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Country Music Legends Johnny Cash and June Carter and Their 30 Year Relationship

Music | March 13, 2018

Johnny Cash Hammersmith Odeon Johnny Cash and June Carter, Performing At Hammersmith Odeon, London 01/01/1976 (Sony Music Archive/Getty Images/Tom Sheehan)


Johnny Cash was a larger than life entertainer.

John “Johnny” R. Cash was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and author. He is one of the all-time, best-selling musical artists. Over the course of his career, he sold more than 90 million records worldwide. Johnny Cash is primarily remembered as a country music icon but his song genres embraced rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel. This genre crossover proved to be very appealing to fans. It is actually responsible for Cash winning the rare honor of multiple inductions in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.

Johnny Cash traditionally began his concerts by simply introducing himself by saying, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash,” which was followed by his signature song, "Folsom Prison Blues.”

Johnny Cash’s infamous mugshot after being arrested in 1955.

It is no well-kept secret that Johnny Cash was arrested in his early days or that he was married prior to hooking up with the love of his life, June Carter; later known as June Carter Cash.

Cash was known for his signature, deep, calm bass-baritone voice. He had a distinctive sound with his “Tennessee Three” backing band, which was characterized by train-sound guitar rhythms; a wild rebelliousness coupled with an increasingly somber and humble demeanor. He was known for performing free prison concerts and another trademarks; his all-black stage wardrobe, which earned him the nickname, The Man in Black.

Cash’s hard exterior/bad-boy image with a touch of inner tenderness caught the eye of fellow country music singer, June Carter. I’m sure that deep voice only served to seal the deal.

Theirs is one of the most inspiring love stories in the world of entertainment. Unlike many romances that find themselves in the public spotlight, theirs endured the test of time.

The 30-year-long relationship was built between two people who were not only lovers and spouses but also candid comrades and professional partners. They were both very good at what they did; creating and performing music they were passionate about.

So how did The Man in Black meet June Carter?

Cash and Carter met, backstage, in 1956 at the Grand Ole Opry. As you probably know, the Grand Ole Opry was a weekly country music show in Nashville, Tennessee. At the time, Cash was married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto. The couple had three children together (the eldest is country artist Rosanne Cash). In addition, Carter had been married twice before and had two children of her own.

Nevertheless, the attraction between them was completely undeniable. Recalling their first encounter, Johnny Cash announced that it was love at first sight and he never questioned his decision. He knew from the very beginning that they were meant to be together. He had been so stricken with infatuation for Carter that he claimed she, “stole his heart.”

June Carter reported feeling like a “ring of fire,” after realizing her feelings for Johnny Cash.

Carter’s recollection of the experience of meeting Johnny Cash was somewhat more dramatic in tone. She was quoted as saying, “Oh my Lord! I think I’m falling in love with Johnny Cash, and this is the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. It is like I’m in a ring of fire, and I’m never coming out. I’m going down, down to the bottom of this thing. It’s going to kill me, because I would never have the nerve to tell him, nor do I want to tell him, nor do I want anybody to even know I’ve got these feelings.” She expressed her emotions by writing the country song “Ring of Fire,” which was later recorded in “Press On,” the second solo album of this legendary country music entertainer.

During their several years of working together and simultaneously dating, Cash proposed marriage on many occasions prior to Carter finally accepting. She said, “yes,” 13 years later in 1968. Carter eventually accepted his proposal at a live performance in London, in front of 7,000 fans.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash married in Franklin, Kentucky in 1968 and in 1970 their only child, John Carter Cash, was born.

June Carter Cash playing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

It is commonly known that Johnny Cash suffered from serious and almost debilitating problems with drug and alcohol addictions. In addition to the usual effects, the addiction began to interfere with his professional, as well as his personal life. June was his greatest support, attempting to keep him off amphetamines by even taking them and flushing them down the toilet.

June Carter Cash was in it for the long haul; helping him with his drug and alcohol addiction.

She remained with him during his many stretches in rehab while he battled his addiction. She later remained his faithful wife throughout his years of recovery that followed. Nothing was more powerful than the love she felt for her man in black. Cash felt the same way and stated in an interview, “There’s unconditional love there. You hear that phrase a lot but it’s real with me and her. She loves me in spite of everything, in spite of myself. She has saved my life more than once. She has certainly been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times. When it gets dark and everybody’s gone home, and the lights are turned off, it’s just me and her.”

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash boasted a 30-year relationship.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash enjoying a playful moment together.

In addition to being in love and having a successful marriage, the couple worked together, raised children, created music, and toured for almost 35 years. They nurtured their love, and each other, until May 15, 2003, when June Carter Cash died of heart failure.

Four months later, Johnny Cash, himself, passed away as well; most likely of a broken heart.

At Cash’s very last performance, not long after the death of his beloved June, he couldn’t hide his grief. At that performance, instead of the iconic and signature opening he usually began with, he addressed the audience with these words, “The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her. We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.”

That, my friends, is an epic love story!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.