June Carter Cash

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June Carter Cash
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in 1969
Background information
Birth nameValerie June Carter
Born(1929-06-23)June 23, 1929
Maces Spring, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMay 15, 2003(2003-05-15) (aged 73)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
  • dancer
  • comedian
  • author
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • banjo
  • harmonica
  • autoharp
  • piano
Years active1939–2003
Associated acts

June Carter Cash (born Valerie June Carter; June 23, 1929 – May 15, 2003) [1] was a five time Grammy award winning American singer, songwriter, actress, dancer, comedian, and author who was a member of the Carter Family and the second wife of singer Johnny Cash. Prior to her marriage to Cash, she was professionally known as June Carter and occasionally was still credited as such after her marriage (as well as on songwriting credits predating it).

Carter Family traditional American folk music group

The Carter Family is a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock musicians as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s. They were the first vocal group to become country music stars, and were the first group to record commercially produced country music in recorded history. Their first recordings were made in Bristol, Tennessee under producer Ralph Peer on August 1st, 1927, the day before country singer Jimmie Rodgers also made his initial recordings under Peer. Their recordings of songs such as "Wabash Cannonball", "Can the Circle Be Unbroken", "Wildwood Flower", "Keep On the Sunny Side" and "I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes" made these songs country standards. The latter's tune was used for Roy Acuff's "The Great Speckled Bird", Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life" and Kitty Wells' "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels", making the song a hit all over again in other incarnations.

Johnny Cash American singer-songwriter and actor

Johnny Cash was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, his genre-spanning songs and sound embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This crossover appeal won Cash the rare honor of being inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.


She played guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp, and acted in several films and television shows. Carter Cash won five Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009. [2] She was ranked number 31 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2003.

Banjo musical instrument

The banjo is a four-, five-, or six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head, which is typically circular. The membrane is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally used. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish traditional, and country music. Banjo can also be used in some Rock Songs. Countless Rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo, along with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

Autoharp musical string instrument

The autoharp is a musical instrument in the chorded zither family. It features a series of chord bars attached to dampers, which, when pressed, mute all of the strings other than those that form the desired chord. Although the word autoharp was originally a trademark of the Oscar Schmidt company, the term has colloquially come to be used for any hand-held, chorded zither, regardless of manufacturer.

Grammy Award accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States

A Grammy Award, or Grammy, is an award presented by The Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. The Grammys are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually.

Early life

June Carter Cash was born Valerie June Carter in Maces Spring, Virginia, to Maybelle Carter and Ezra Carter. She was born into country music and performed with the Carter Family from the age of 10, beginning in 1939. In March 1943, when the Carter Family trio stopped recording together at the end of the WBT contract, Maybelle Carter, with encouragement from her husband Ezra, formed "Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters" with her daughters, Helen, Anita, and June. The new group first aired on radio station WRNL in Richmond, Virginia, on June 1. Doc (Addington) and Carl (McConnell)—Maybelle's brother and cousin, respectively, known as "The Virginia Boys", joined them in late 1945. June, then 16, was a co-announcer with Ken Allyn and did the commercials on the radio shows for "Red Star Flour", "Martha White", and "Thalhimers Department Store", just to name a few. [3] For the next year, the Carters and Doc and Carl did show dates within driving range of Richmond, through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. June later said she had to work harder at her music than her sisters, but she had her own special talent—comedy. [4] A highlight of the road shows was her "Aunt Polly" comedy routine. Carl McConnell wrote in his memoirs that June was "a natural-born clown, if there ever was one." (Decades later, Carter revived Aunt Polly for the 1976 TV series Johnny Cash & Friends.) She attended John Marshall High School during this period. [5]

Maces Spring is a small unincorporated community in Scott County, Virginia, United States, along State Route 614, in an area known as Poor Valley. The settlement consists of a small number of houses. There are no longer any stores in Maces Spring; its main claim to fame is its association with the country music group, the Carter Family.

"Mother" Maybelle Carter was an American country musician. She is best known as a member of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s and also as a member of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.

Ezra J. Carter (1898–1975) was a member of the Carter Family of Virginia. Ezra Carter managed the famous Carter Family, a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. He was the husband of Maybelle Addington Carter (1909–1978), brother of Alvin Pleasant "A.P." Delaney Carter (1891–1960) and father of Helen Carter (1927-1998), June Carter (1929-2003) and Anita Carter (1933-1999).

After Doc and Carl dropped out of the music business in late 1946, Maybelle and her daughters moved to Sunshine Sue Workman's "Old Dominion Barn Dance" on the WRVA Richmond station. After a while there, they moved to WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee, where they met Chet Atkins with Homer and Jethro.

Mary Workman, better known by the stage name Sunshine Sue, was an American country music singer best known for her work on the Old Dominion Barn Dance radio program. Her obituary, distributed by the Associated Press, noted that she was "the first woman radio show emcee in the country."

Chet Atkins American guitarist and record producer

Chester Burton Atkins, known as "Mr. Guitar" and "The Country Gentleman", was an American musician, occasional vocalist, songwriter, and record producer, who along with Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson, among others, created the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound, which expanded country music's appeal to adult pop music fans. He was primarily known as a guitarist. He also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele.

In 1949, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, with their lead guitarist, Atkins, were living in Springfield, Missouri, and performing regularly at KWTO. Ezra "Eck" Carter, Maybelle's husband and manager of the group, declined numerous offers from the Grand Ole Opry to move the act to Nashville, Tennessee, because the Opry would not permit Atkins to accompany the group onstage. Atkins' reputation as a guitar player had begun to spread, and studio musicians were fearful that he would displace them as a 'first-call' player if he came to Nashville. Finally, in 1950, Opry management relented and the group, along with Atkins, became part of the Opry company. Here the family befriended Hank Williams and Elvis Presley (to whom they were distantly related), and June met Johnny Cash.

Springfield, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Springfield is the third-largest city in the state of Missouri and the county seat of Greene County. As of the 2010 census, its population was 159,498. As of 2017, the Census Bureau estimated its population at 167,376. It is the principal city of the Springfield metropolitan area, which has a population of 462,369 and includes the counties of Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, Webster.


KWTO is a radio station licensed to Springfield, Missouri, United States. It operates on 560 kHz, where it airs a news-talk format.

<i>Grand Ole Opry</i> radio program

The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly American country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment, it is the longest running radio broadcast in US history. Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, and gospel music as well as comedic performances and skits. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and internet listeners.

June and her sisters, with mother Maybelle and aunt Sara joining in from time to time, reclaimed the name "The Carter Family" for their act during the 1960s and '70s.

With her thin and lanky frame, June Carter often played a comedic foil during the group's performances alongside other Opry stars Faron Young and Webb Pierce.

Faron Young American singer

Faron Young was an American country music singer and songwriter from the early 1950s into the mid-1980s and one of its most successful and colorful stars. Hits including "If You Ain't Lovin' " and "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young" marked him as a honky-tonk singer in sound and personal style; and his chart-topping singles "Hello Walls" and "It's Four in the Morning" showed his versatility as a vocalist. Known as the Hillbilly Heartthrob, and following a movie role, the Young Sheriff, Young's singles reliably charted for more than 30 years. He committed suicide in 1996. Young is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Webb Pierce American musician

Michael Webb Pierce was an American honky tonk vocalist, songwriter and guitarist of the 1950s, one of the most popular of the genre, charting more number one hits than any other country artist during the decade.

Career highlights

While June Carter Cash may be best known for singing and songwriting, she was also an author, dancer, actress, comedian, philanthropist, and humanitarian. [6] Director Elia Kazan saw her perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and encouraged her to study acting. She studied with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York. Her acting roles included Mrs. "Momma" Dewey in Robert Duvall's 1998 movie The Apostle , Sister Ruth, wife to Johnny Cash's character Kid Cole, on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–97), and Clarise on Gunsmoke in 1957. June was also Momma James in The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James . [7]

As a singer, she had both a solo career and a career singing with first her family and later her husband. As a solo artist, she became somewhat successful with upbeat country tunes of the 1950s such as "Jukebox Blues" and, with her exaggerated breaths, the comedic hit "No Swallerin' Place" by Frank Loesser. June also recorded "The Heel" in the 1960s along with many other songs.

In the early 1960s, June Carter wrote the song "Ring of Fire", which later went on to be a hit for her future husband, Johnny Cash. She co-wrote the song with fellow songwriter Merle Kilgore. June wrote the lyrics about her relationship with Johnny Cash and she offered the song to her sister Anita. Anita Carter was the first singer to record the song. In 1963, Johnny recorded the song with the Carter Family singing backup, and added mariachi horns. The song became a number-one hit and went on to become one of the most recognizable songs in the world of country music.

Her first notable studio performance with Johnny Cash occurred in 1964 when she duetted with Cash on "It Ain't Me Babe", a Bob Dylan composition, that was released as a single and on Cash's album Orange Blossom Special . In 1967, the two found more substantial success with their recording of "Jackson", which was followed by a collaboration album, Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter . All these releases antedated her marriage to Cash (upon which event she changed her professional name to June Carter Cash). She continued to work with Cash on record and on stage for the rest of her life, recording a number of duets with Cash for his various albums and being a regular on The Johnny Cash Show from 1969-1971 and on Cash's annual Christmas specials. After Carryin' On, June Carter Cash recorded one more direct collaboration album, Johnny Cash and His Woman , released in 1973, and along with her daughters was a featured vocalist on Cash's 1974 album The Junkie and the Juicehead Minus Me . She also shared sleeve credit with her husband on a 2000 small-label gospel release, Return to the Promised Land

Although she provided vocals on many recordings, and shared the billing with Cash on several album releases, June Carter Cash only recorded three solo albums during her lifetime: the first, Appalachian Pride , released in 1975, Press On (1999), and Wildwood Flower , the latter released posthumously in 2003 and produced by her son, John Carter Cash. Appalachian Pride is the only one of the three on which Johnny Cash does not perform, while Press On is notable for featuring June Carter Cash singing her original arrangement of "Ring of Fire".

One of her final appearances was a nonspeaking/nonsinging appearance in the music video for her husband's 2003 single, "Hurt", filmed a few months before her death. One of her last known public appearances was on April 7, 2003, just over a month before her death, when she appeared on the CMT Flameworthy awards program to accept an achievement award on behalf of her husband, who was too ill to attend.

She won a Grammy award in 1999 for, Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, won two additional Grammys. It contains bonus video enhancements showing extracts from the film of the recording sessions, which took place at the Carter Family estate in Hiltons, Virginia, on September 18–20, 2002. The songs on the album include "Big Yellow Peaches", "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea", "Temptation", and the trademark staple "Wildwood Flower". Due to her involvement in providing backing vocals on many of her husband's recordings, a further posthumous release occurred in 2014, when Out Among the Stars was released under Johnny Cash's name. The album consists of previously unreleased recordings from the early 1980s, including two on which June Carter Cash provides duet vocals.

Her autobiography was published in 1979, and she wrote a memoir, From the Heart, almost 10 years later. [8]

Personal life

Carter was married three times and had one child with each husband. All three of her children went on to have successful careers in country music. She was married first to honky-tonk singer Carl Smith from July 9, 1952, until their divorce in 1956. Together, they wrote "Time's A-Wastin". They had a daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, professionally known as Carlene Carter, a country musician. [9] June's second marriage was to Edwin "Rip" Nix, a former football player, police officer, and racecar driver, on November 11, 1957. They had a daughter, Rosie, on July 13, 1958. The couple divorced in 1966. Rosie was a country/rock singer. On October 24, 2003, Rosie, aged 45, died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Bluegrass musician Jimmy Campbell and she were on a school bus, which had been converted for travel. Several propane heaters were being used to heat the bus. [10]

Carter and the entire Carter Family had performed with Johnny Cash for a number of years. In 1968, Cash proposed to Carter during a live performance at the London Ice House in London, Ontario. They married on March 1 in Franklin, Kentucky, [8] and remained married until her death in May 2003, just four months before Cash died. The couple's son, John Carter Cash, is a musician, songwriter, and producer.

Carter's distant cousin, the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, became closely acquainted with Cash and Carter and maintained their friendship throughout their lifetimes. In a June 1977 speech, Jimmy Carter acknowledged that June Carter was his distant cousin, with whom they shared a common patrilineal ancestor. [11]

Carter was a longtime supporter of SOS Children's Villages. In 1974, the Cashes donated money to help build a village near their home in Barrett Town, Jamaica, which they visited frequently, playing the guitar and singing songs to the children in the village. [12]

June Carter Cash also had close relationships with a number of entertainers, including Audrey Williams, James Dean, Patsy Cline, [13] Loretta Lynn, [14] Jessi Colter, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, [13] Robert Duvall, and Roy Orbison. [15]


June died in Nashville, Tennessee on May 15, 2003 at the age of 73, from complications following heart-valve replacement surgery, surrounded by her family including her husband of 35 years. [8] [16] At Carter's funeral, her stepdaughter Rosanne Cash stated, "if being a wife were a corporation, June would have been a CEO. It was her most treasured role." [17] Johnny died four months after June's death, and her daughter, Rosie Nix Adams, a month after that. Johnny, June and Rosie are buried at the Hendersonville Memory Gardens near their home in Hendersonville, Tennessee. [18]


June Carter in 1999 JuneCarterAtGrandOleOpry1999.jpg
June Carter in 1999

Carter and her future husband, Johnny Cash, reached number 2 on the U.S. Country charts with their 1967 duet of "Jackson". Their performance won the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group. The two, married at the time, won the 1971 Grammy Award, for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, for their 1970 duet "If I Were a Carpenter".

Carter Cash won the 2000 Grammy Award, for Best Traditional Folk Album, for her 1999 album Press On. The album was a top-15 success on the Americana chart. Carter Cash's last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003. Carter Cash won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album, and she also won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the single "Keep on the Sunny Side". [3]


June Carter Cash along with her husband, Johnny Cash, worked with and gave money to the group, SOS Children's Villages, throughout their life. They began this involvement in 1973 when they donated $12,000 to build an orphanage in a Jamaican village close to their home in the country. [19] They would visit the nearby village during their time spent in Jamaica and play with the children and sing songs to them. When Johnny Cash died in 2003, their family asked that donations be made to the SOS Children's Villages due to the couple's involvement. [20] In a quote from a representative of the Prime Minister of Jamaica at the time, P.J. Patterson, talks about their charitable works in the country, "A philanthropist extraordinaire, Mrs. Cash made Jamaica her second home and loved and cared deeply for the people of her adopted country. A gifted and talented singer, she and her husband, Johnny Cash, used the very talents for the benefit of many charities in and around Montego Bay."


June Carter was played by Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line , a 2005 biographical film of Johnny Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix). The film largely focused on the development of their relationship over the course of 13 years, from their first meeting to her final acceptance of his proposal of marriage. Witherspoon performed all vocals for the role, singing many of June's famous songs, including "Juke Box Blues" and "Jackson" with Phoenix. [21] Witherspoon won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in the role. [22]

Musician and actress Jewel portrayed June Carter Cash in a Lifetime television movie called Ring of Fire , which aired on May 27, 2013. The film is based on John Carter Cash's memoir Anchored in Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash. [23]



YearAlbumChart Positions
US Bluegrass US Country
1975 Appalachian Pride
1999 Press On
It's All in the Family
2003 Wildwood Flower 233
Louisiana Hayride
2005 Keep on the Sunny Side: June Carter Cash - Her Life in Music
Church in the Wildwood: A Treasury of Appalachian Gospel
Ring of Fire: The Best of June Carter Cash
2006Early June

Albums with Johnny Cash

Note: this list only lists albums on which June Carter Cash received co-billing. Most 1970s and 1980s album releases by Cash featured at least one duet with her, and/or she provided backing vocals.
YearAlbumChart Positions
US Country US
1967 Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter 5
1973 Johnny Cash and His Woman 32
1978 Johnny & June
2000 Return to the Promised Land
2006 16 Biggest Hits: Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash 26126
June Carter and Johnny Cash: Duets


YearSinglePeak positionsAlbum
US Country CAN Country
1949"Grandma Told Me So"N/A
1950"Root Hog, or Die"
"Bashful Rascal"
"Mommie's Real Peculiar"
1953"No Swallerin' Place"
"You Flopped When You Got Me Home"
1954"Tennessee Mambo, Left Over Mambo"
1955"He Don't Love Me Anymore"
1956"Strange, Strange Woman"
"Baby I Tried"
1962"Mama Teach Me"
"Overalls and Dungarees"
1963"I Pitched My Tent (On the Old Camp Ground)"
1964"Tall Lover Man"
"Go Away, Stranger"
1965"Everything Ain't Been Said"
1971"A Good Man"2712
1973"Follow Me" The Gospel Road
1975"The Shadow of a Lady"Appalachian Pride
2003"Keep on the Sunny Side"Wildwood Flower
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Singles with Johnny Cash

YearSinglePeak positionsAlbum
US Country US CAN Country CAN CAN AC AU UK
1964"It Ain't Me Babe"4588528Orange Blossom Special
1967"Jackson"2Carryin' On with Johnny Cash and June Carter
"Long-Legged Guitar Pickin' Man"6
1969"If I Were a Carpenter"2361131152Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
1971"No Need to Worry"157International Superstar
1972"The Loving Gift"2722Any Old Wind That Blows
1973"Allegheny"6935Johnny Cash and His Woman
1976"Old Time Feeling"2624Greatest Hits, Vol. 3
"—" denotes releases that did not chart
US Country
1949"Baby, It's Cold Outside" Homer and Jethro 9Non-album song

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Further reading