June Carter of the Carter Family was an already established act when she met Johnny Cash through Elvis Presley. It was love at first sight for Cash.
Destiny works in mysterious ways and brings people together to be each other's miracles. Though sometimes, that miracle can go sour and a beautiful relationship can have many tragic episodes. But, what relationship is without its struggles, isn't it? Every couple struggles in their own way and they either make it or their bond breaks irrecoverably. For one of the most famous and romantic couples of the twentieth century, their love was a blessing and a curse.
June Carter and Johnny Cash's names are haloed in the annals of country music because of their devotion to each other. They were seen as one of the most successful power couples back then, who fuelled each other's creative passions. However, when they first met each other, it didn't seem like they would ever end up together.
The legendary June Carter was born into the Carter Family, which was an already established musical act. Her mother, Maybelle Carter, her brother, A.P. Carter, and his wife Sara performed for years and toured across the country with their music. June started singing with the group from the young age of 10, according to Wideopencountry. While the group eventually disbanded, June's mother started the band Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters in 1943. Maybelle and her daughters June, Anita, and Helen, first performed on a radio station in Virginia.
Meanwhile, June also polished her work in comedy. In 1952, she married honky-tonk singer Carl Smith and they would perform together. They also had a child, Rebecca Carlene Smith, a successful country-rock musician who performs as Carlene Carter, according to Boston.com. This marriage didn't last long and they divorced in 1956. After that, June met Edwin Lee Nix and married him in 1957. They too had a daughter but this marriage lasted only nine years because Cash had already stolen her heart by then.
Johnny Cash first heard his future wife on a Mexican radio station, as per Fame10. He met her for the first time in 1956 backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. "I first heard of [Johnny Cash] through Elvis Presley. Elvis would make me go into these little cafes and listen to John [on the jukebox] when we played in the South-in the Carolinas and all down through Florida and Georgia. Then, on night backstage at the Opry, this man walked up to me and said, ‘I want to meet you, I’m Johnny Cash.’ And I said, ‘Well I oughta know who you are. Elvis can’t even tune his guitar unless he goes, ‘Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down,’” said June.
At the time, Cash was married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto, and June was dating someone else. In the documentary The Winding Stream, he said, "I met June Carter backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 and I met mother Maybelle, Helen, and Anita. Of course, I fell in love with that June, that red-headed one, that dancer, the one that pulls the jokes, the funny one. She stole my heart right away, right away. That night I told her, I said, ‘I’m gonna marry you someday.'"
And, he did. Even though, she tried hard to refuse his love many times. It was his persistence that won eventually. One of the songs June had written, Rings of Fire, was inspired by their love. When she wrote it for him she had been married to Nix but Cash's love was like a magnet for her. She divorced Nix three years after writing the song in 1963.
"I realized that 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," said June in the documentary.
Eventually, they started dating and Cash had to ask her several times before she said yes. She didn't want to be in a deep commitment with someone who had as intense a drug addiction as Cash did. But, the final time he asked was in the middle of a concert in London in front of 7,000 fans in 1968. She didn't say no and she clearly wanted him as much as he did her. They married only a few weeks later in Franklin, Kentucky.
Their marriage inspired Cash to clean up but he struggled for years. Together, they welcomed son, John, in 1970, but their love was no fairytale. It was a real love story full of ups and downs, and many trying moments. In the end, they were together until 2003. They died four months apart.