and they'd all sing along as she played the keys.

"Mama had an old upright piano, and every night after supper we would gather around and sing gospel songs until bedtime," wrote Cash's younger sister Joanne on her blog.

In 1970, Carrie joined her son for a public duet on The Johnny Cash Show. She accompanied him on the piano as he sang the first song he ever sang in public when he was just 12 years old.

UA Little Rock Public Radio

Dining Room

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UA Little Rock Public Radio

Despite having a sink, the home did not have running water until electrical service became available in 1945.


Cash, whose real name is J.R., shared a bedroom with three of his siblings.

UA Little Rock Public Radio



Porch & Backyard

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Cash's father planted six cottonwood trees when they moved into the home. The family spent the next couple of years working on the 40-acre field and picking cotton.

By the time he was eight, Cash said he was already able to pick hundreds of pounds of cotton a day.

"Jesus was our savior, cotton was our king," Cash wrote in his 1975 autobiography Man in Black.

The government eventually stopped funding the community, but the Cashes stayed in Dyess anyway.

Recently, Cash's children are hoping to add new amenities around the house.


His daughter, Rosanne, held a fundraiser in 2016 to raise $500,000 for a barn, smokehouse, outhouse, and chicken coop.

The house also served as the setting for Rosanne's new music video for her song "The Walking Wounded."

"It's moving, as a middle aged woman, to go back to where your parent was a little boy, to walk in the bedroom where he slept and to see the stove his mother cooked the meals on, I mean all of that is so moving," said Rosanne during a previous visit to her father's childhood home.

"He always talked about Dyess and said every rock is important to me, those were his exact words. So I feel that Arkansas feels the same about him," said Rosanne.

After getting famous, Cash and his wife moved into a $2.9 million home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, which is where they lived until their deaths in 2003.

It's really nice to see a house that had so much influence on an American icon, officially become a piece of history.

If you're curious about what other famous homes look like on the inside, check out these articles:

Take A Look Inside Elvis Presley's Graceland Estate

Take A Look Inside Elvis And Priscilla Presley's Honeymoon Hideaway

Take A Peek Inside Cary Grant's Lavish Beachfront House

Take A Look Inside Clark Gable And Carole Lombard's Romantic Palm Springs Home

Take A Peek Inside The Newly Renovated White House [PHOTOS]

Take A Look Inside Jayne Mansfield's Kitschy Pink Palace

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.