Thanks to Arkansas State University, the boyhood home of Johnny Cash has been restored and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The University purchased the home and pledge funds to restore and maintain the historic property.
Johnny Moved To The Home At Age 3
Dyess, the community in which Cash lived from age 3 (1935) through high school, boasts a population of 400 and a few and sits about 50 miles north of Memphis. As described to CBS by Rosanne Cash, daughter of the iconic singer, “It was five rooms with a potential bathroom.”
The bathroom never materialized, nor did the indoor plumbing, but the house was full of memories, both good and not-so-good.
He Shared A Bedroom With Three Siblings
Johnny Cash, the fourth of seven children, shared a bedroom with his best friend and brother, Jack, as well as two other siblings. The town was barely on the map when the Cash family moved there. Johnny walked two miles down a dirt road to school each day.
It was while living in that same house, Johnny experienced one of his greatest losses, that of his hero and brother, Jack. Jack was pulled into a whirling head saw in the mill where he worked and was almost cut in half. The older brother of Cash suffered for more than a week before finally dying on May 20, 1944 at the age of 15. It was a moment Johnny would never forget.
Weight and Sadness
As you walk the path with Cash’s eldest daughter, you can get a sense of the how well a large family fit into the small home. She sensed a kind of weight and sadness about the home.
“This would have meant more to him than any Grammy, any gold record,” she said, referring to the restoration of the abandoned homestead.
The harsh environment during his upbringing in Dyess is said to have had a profound influence on the country icon’s life and work.
Influence On Song Writing
At least two of Cash’s songs, “Five Feet High and Rising,” about a flood that struck the area in 1937, and “Pickin’ Time,” were based on Cash’s experience in Dyess.
Cash sold more than 90 million albums during his career. He died in 2003 at the age of 71.
Take a look at this video and get a feel for what Johnny Cash’s childhood was like. Does it give you a feel for how it impacted his life and music?