The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum has unveiled the artwork for its forthcoming exhibit Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City. Created by renowned artist and punk rocker Jon Langford, the commissioned painting will serve as the exhibit motif and inspiration for other artistic elements in the exhibit design. The exhibit opens March 27, 2015 for a two-year run.
Langford is a founding member of influential punk band the Mekons and of pioneering hard-country rockers the Waco Brothers. He was born in Newport, Wales, and studied fine art at Leeds University. Langford is known for his powerful portraits of country and rock icons, including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. His punk rock instincts and singular artistic eye converge in a painting style that is distinctive, demanding of engagement, and at times politically charged. For Langford, the line between Acuff-Rose and Strummer-Jones is a direct one. His preferred medium is acrylic/mixed media on “square-ish wooden objects.
The exhibit logo is intricately layered in Langford’s characteristic style. It features portraits of ’60s-era Dylan and Cash, the cityscape as seen on the back cover of Dylan’s 1969 album, Nashville Skyline, and a background of exhibit-related graffiti—including names of the featured musicians, song titles, lyrics and symbols of the era.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in addition to its broad scope of educational programs and archival focus, is widely known for its provocative mix of museum exhibits showcasing the evolving history of country music. The Nashville institution’s core exhibition is enhanced by numerous limited-engagement exhibits. In 2014 those have included focuses on Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Ralph Peer, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Rogers, and The Bakersfield Sound.
Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats looks at the Nashville music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bob Dylan bucked executives at his record label and surprised his fans when he came to Nashville in 1966 to record his classic album Blonde on Blonde. Working with the city’s unmatched session musicians, Dylan produced a rock & roll masterpiece and went on to record two more albums there. Dylan’s embrace of Nashville and its musicians—the Nashville Cats—inspired many other artists, among them Neil Young, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen, to follow him to Music City. Around the same time, Johnny Cash was recruiting folk and rock musicians—including Dylan—to appear on his groundbreaking network television show, The Johnny Cash Show, shot at the Ryman Auditorium, at that time home of the Grand Ole Opry.