Eighty-six years ago today, on June 23rd, 1929, in Maces Springs, Virginia, Valerie June Carter was born to Ezra and Maybelle Carter. By the time baby June was born, Maybelle was already a huge singing star as part of the Carter Family, a trio that included her brother-in-law, A.P. Carter and his wife, Sara. By the late Thirties, the second generation of Carter children, including June and her sisters, Helen and Anita, and A.P. and Sara’s offspring, Janette and Joe, were part of the hugely popular Carter Family act. After Ezra retired, his wife and children became “Mother” Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, performing regularly on the radio in Richmond, Virginia.
June Carter, who would marry country star Carl Smith and give birth to daughter Carlene, a future country star in her own right, became a popular radio, TV and Grand Ole Opry star in the Fifties, but, of course, she would also later marry another country icon, Johnny Cash. As June Carter Cash, the comical performer sang duets with her husband and was by his side for much of the next four decades, until her death in May 2003, just four months before Cash himself would pass away.
In 1960, after A.P. Carter died, Mother Maybelle and her daughters began being billed as the Carter Family, often touring with Johnny Cash, and appearing with him on his ABC TV series. In 1967, not long before The Johnny Cash Show‘s premiere, both he and the Carters were among the country acts featured in the music-packed film, The Road to Nashville. In addition to the gospel number, “Were You There,” performed with Cash, the Carter Family, introduced by famed deejay Ralph Emery and dressed all in blue, sang Cash’s late-Fifties pop-country smash, “I Walk the Line,” spotlighting their impeccable harmonies (and managing numerous key changes) throughout their performance.
The quartet’s blue dresses, by the way, are likely no accident. Blue was a particular favorite color of June Carter Cash. At June’s funeral service, Rosanne Cash delivered an extraordinarily moving eulogy to her stepmother (although June had banned that word – and “stepchildren” – from their home once she and Johnny blended their families, which consisted of his four daughters and her two, with John Carter Cash, their son together, born a couple of years later). In the tribute to June, Rosanne recalled that she loved a particular shade of blue so much that she named it for herself, christening it “June blue.”
A singer, songwriter (she co-wrote Johnny’s “Ring of Fire” with Merle Kilgore), author, actress, humanitarian, wife and mother, June Carter Cash was portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the 2005 film, Walk the Line (which earned the actress and Oscar) and by Jewel in the 2013 Lifetime movie, Ring of Fire, based on a memoir written by John Carter Cash.