June 23: June Carter Cash was born on this date in 1929...

... she died on May 15, 2003 at the age of 73.

Valerie June Carter was born in Maces Spring, Virginia. She performed with the Carter Family country music group from the age of ten. In March 1943, when the Carter Family trio stopped recording together, Maybelle Carter, with encouragement from her husband Ezra, formed "Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters" with her daughters, June Helen and Anita. The new group first aired on radio station WRNL in Richmond, Virginia, on June 1. Doc (Addington) and Carl (McConnell)—Maybelle's brother and cousin, respectively— known as "The Virginia Boys," joined them in late 1945. June, then 16, also became the co-announcer.

The next year, the Carters and Doc and Carl did show dates within driving range of Richmond, through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. June later said she had to work harder at her music than her sisters, but she had her own special talent—comedy. A highlight of the road shows was her "Aunt Polly" comedy routine. Carl McConnell wrote in his memoirs that June was "a natural born clown, if there ever was one."

After Doc and Carl dropped out of the music business in late 1945, Maybelle and the sisters move to Sunshine Sue Worklman's "Old Dominion Barn Dance" on the WRVA Richmond station. Then they moved to WNOX in Knoxville, TN where they met Chet Atkins with Homer and Jethro.

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Keep On the Sunny Side: Her Life in Music


In the 1949, Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, along with their lead guitarist, a young Chet Atkins, were living in Springfield, Missouri, and performing regularly at KWTO. Ezra "Eck" Carter, Maybelle's husband and manager of group, declined numerous offers from the Grand Ole Opry to move the act to Nashville, Tennessee, because the Opry would not permit Atkins to accompany the group onstage. Atkins's reputation as a guitar player had begun to spread, and studio musicians were fearful that he would displace them as a 'first-call' player if he came to Nashville.

In 1950, Opry management relented and the group, along with Atkins, became part of the Opry company. Here the family befriended Hank Williams and Elvis Presley - who was a distant relative - and June met Johnny Cash.

June Carter often played a comedic foil during the group's performances alongside other Opry stars Faron Young and Webb Pierce.

In 1967, Johnny Cash and June Carter won a Grammy award in the Best Country & Western Performance, Duet, Trio Or Group (vocal or instrumental) category for the song "Jackson." A year later in 1968, Johnny Cash proposed to Carter during a live performance at London Arena in London, Ontario, and they married on March 1, 1968.

In 1970, they won again in the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal category for the song "If I Were a Carpenter."
June Carter Cash is best known for singing and songwriting, but she was also an author, dancer, actress, comedienne, philanthropist and humanitarian. Director Elia Kazan saw her perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and encouraged her to study acting. She studied with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.

Her acting roles included Mrs. "Momma" Dewey in Robert Duvall's 1998 movie The Apostle, Sister Ruth, wife to Johnny Cash's character Kid Cole; for four years on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–1997), and Clarise on Gunsmoke in 1957. June was also "Momma James" in The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James.

As a singer, she had both a solo career and a career singing with first her family and later her husband. As a solo artist, she became somewhat successful with upbeat country tunes of the 1950s like "Jukebox Blues" and, with her exaggerated breaths, the comedic hit "No Swallerin' Place" by Frank Loesser.

June also recorded "The Heel" in the 1960s along with many other songs. She won a Grammy award in 1999 for her solo album, Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003 and won two additional Grammys. The songs on the album include "Big Yellow Peaches," "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea," "Temptation" and the trademark staple "Wildwood Flower." Her autobiography was published in 1979, and she wrote a memoir, From the Heart, almost 10 years later.

Carter was married three times and had one child with each husband. All three of her children have had successful careers in country music; Carlene Carter, the late Rosie Nix Adams and John Carter Cash. (Rosanne Cash, is Johnny's daughter.)

June Carter Cash died in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 15, 2003, of complications following heart valve replacement surgery.Her husband of 35 years, Johnny Cash who died less than four months later.

In 1999, she won a Grammy Award for her album Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003 and won two additional Grammys. She ranked #31 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002. She was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009.