That's what June Carter liked to call the Hendersonville home she shared with her husband, Johnny Cash.
"She thought of it as her and dad's private kingdom," wrote the couple's son, John Carter Cash, in his Anchored In Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash, a book slated for June release.
The Cashes' Camelot is in ruins, the victim of a Tuesday afternoon fire that destroyed the more than 13,000-square-foot property. Its new owner, Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame, bought the house for $2.5 million in early 2006, and he and wife Linda were renovating it for use as a summer home.
Built in the late 1960s, the home had 18 rooms, including a signature round living room and a bedroom that overlooked Old Hickory Lake. It was important for reasons that had nothing to do with size, architecture and design. Like the Cashes' Virginia home — the one that used to belong to June's mother, legendary guitarist Maybelle Carter — this was a house of music.
Cash wrote here, of course. He placed acoustic guitars in most rooms, so that he could pluck out chords and melodies as inspiration struck. In the 1970s, he and June often opened the house for guitar pulls that included luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury. They'd also often invite up-and-coming writers that Cash respected and encouraged, including Vince Matthews and Larry Gatlin.
When the house wasn't open to visitors, it was seemingly impenetrable. As an aspiring songwriter, a down-and-out Kristofferson wanted to hand a tape of his music to the by-then-legendary Cash, but he figured he wouldn't be able to get past guards. He landed a helicopter in the yard, and Cash ended up recording "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and other Kristofferson songs.
House was a sanctuary
June Carter Cash also worked on her music at the house, and she played a private concert on the grounds to celebrate the release of her Press On album in 1999.
For the most part, Johnny and June did not record at the home, though beginning in the late 1990s they recorded many tracks at Cash's small cabin studio located across the street and down a winding, unpaved road.
Johnny Cash recorded some vocal tracks in the house, after June died in 2003. He was grief-stricken, and in such poor health that it was difficult for him to make it to the cabin studio. Sessions were arranged in his round bedroom.
"It was a sanctuary and a fortress for him," singer Marty Stuart said of the house. Stuart lives next door to the Cash estate in Hendersonville, and he was married to Johnny Cash's daughter, Cindy, in the 1980s. "So many prominent things and prominent people in American history took place in that house," Stuart said, name-checking Dylan and evangelist Billy Graham as two of the most notable.
When Cash first bought the house, he used it as a place of healing. His body ravaged by drug abuse, he retreated to that round bedroom to rid his system of toxic substances. He and June were not yet married, but she and her parents were a near-constant presence.
"June and her mother and father formed a circle of faith around me caring for me and insulating me from the outside world, particularly the people, some of them close friends, who'd been doing drugs with me," Cash wrote in Cash: The Autobiography.
Home reflected June
After Johnny and June married in 1968, June — a shopper and a collector of art and furniture — lavishly furnished the interior. The result could be seen in the video for Cash's 2002 release "Hurt," some of which was filmed in the house.
"I found photos of the lake house from late 1967, before dad and mom married," wrote John Carter Cash, who was born in 1970. "They showed wide open rooms with very little furniture, and only a few scattered mementos. I have a few of those items still. … These things remind me of how my father changed to bring my mother into his life."
After June's death, Johnny Cash sought to remove many of the items his wife had collected because the reminders saddened and depressed him.
After Cash's death in September 2003, it was left to relatives to sift through the belongings. Many of their paintings, clothes and musical instruments were sold at a Sotheby's auction in 2004. The family hung onto the home until 2006, when it was sold to the Gibbs. John Carter Cash kept the cabin studio, where he regularly records (including a tribute album to June Carter Cash that will be released in June).
Album detailed the loss
Johnny Cash's daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, wrote about the painful process of parting with the home on her 2006 Black Cadillac album.
"There's nothing left to take," she sang in "House on the Lake." "There's nothing left to take/ But love and years are not for sale/ In our old house on the lake."
Barbara Orbison, a neighbor of the Cashes for many years and the widow of Roy Orbison, spent many days at the house on the lake.
"Every inch of the house was something June bought or put there," she said. "If you thought about Johnny and June, you thought about that house. That was their house. I guess it will forever be their house."