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Bill Miller

Chief Executive Officer/Founder


Sometimes a memorable meeting at a tender age can have unexpected impact on the future. Just ask Bill Miller. The California-born, Nashville-based entrepreneur met country music icon Johnny Cash at 13 and that fortuitous event led to a lifelong friendship. It also led to Miller’s current status as a Music City mover and shaker who knows how to pay homage to Nashville’s roots as well as blaze a path to its future.

“From the time I was a young kid I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’d go to the grocery store and buy candies for a penny and sell them to my friends who were too lazy to go there for two pennies,” the Icon founder relates with a warm laugh.

That ambition and work ethic has led to Miller becoming a successful businessman whose combination of intuition and acumen has fueled such thriving Nashville ventures as the Johnny Cash Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum, Nudie’s Honky Tonk and House of Cards, a unique upscale eatery featuring live magic. 

On his agenda are plans to bring Rat Pack-era charm to Music City’s legendary Printers Alley with a new Sinatra-themed restaurant and offer luxury lofts for rent in the historic Southern Turf building, also home to Skull’s Rainbow Room. Miller owns six buildings comprising 100,000 square feet of commercial real estate, but even with all his successful ventures, Miller is humbly amazed at what he’s achieved. “If I look at what I’m doing today from the restaurants to the bars to the museums, I have absolutely zero background in any of that,” he says with a bemused smile. “I knew less than nothing about a museum other than going to one or two in my life. I knew less than nothing about bars and restaurants other than being a customer. So, if I look back and somebody would have told me now, you’re going to own numerous bars, restaurants and museums in downtown Nashville, I literally would have laughed because it’s nothing that we’ve had any training to do. It’s simply been shooting from the hip and creating compelling concepts.” Miller admits people rolled their eyes when he spoke of putting a 10,000 sq. ft. magic venue underneath the Johnny Cash Museum and hanging Nudie Cohn’s 25-foot Cadillac on the wall of a honky tonk named for the famous celebrity tailor. 

“We’ve followed our hearts more than our heads. When we were asked to do business projections for banks, I used to tell the banker I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’ll do our best. Now I joke with them that at House of Cards we indeed have a crystal ball,” he laughs. “Basically, we’re the most inexperienced people who operate a pretty large enterprise in Nashville, but it’s all done with passion, love and excitement. It’s gratifying to know my 400 employees and we’re literally just having fun.”

Miller’s adventures began growing up in Eagle Mountain, CA. “It was a town of 3500 people, owned by Kaiser Steel Corporation,” he recalls. “It was literally in the middle of nowhere. It was so remote that we couldn’t get any radio signals. We had a cable system with five or six channels. That’s where I saw Johnny Cash for the first time on his ABC TV series.” He recalls a  girl bringing a Cash album to school for show and tell and his obsession with the legendary artist solidified. “When I heard that voice, it literally just changed my life,” he says. “I became a huge fan and bought every album and magazine and everything I could find on Johnny Cash.”

When he was 13, his father drove him five hours to see Cash in concert and he met the singer for the first time. They became lifelong friends. But in addition to country music, young Miller became obsessed with getting out of his small town. “As much as I loved it, I knew I had to get out of there because it was so remote, but I really never had a career path,” he says. “I decided that I didn’t want to go to college because having the entrepreneurial spirit they couldn’t teach me anything that wasn’t already in my blood.” At 18, he took a job in Nashville as an associate producer for a TV show called Grand Ole Gospel Time. “I jumped in my car, drove 2000 miles literally the day after I graduated from high school at Eagle Mountain,” he remembers. “I pulled up to Evangel Temple Church, the church where Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton all went. I met the producer and started talking about the arrangements. She said, ‘I did tell you this is volunteer only, unpaid right?’ So there I was in Nashville sleeping in the basement of the Evangel Temple Church and basically having $200 in my pocket being 2000 miles away from home.”

While in Nashville, he discovered he had a gift for photography. Cash opened doors for his young friend and helped him gain behind-the-scenes access to shoot photos of the top stars of the day. “Everyone from Harry Chapin to Loretta Lynn was playing Nashville in those days,” Miller says. “I would go shoot a concert, take my film to get processed and get it back, make an appointment with A&R at RCA or Columbia and I’d go pitch my pictures to them. Sometimes they’d want some or many. Sometimes they wanted none, but that’s literally how I fed myself—that and a stack of coupons from Shoney’s that Jimmy Snow gave me for a salad bar and a cheeseburger.” After spending the summer in Nashville, he returned to California and took a job at a Kenworth factory. “I tried to love my job. I could just never love it enough to not want to venture out on my own. So that’s what I did,” he says. “I started a little real estate company in Corona and then I ran for City Council. I served three terms and was Mayor there.”

He also started a business called the Odyssey Group, which became one of the largest dealers of historical documents and memorabilia in the country, selling everything from handwritten letters by George Washington to George Harrison’s Telecaster. But it was his friendship with Cash that ultimately led him back to Nashville.

He first partnered with Cash to launch his website, then a popular radio show and later developed the Johnny Cash Museum to honor his late friend. “I remember I called him one day and said, ‘John, you need a website,’ and he said, ‘Bill, what’s a website?’” “To put it into perspective, Microsoft launched their website six months before we launched It was in its infancy. None of us really understood the technology, but once we got it running, he used it as a tool to communicate with the fans, and it really became something that meant something to him. After we started the website, my wife Shannon and I started a weekly podcast called the Johnny Cash Radio Show and we ultimately had 250,000 documented weekly listeners and guests like Kris Kristofferson, Larry Gatlin, Merle Haggard, Jane Seymore and Graham Nash.” The popularity of the show led to people planning trips to Nashville and asking Miller where they could go to learn more about Cash.

“People would say, ‘Give me a list of all the Johnny Cash things we can do when we get there,’ but the house had burned down, the House of Cash Museum and office was closed and the Country Music Hall of Fame really had nothing on Johnny Cash, maybe a little corner. We had to tell people the only thing there is to see is his and June’s gravesite. For a man who literally put Nashville on the map internationally, there was nothing really to honor him. I thought that was an injustice, a wrong that needed to be right so I told Shannon, ‘We need to open a Johnny Cash Museum.’”

That’s just what they did. Even before moving to Music City, they opened the Johnny Cash Museum in 2013, and it’s become one of the most successful destinations in town. “They just have never stopped coming,” Miller says of the Cash fans who come from all over the world. “We see between 400,000 and 500,000 paid admissions a year which is phenomenal. As a result of being so successful, we bought that entire 27,000 sq. ft. building and we inhabit every square inch of it now between House of Cards and the Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash Museums and we have our corporate offices there.” Miller marvels at how his footprint in Nashville has expanded in merely a decade. “The time has literally flown. It’s unbelievable that this 3,000 sq. ft. museum would end up bringing us here and owning over 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial real estate downtown,” says Miller, who moved to Nashville with his wife Shannon in February 2014. “It’s impossible if you think about how much we were able to achieve because we didn’t do anything other than the museum for a couple of years. In the last seven years, we started Nudie’s and in the last four years, we’ve done everything else. It’s been a really quick road and that’s probably good because it didn’t give me a chance to think about the possibility of failing at anything. We just moved so fast. We just did it. It all still seems like a dream, but it’s something that is in our blood and every time we say, ‘Okay, this is enough it’s time to slow down,’ we get another idea.”

In addition to the Sinatra bar, luxury lofts and a members-only club planned for the Southern Turf building, Miller is expanding from downtown’s core for the first time with a new venture planned for the Southern Grist building in East Nashville. “We’re doing a neighborhood bar,” he says of the project. “We want to create something that’s different and compelling.”

Different and compelling are the two words that have laid the foundation for his unique enterprises. From the ultra-strict dress code and house photographer at House of Cards, to the personal mementos at the Johnny Cash Museum, to the music and ambiance at Skull’s Rainbow Room, Miller prides himself with not only creating experiences that visitors to Music City will enjoy but that residents will love as well. These days, Miller’s three sons and two grandsons also call Nashville home and curating memorable experiences has become a family business.

“I’m so grateful and feel so blessed because I don’t think I could have a better life than I do and it has to do with family and being able to expose people to experiences that are really fun and compelling,” Miller says. “I believe in destiny. I believe in God. I believe in God’s plan and unbeknownst to me I think God’s plan was to have us do this. My entire family is here and involved in what we do. When I meet somebody and they say, ‘What do you do?’ and I mention House of Cards or one of the other places they go, ‘Oh my gosh! I was just there and we had such a great time!’ That’s my legacy and hopefully long after I’m gone, these places will still be there, and people will be saying the same things.”

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