Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash Featured in New Pop-Up Exhibit at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium

by Jim Casey
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Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash are the subjects of a new pop-up exhibit at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. More specifically, the exhibit commemorates the 65th anniversary of Johnny and June meeting for the first time backstage at the Ryman on July 7, 1956.

As the story goes, Johnny, 24, and June, 27, “bumped into” each other backstage on the aforementioned night. Johnny, who was making his Grand Ole Opry debut, performed “I Walk the Line,” “Get Rhythm” and “So Doggone Lonesome.”

A smitten Cash reportedly told June that night he knew he was going to marry her someday. Of course, “someday” didn’t come until a dozen years later on March 1, 1968.

The love story was a bit complicated in 1956, to say the least. Johnny was married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto, at the time. Likewise, June was married to Carl Smith, but divorced in December 1956. June married Rip Nix in 1957.

Along with sisters Helen and Anita and Mother Maybelle, June joined Johnny’s touring troupe in 1961. June co-wrote “Ring of Fire” in 1962 about her forbidden love. June and Rip divorced in 1966, as did Johnny and Vivian.

With their past marriages behind them, Johnny and June tied the knot on March 1, 1968. The couple welcomed one son, John Carter Cash, in 1970. Johnny and June remained married for 35 years until June, 73, died on May 15, 2003. Johnny, 71, passed away four months later on Sept 12, 2003.

Johnny & June’s New Exhibit

The new pop-up exhibit features artifacts from both the Ryman and Nashville’s Johnny Cash Museum. Items on display include a black Oscar Schmidt autoharp, which Maybelle Carter owned in the 1960s. June later played the instrument during live performances. In addition, the exhibit features a dress worn by June, as well as a suit worn by Johnny.
 
“We are so thrilled to team up with our local partners at the Johnny Cash Museum to celebrate one of country music’s most iconic love stories. Johnny and June have such a strong connection to the Ryman. And we are excited to share these beautiful artifacts alongside the Johnny Cash Museum, which has the most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world,” said Gary Levy, Ryman GM.

Bill Miller, CEO of the Johnny Cash Museum, also added a statement on the addition.
 
“It’s an honor to be involved in this celebratory exhibit at the legendary Ryman Auditorium,” Miller said. “Johnny and June, individually and collectively, spent many, many hours in that beautiful building. It’s very gratifying that their presence will be felt there again through this special exhibit.”
 
The Johnny and June pop-up exhibit will be available as part of the Ryman daytime tour experience beginning on July 7.

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