Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Get Involved In Memphis Music History With The Johnny Cash Project

Photo: Galloway House

This Sunday, Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks are turning it up at Memphis Made Beer to celebrate Johnny Cash’s 85th birthday and to raise funds for an important part of Memphis music history.

In December of 1954, John R. Cash, Marshall Grant, and Luther Perkins stepped into the Galloway Methodist Church on the corner of Cooper and Walker streets in Memphis, Tennessee, to play their first performance together for the Pioneers Club, a ladies church function. And the rest, they say, is music history. Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two would go on to take the world by storm, but it all began there in the Cooper-Young community in Memphis. Memphis is full of such stories and locations like the Galloway Church (now rechristened “Galloway House“) and the neighborhoods which contain them. These neighborhoods are crucial – yet unrecognized – pieces of the Memphis music narrative, because in Memphis, every neighborhood has a hero. Legacy Memphis aims to address this by working with neighborhoods to celebrate their own unique pieces of the story, beginning with the Johnny Cash Statue Project in the historic Cooper-Young community. With your donation, you will help Legacy Memphis and Galloway House in supporting this project and bringing Johnny Cash back to Memphis.

  • Image may contain: 1 person, textCost: Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. All proceeds go toward the Johnny Cash Statue Project.
  • When: Sunday, February 26, 3pm-6pm
  • Details: Memphis Made will give 20% of their beer sales to the Johnny Cash Statue Project sponsored by Legacy Memphis
  • Location: Memphis Made Brewing (768 S Cooper St, 38104)

Choose901: What is the Johnny Cash Statue Project seeking to accomplish?
Mike McCarthy: Our non-profit Legacy Memphis wants the world to know that we are proud of our image as the city that created rock and roll and soul music. If you travel, you will notice that other places sometimes have a better handle on our cultural identity than we do. We would attempt to rectify that by stating “Every neighborhood has a hero.” We would like to move forward after the Johnny Cash Statue Project with other projects in other Memphis neighborhoods. We’d like to see statues of our heroes and heroines that are acknowledged the world over (and I’m not talking about just Elvis). Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Rufus Thomas, Memphis Minnie, Furry Lewis, Sam Phillips, etc..

Galloway House

Photo: Galloway House

C901: Why does this statue matter for Memphis?
MM: Memphis’ contribution to pop culture is staggering. It’s not enough to just say we are the “home of the blues and the birthplace of rock and roll”, we have to present it in monumental ways. These monuments acknowledge the past and show the way forward. Nashville has a Johnny Cash statue, why can’t we? Why can’t the back half of Health Sciences Park be dedicated to the artists that recorded on Sun Records, about 500 feet away? But these projects will take time and support.

C901: How can people get involved?
MM: Our next event is the Johnny Cash 85th Birthday Party at Memphis Made Brewing Co. on Sunday, February 26th. Doors at 3 pm, with Jack Oblivian and the Sheiks playing at 4 pm. Memphis Made Brewing Co. continues to be supportive and will be giving 20% of sales to the Johnny Cash Statue Project. We will have a square reader there for credit card donations which are tax deductible. You can also purchase inscribed bricks with your name, etc. that will be laid into the plaza in front of the Statue. If you’d rather contribute online, we have a fundraising platform at https://www.ioby.org/project/johnnycash2016. From this and other forms of donations, such as pledges, we have raised about $42K. We’re 28K away from paying sculptor Bill Beckwith to begin the sculpture of Johnny Cash based on the Leigh Weiner photograph. Our website is in progress and is available to see at http://legacymemphis.org

C901: How did you come to be a part of this project?
MM: In addition to filmmaking and illustration, I am a graduate of the Memphis College of Art, and I’ve worked at Sun Studio. I’ve lived in Cooper-Young for 18 years now and wanted the Johnny Cash history of the neighborhood preserved. Johnny Cash, along with his bandmates Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant (together as the Tennessee Three) had their first paid performance in Cooper-Young at Galloway Church in December 1954. As a resident in CY now for 19 years, that fact impressed me and led me to want a statue of Johnny in the neighborhood for local identity, acknowledgment to the world that we as Memphians are proud of our history, and for tourism.

C901: What’s your favorite unique event dealing with the history of Johnny Cash that most Memphis natives do not typically know? An interesting story about Johnny in Memphis?
MM: Another interesting JC locale is Lit Restaurant Supply on Union right down from Sun Studio. It was a car dealership in the fifties where Johnny worked and sometimes practiced with Luther and Marshall. Roseanne Cash started out life in Johnny and Vivian’s home on Tutwiler Street. Cash recorded over 60 songs in three years at Sun Records.

Million Dollar Quartet

Filming at the Galloway House for Sun Records (previously named Million Dollar Quartet), Photo: Sam Prager

C901: What are your thoughts on the New CMT show on Sun Records?
MM: I’m excited to see it. My friend and bass player, Griffin Rone, plays Bill Black in the series, and I’ve heard lots of great things from him. The story that it’s telling, that of country and blues forming to create rock and roll through Sam Phillips, and how that, in turn, shaped our world is the ultimate American success story, and it happened right down the street. The enthusiasm this television show can bring should be matched with our personal involvement in our city’s musical history.

Join the event page for updates on the birthday celebrations on Sunday.

Can’t make the event? Go here to donate online.

For more info on the Johnny Cash Statue Project check out the Legacy Memphis website and follow on Facebook.