Two Octobers ago I was greeted by a looming, shadowy likeness of the Man in Black when arriving late evening at my friend Mike McCarthy's house in Memphis. My twin sister Sherry Davis and I were staying with Mike and his family while attending the inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in nearby Dyess, Arkansas (my first time back since completing a student research project on the Cash boyhood home and first look at the completed restoration)!
Mike allowed me to capture a glimpse of his work in progress and kindly asked that I not share any photos until the statue had been unveiled. I'm excited to share them with you now!
Mike's living room had been transformed into an almost Frankensteinian laboratory of mannequin parts and da Vinci "Vitruvian Man"-like sketches as well as noted measurements and photographic studies of Johnny Cash.
This photograph of Johnny Cash taken by Leigh Wiener in 1962 was selected to be of greatest influence on the statue's concept and design.
On June 12, 2019, Mike's beautiful work of art was unveiled in Memphis near the site Johnny Cash had given his first public performance. Cash family members, local dignitaries, community members and international visitors alike were in attendance. In December 1954, Cash and the Tennessee Two (lead guitarist Luther Perkins and upright bassist Marshall Grant) played at a bake sale hosted by the Pioneers Club, a ladies' church group, at the Galloway United Methodist Church. Located on the corner of Cooper and Walker streets in the city's historic Cooper-Young neighborhood, the building, now Galloway House event venue, has finally been given lasting public recognition of its important place in music history through the installation of Mike's statue and an historical marker in 2016, an initiative he spearheaded through Legacy Memphis, a nonprofit he co-founded.
Mike's tenacity and wherewithal has returned Johnny Cash to Memphis and will benefit a great many people, including those who are as yet years and generations away from their own discovery of Johnny Cash and Memphis music history.
Read about Mike's thoughts on the state of Memphis' music heritage preservation here.