June Carter Cash Biography

Valerie June Carter, 23 June 1929, Maces Springs, Scott County, Virginia, USA, d. 15 May 2003, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. The second of the three daughters of Mother Maybelle Carter of the legendary Carter Family. Her mother taught her to play autoharp (and later guitar) and in 1939, she and sisters Anita Carter and Helen Carter were appearing on Border Radio as members of the Carter Family. When the original Carter Family retired in 1943, she sang and played rhythm guitar in the family group, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, on various radio stations, and from 1950 onwards, for many years, they were regulars on the Grand Ole Opry. Although not possessing the finer vocal talents of her two sisters, she did develop a flair for comedy, which she used to good effect in a character she called Aunt Polly.

In 1949, Carter enjoyed a country and pop hit with a duet version of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ recorded with comedy duo Homer And Jethro. For a time during the 50s, she was married to singer Carl Smith, with whom she had a daughter Rebecca Carlene, who as Carlene Carter went on to a successful solo career. They toured with Elvis Presley in the mid-50s, but in the early 60s, June began to work with Johnny Cash’s show, soon being joined by her mother and sisters. In 1964, her recording with Cash of ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ made both country and pop charts and in 1967, they had a number 2 country hit with their now famous version of ‘Jackson’. She also co-authored one of Cash’s most famous songs, ‘Ring Of Fire’. She married Cash on 1 March 1968 and from that point, her career naturally run in conjunction with his as she continued to be a regular and expected member of his show. The following year they were voted Vocal Group of the Year and their son John Carter Cash was born in 1970. Johnny Cash has gone on record several times to state that June saved his life, weaning him away from amphetamine addiction and reinforcing his Christian faith.

Away from her musical partnership with her husband June made the occasional solo record, notably 1975’s Appalachian Pride and over two decades later the Grammy Award-winning Press On. She also wrote the autobiographical Among My Klediments and From The Heart, and continued to take occasional film roles the most notable of which was the part of Robert Duvall’s mother in The Apostle. She underwent open-heart surgery in May 2003 but went into cardiac arrest shortly afterwards. Her life-support system was terminated several days later. Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar and numerous other awards for her brilliant performance of Carter in the 2005 movie Walk The Line.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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