Johnny Cash's childhood home opens to the public

image copyrightAP
image captionA picture of the young Cash hangs in the restored Dyess Colony Administration Building

Country music legend Johnny Cash's childhood home has been opened to the public as part of a drive to revitalise the Arkansas town where he grew up.

The Cash family moved to the house in Dyess in 1935, when Johnny was three, as part of a government drive to help families after the Great Depression.

The five-room wooden home has been refurbished and features the family's piano as well as other period items.

The star's siblings Tommy and Joanne have overseen the refurbishment.

"We've got everything just as it was," Joanne Cash, now 76, told the New York Times. "It took a lot of hard work. It's been very emotional for me."

The most meaningful item, she said, was the piano. "We used to gather around that piano at night and sing gospel for an hour. That was our entertainment."

image copyrightAP
image captionJohnny Cash lived in the family home from the age of three until he was 18
image copyrightAP
image captionThe young Johnny shared a bedroom with three of his six siblings
image copyrightAP
image captionCash made his name with songs like I Walk the Line, Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues

The Cashes were among 500 families who moved to the new settlement under President Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal.

They were all given good terms on their 20-acre plots, which came with a house, a barn and a mule.

The Cash family grew cotton, among other crops, and the young Johnny was working full-time in the fields by the age of 10.

"From the time I started chopping cotton at 10, I always knew that I was going to be a singer on the radio," he said.

He lived in Dyess, 50 miles north of Memphis, until enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1950.

Cash began his recording career five years later and went on to become one of the giants of American popular music. He died in 2003.

The refurbishment of the family home is at the heart of an attempt to boost the fortunes of Dyess, which has struggled since its heyday in the late 1930s.

History 'saved'

Mayor Larry Sims said he hoped it would attract 20,000 visitors a year.

The colony administration centre has also been restored and turned into a museum, while there are plans to rebuild the town theatre, other buildings on the Cash family land and a neighbour's house.

Cash's daughter Rosanne told the Associated Press that without this scheme, led by Arkansas State University (ASU), Dyess might be at risk of going to ruin.

"We have lost many other such places of historic significance because of a lack of funds, disinterest or ignorance," she said.

"I am so happy ASU stepped in when they did. There were only around 35 cottages left and my dad's, though dilapidated, was one of those."

There is also an existing Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

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