Rare Johnny Cash 'I Walk the Line' Gold Record Unveiled at Museum

The 1956 gold disc presented to Cash by Sam Phillips had been in the singer's possession until his death in 2003

In 1956, Sam Phillips presented Johnny Cash with a gold record for "I Walk the Line" and now that disc is on display at Nashville's Johnny Cash Museum. Credit: Johnny Cash Museum

The Johnny Cash Museum in downtown Nashville unveiled a rare, gold record the country-music icon received for his 1956 Sun Records single, "I Walk the Line." Originally presented to Cash by producer Sam Phillips, it was in Cash's possession until he died in 2003. Following his death, it went up for auction to several different private owners, most recently to a collector in Germany. It was returned to Music City after Cash museum owner Bill Miller negotiated its purchase.

"This is a piece we had to acquire – at any price – and return to its proper place, which is the Johnny Cash Museum," Miller said in a statement. "I held this award in my hands during my last visit with Johnny in early September in 2003. I feel good that it's in my hands again, this time for all the world to see and enjoy."

"I Walk the Line" was Cash's first Number One single, topping the country chart for six weeks and crossing over to the pop survey where it peaked in the Top Twenty. It has become one of a handful of the Man in Black's signature songs, providing the title for the 2005 Oscar-winning film based on his remarkable life. During his stint in the air Force in Germany, Cash was inspired to write the melody of the song after hearing a reel-to-reel tape record what he thought were interesting chord changes. The reel, however, had inadvertently been turned around, causing the chords to be played backwards. Inspired by the haunting chords, Cash would write the song backstage before a show in Texas in 1956.

"'I Walk the Line' is the essence of who Johnny Cash is," the late singer's sister Joanne Cash-Yates told the crowd at Monday's event, which was also attended by her brother Tommy Cash and Sam Phillips' son, Jerry Phillips. "The song is recognized by anybody, most anybody, in the world. I don't even remember, actually, any people that don't understand or have not heard 'I Walk the Line.' That is my brother, Johnny Cash."

The Johnny Cash Museum, which opened in April 2013, is among the most awarded in the world, and one of only a small handful in Nashville to earn the AAA Gem rating.