Here's Where You Can Visit Johnny Cash's Childhood Home

Known for his distinctive baritone voice, legendary country music star Johnny Cash became an American icon after being signed to Sun Records in 1954 alongside the likes of Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, per American Academy of Achievement. He went on to become the recipient of 13 Grammys and a member of both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Country Music Hall of Fame (via Britannica). In contrast to his later fame, Cash came from a humble background in rural Arkansas, which heavily influenced his work.

Fans of the famed Man in Black can visit his childhood home in Dyess Colony, Arkansas — a New Deal-era farming resettlement community. There, visitors have the opportunity to learn about Johnny Cash's upbringing and its influence on his career through exhibits and a guided tour of the Cash home, which has been restored to authentically reflect what it looked like while the star resided there, according to Arkansas State University.

Cash's childhood on the farm

In 1935, when Johnny (then known as J.R.) was three years old, his family moved to a 20-acre farm property on the newly established settlement of Dyess Colony, which was created as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in order to help struggling farmers, per Arkansas State University. There, the Cash family farmed cotton and spent their evenings on the front porch, singing hymns as Johnny's mother Connie played the guitar, according to the American Academy of Achievement.

Johnny was inspired by his mother's singing and country music he heard on the radio and channeled his passion into writing his own songs by the time he was 12 years old, according to All Music. "From the time I started trying to sing when I was a kid, [my mother] always encouraged me to do it. I told her when I was about 12 that I was going to sing on the radio. She encouraged that dream," Cash told the American Academy of Achievement in 1993. In high school, he gained some performance experience. He sang at his 1950 graduating commencement, as he had for the graduating seniors in the previous year, and had the opportunity to sing on a local Arkansas radio station, per All Music.

Historic significance of the site

After graduating high school, Johnny Cash enlisted in the Air Force during the Korean War. While in Germany, he bought his first guitar and began to play in small venues near his air base, according to the American Academy of Achievement. Upon completion of his service, he moved to Memphis to pursue a career in the music business, working as a door-to-door salesman to make ends meet before catapulting into fame. His upbringing continued to have a profound impact on Cash, who used his experiences on the farm as musical inspiration, and returned to his high school to perform in a benefit concert in 1968, according to Arkansas State University.

Acknowledging the historic and cultural influence of the site, Arkansas State University purchased the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in 2011 and used the funds from an annual Johnny Cash Music Festival to restore the home under the approval and consultation of surviving members of the Cash family (per Arkansas State University). For a general admission cost of $15, visitors are treated to exhibits that outline the early life of Johnny Cash and the history of Dyess County, as well as a guided tour of the home.