"So many prominent things and prominent people in American history took place in that house — everyone from Billy Graham to Bob Dylan went into that house," said singer Marty Stuart, who lives next door and was married to Cash's daughter, Cindy, in the 1980s.
Stuart said the man who designed the house, Nashville builder Braxton Dixon, was "the closest thing this part of the country had to Frank Lloyd Wright."
Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, lived at the home until their deaths in 2003
When Cash moved there, the road was a quiet country lane that skirts Old Hickory Lake. Kris Kristofferson, then an aspiring songwriter, once landed a helicopter on Cash's lawn to pitch him a song.
The landmark video for Cash's song "Hurt" was shot inside the house.
"It was a sanctuary and a fortress for him," Stuart said. "There was a lot of writing that took place there."
Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys lives on the same road as Cash. "Maybe it's the good Lord's way to make sure that it was only Johnny's house," Sterban said..
The property was purchased by Barry Gibb, a member of the Bee Gees, in January 2006. Gibb and his wife, Linda, had said they planned to restore the home on Old Hickory Lake and hoped to write songs there.
Photos: Johnny Cash
Gibb's spokesman, Paul Bloch, said the singer and his family are "both saddened and devastated by the news."
The fire, in this suburb about 20 miles northeast of downtown Nashville, started around 1:40 p.m. Fire trucks arrived within five minutes, but the house was already engulfed in flames, Hendersonville Fire Chief Jamie Steele said.
Just a few hours later, there was almost nothing left except brick chimneys and the steel frame.
The cause is unknown, but Steele said the flames spread quickly because construction workers had recently applied a flammable wood preservative to the exterior of the house. The preservative was also being applied inside the house.
No workers were injured, but one firefighter was slightly hurt while fighting the fire, Steele said.
Cash's long career, which began in the 1950s, spanned rock 'n' roll, folk and country. His hits included "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line."