The Man in Black’s influence lives on, from roots rockers to punk bands. Want to tap into the spirit of Johnny Cash? Check out one of these Northeast Ohio acts that already have. — Kate Bigam
“Because the Cash family spent so much time on this bus, they really wanted all of the comforts of home,” assistant curator Meredith Rutledge says.
The bus consists of four compartments — one each for Cash, wife June Carter Cash, their son John and the driver — as well as a galley kitchen with rotisserie oven to accommodate Cash’s love of barbecue, and a bathroom. Cash’s compartment is outfitted with black padded-leather walls and a table made of hickory salvaged from a Civil War-era house near his Kingsland, Ark., birthplace. His wife’s powder-blue space, complete with lace curtains, vanity and velvet seat cushions, is decorated to resemble the Carter family home in which she was raised.
Each compartment is equipped with banquette seats that fold out into a full-size bed, a built-in TV and stereo. Much of the interior is finished in mahogany from the Cash estate in Jamaica.
“Jamaica prohibits the export of exotic hardwoods,” Rutledge says. “So the Cashes had the trees felled in secret. They were made into crates and shipped to Tennessee to be used as paneling.”
In 2003, Cash sold the bus for $30,000 to childhood friend L. Eldon Wright, co-founder of the American Heritage Music Foundation in Blytheville, Ark. Unable to maintain the vehicle, the foundation sold it to a motorcoach clearinghouse that auctioned it on eBay. When the buyer, horse-show producer Dave Wright (no relation to L. Eldon), learned who the original owner was, he scrapped plans to use it for business travel and gave it to the Rock Hall.
“He felt it belonged here,” Rutledge says.
Admission to tour the JC Unit One is $3 ($2 with museum admission). For more information, visit www.rockhall.com.