"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. Do You Like Heavy Metal?"

Jun 14, 2019

Sculptor Mike McCarthy stands next to a new statue of Johnny Cash in Memphis' Cooper Young neighborhood.

With the toll of a church bell, around 200 people cheered when his lanky likeness was finally revealed on Wednesday. The bronze sculpture of a young Johnny Cash with a guitar newly stands in front of 999 Cooper Street, near the now-vacant Galloway Methodist Church. It was there, in 1954, that Cash had his first public performance, a fundraiser for a women's bible study. 

65 years later, Cash's grandson Thomas Gabriel, and his nephew Roy Cash, a resident of Collierville, were on hand for the dedication. 

Memphis filmmaker and C-Y Resident Mike McCarthy sculpted the tribute out of clay in his living room. It was his first attempt at a statue since attending art school in the 1980s. The finished piece was cast by Lugar Art Foundry in Eads. A nonprofit called Legacy Memphis was created to raise money for the $65,000 project. The names of donors are seen on bricks around the sculpture's feet.  

McCarthy said that every Memphis neighborhood has a hero deserving of a statue. 

"We'd like to put more statues up of musical legends throughout the neighborhoods they came from, or wherever we can put them would be fantastic," he said. 

For now, the Godfather of Americana music has returned to the site of his first gig.