On Friday (July 3), the Trisha Yearwood: The Song Remembers When exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame opens, revealing rarely or never-before-seen artifacts and mementos from the singer's life and career. Amongst the standouts are the dress she wore during her wedding to Garth Brooks, numerous awards, photographs from her childhood and a personal letter from Johnny Cash.

Fans may skim over some of the plaques that describe the treasured possessions, but each has an important, emotional story. “I’m definitely not the crier in the couple," Yearwood jokes, "but I feel like I’m gonna cry at any moment." She hadn't seen the exhibit before talking to media on Tuesday night (June 30), but knew what was there. Still, an unfamiliar nervousness overtook her.

“I’m never at a loss for words and I’m pretty much freaking out right now."

The exhibit runs into December and includes pieces from her acting career as well as items from her foray into authoring cookbooks. It's a total look at how Yearwood got to where she is, but it's incomplete without these seven stories.

  • "Thank God I Took a Shower That Day."

    One of the more charming pieces of the Yearwood exhibit is an old exam from her Business Management and Accounting class at Belmont University. The singer scored a 100 percent on the essay test, but that wasn't the most important part. She explains that typically she was a sweatpants and ponytail kind of girl, and her professor — famed artist manager David Skepner — tended to praise those who dressed more ... professionally.

    “For the final, I think I had somewhere to be so I was dressed and actually showered and had on makeup and he noticed me when I came in the room," Yearwood says. The new look and A+ on his exam led to a job offer, which led to another and then a contract and eventually superstardom.

    "That was the catalyst," she says of that shower.

  • It Wouldn't Have Happened Without Mom

    Yearwood's mother Gwen was the president of her fan club for the first five years. And she was also her mom, so she chronicled everything.

    “The house we grew up in had 40 years of memories in it," Yearwood says, "and my mom was a schoolteacher, so all of those memories were very organized.”

    After Gwen died, Yearwood and her sister Beth went through storage and kept what they felt was important, eventually hauling many of the career artifacts to the singer's garage in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

  • About That First Contract

    A contract from the early 1980s also stands out. The agreement came when the then-teenaged Yearwood still lived at home. A local Monticello, Ga. man had a friend with a friend who knew someone in Nashville, and he offered to record her. The session went well ("He had a studio in a trailer, he had a microphone set up. He had twin mattresses set up for baffling.") and the man took that demo to Music City.

    “It was the thing where they come home and said, ‘We think she’s really good, if you just give us $5,000 we’ll make a real professional demonstration of her and we’ll get it sent around to all of the record labels.’”

    Mom and dad weren't falling for that, but at 15 Yearwood says she was ready to drop out of school and move to Nashville. Fortunately, she waited.

  • Garth Had It!

    Before she owned her own guitar, she'd play an old Silvertone acoustic the Yearwoods had around the house. It's been in many photos, but they couldn't find it for the exhibit. Finally, someone stumbled upon it in one of Garth's guitar cases. Since the old instrument had no case of its own, someone stuck it in one of his to protect it and it got shuffled away from an obvious search spot. Yearwood says the exhibit could have gone on without the guitar, but it's a very important addition.

  • The Story Behind the Johnny Cash Letter

    A hand-written letter from the late Johnny Cash is another memento fans will stop and read in its entirety. Yearwood recalls every detail of the day she received it. She had played Branson earlier that year, and when a reporter asked why fans should see her instead of the legends that play the music town regularly, she couldn't answer. “I would probably go see Johnny Cash myself," she recalls saying.

    Cash read that article, and penned a note saying how much he appreciated her kind words, and how much he loved songs like "Wrong Side of Memphis." It ends with, "This business needs more great women artists such as yourself. ~ The Best to You, With Love, Johnny Cash."

  • She's a Barbie Girl

    Amongst the things that didn't make the cut for Yearwood's Country Hall of Fame exhibit ...

    “There’s some really bad artwork from my childhood that didn’t make it," she says. "My Barbie collection, which didn’t make it. I played really hard with my Barbies, and they’re really trashed.”

  • Garth's a Barbie ... Man?

    Kind of. Around the time Yearwood was part of a program called Sheroes, Mattel created a Barbie doll in her likeness, which is on display. Another company was trying to create a Garth Brooks action figure, and they brought him a prototype.

    "I don’t think Garth’s gonna do it," she says. "But it totally looks like Garth and I think it’s awesome, so I’m totally going to (make them) date when I get the Barbie out of the case."

    "So far I’ve just been posing him in really inappropriate photos.”