A young Marty Stuart had been playing in Johnny Cash's band for about two weeks when Cash - arguably at the height of his popularity - turned to Stuart.

"We were sitting at the House of Cash," Stuart recalled," and he asked, 'is there anything I can do for you? Anything that you need?'"

"I said, 'could you introduce me to your friend Braxton Dixon?'"

It just so happened that Dixon was scheduled to drop by that day, so Stuart stuck around and Cash introduced the two.

"Fifteen minutes into knowing him he was drawing pictures of a log house," said Stuart. "We just hit it off. I knew he would be a life-long friend."

While that friendship ended with Mr. Dixon's passing Feb. 16 at the age of 96, his legacy as an uncompromising master builder who designed one-of-a-kind homes for the likes of Stuart, Cash, Roy Orbison and recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Fred Foster, will likely endure for years to come.

But Mr. Dixon's life story isn't one defined by the famous people he crafted homes for. If anything, it was the other way around.

A life-long Hendersonville resident

Born in 1921 in Granville, Tenn., Mr. Dixon arrived by steamboat at just three days old on land now under Old Hickory Lake at the end of the Sanders Ferry peninsula. For nearly a century, his life and work reflected the history of a booming lakeside city once dotted by pastures and farmland.

The son of a carpenter and stone mason who worked for what is now Dupont, Mr. Dixon toiled as a young man for Sarah Berry, whose family owned Rock Castle. Early on, he gained an appreciation for historic structures - a hallmark of much of his work.

At the age of 14 he helped build his first home - still standing on Shivel Drive - with a signature heart-shaped stone in the chimney.

Mr. Dixon enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 with a second cousin who would eventually became the city's first mayor, L. H. "Dink" Newman.

After returning from World War II, Mr. Dixon continued building and designing houses.

In the 1950's he designed and built seven homes in Hendersonville's Lake Club Estates - during what is often referred to as his "modern" era. He has said that he got the idea for a roof line on a home on Country Club Drive while serving in the Moroccan desert during the war. The roof was designed to look like a camel saddle, he noted.

A 'celebrity' builder

In 2009, he recounted to the Hendersonville Star News the story of designing his first "celebrity" home. Monument Records founder Fred Foster convinced him in 1961 to leave a PTA meeting the two were attending to look at a piece of property Foster had purchased on Riviera Drive.

Dixon said he got the idea for the home's layout as he and Foster watched two B-29 bombers cross one another in the air over Old Hickory Lake.

The home, built of concrete block with stone veneer, was extremely modern for its time, he noted. Country singer Tammy Wynette owned the home with her husband George Richey from 1980 to 1984.

While constructing the home on Riviera, one of Foster's guests, Roy Orbison, asked Mr. Dixon to build a home for him as well.

At the same time, Mr. Dixon was working on his own home on land he bought on Caudill Drive.

The story of that home - a magnificent seven-bedroom creation overlooking Old Hickory Lake - became legendary when Cash recounted in a biography how he talked Dixon into selling it to him before it was completed in 1968. The transaction also kindled a close friendship that would last until Cash's death in 2003.

The Cash home burned in April of 2007 when a construction worker unwittingly used an accelerant while the home was being renovated by then-owner Barry Gibb. Its stone ruins still haunt the four-acre property.

"His ruins are better than most people's houses," Stuart said with a chuckle.

"There was just something special about that house," he adds of the home often referred to as the 'Graceland of country music.'

Once friends, Stuart says it became clear why the builder with the broad smile and twinkling eyes was so sought after.

"He didn't pay attention to the mainstream and what others were doing," noted the musician. "He built renegade dwellings for renegade people.

"He followed his convictions - right or wrong - of his heart and his own vision. And that's not always an easy path to take."

© 2017 The Hendersonville Standard

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