When you think of country music duos, June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash immediately come to mind. The two defined what power couple meant before people even knew the term and country fans will remember their names for generations to come.
While Johnny is certainly a legend, June Carter is quite the talent in her own right. She was an incredible songwriter, Grammy Award winner, had an upbringing that set her up to have an eye and ear for the industry and set an inspirational example for aspiring female performers. She was one of the greatest performers of her generation; Carter Cash passed on May 15, 2003. But today marks what would have been the singer's 92nd birthday.
In honor of her great talent, here are some things you may have not known about the beloved June Carter Cash.
1. She was born into the music business
The legendary Carter Family was already an established musical act comprised of June's mother, Maybelle Carter, her brother in law, A.P. Carter, and his wife Sara. After years of successful touring, their children began to join them on radio performances. Valerie June Carter, "June," was part of the group from the young age of ten. After the group eventually disbanded, Maybelle formed the group "Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters" in 1943. Joined by daughters June, Anita, and Helen, the group first aired on a radio station in Virginia.
A few family members would join them on the road over the years as they performed across Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Though June said that she felt she had to work a bit harder musically than her sisters, the road act gave her the shine to gain some comedic skills as evidenced by her "Aunt Polly" comedy routine that would have crowds in stitches.
2. She was a trained actress
Her comedy experience on the road gave Carter a taste of acting, and she was extremely talented. Many people said that she was a born clown and could make anyone laugh. It was one of the things she was best known for (aside from her music of course). Oscar-winning film director, Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront) saw her perform at the Opry and he gave her a push to study acting. She trained under the reputable Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner in New York and went on to book multiple roles.
Carter appeared in Robert Duvall's The Apostle, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Gunsmoke and more. She was also a trained dancer, which means she was pretty much the ultimate triple threat.
3. One of Carter's roles kind of led to 'Walk the Line'
Carter and Cash became friends with star Jane Seymour while appearing on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Seymour's husband, James Keach, was directing the episode. Cash asked Keach to make a movie of his life and so they started with a series of interviews that got passed around and ultimately turned into the successful feature film starring Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix as the country couple.
Witherspoon studied videos of Carter not only singing, but also telling stories to make sure that she perfectly captured her voice and spirit for the film. I think it's safe to say she succeeded.
4. Her comedy was even present in her solo career
We all know Carter as Johnny Cash's better half, but she was also a successful solo artist in the '50s. The upbeat "Jukebox Blues" was popular and "No Swallerin' Place" by Frank Loesser was a comedic hit. She continued carryin' on with her own music in the '60s with "The Heel" and others before ultimately focusing her touring entirely on Johnny.
5. We have Elvis to thank for connecting her with Johnny
That's right. Carter toured with Elvis Presley back in the '50s and it was The King himself who told her about the musician named Johnny Cash. The two met in person in Nashville, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. Like all good love stories, it was an instantaneous connection. Cash has said it was love at first sight and he was immediately taken by her humor, beauty, and talent.
After asking multiple times, Carter finally accepted Cash's marriage proposal and they shared one son together, John Carter Cash, who also became a country singer.
6. 'Ring of Fire' was inspired by falling for Johnny
As we all know, June and Johnny met while they were with other people. It was love at first sight despite Cash's marriage to Vivian Liberto at the time, so it definitely took some time before the two ended up together. The singer-songwriter wrote the iconic hit song "Ring of Fire" about falling in love with the Man in Black and about the strong power of love. The song was first offered to Anita Carter, but it wasn't very successful. Cash took a second go of it and it's now one of the most recognizable country music songs in the world. The song was anchored in love which had to have contributed to some of its success.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 15, 2019.
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