Things You Might Not Know About Johnny Cash And June Carter’s RelationshipPublished on February 28, 2018. Updated February 18, 2020
Johnny Cash and June Carter one of the most popular couples in country music, and arguably one of the greatest love stories of all time. Sadly, the two passed away within four months of each other in 2003 after almost 35 years of raising children, touring and creating music together. Their love story has been widely documented through film and song, but we’ve got all the details here in this slideshow! Check out 13 things you probably didn’t know about their relationship:
13. How They Met
They met in 1956 backstage at the 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. When they met Cash was married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto, and Carter, who had been married twice before, was dating someone else.
12. Love at First Sight
As Johnny Cash remembers it, he said she “stole his heart” the first moment he saw her. In the documentary The Winding Stream, he recalled their love story: “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,’ but at the time we were both with somebody else.”
11. Ring of Fire
Their love inspired many songs of their own and others, but one song in particular that sparked from their romance was ‘Ring of Fire’ written by June Carter. “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.
Johnny proposed to June several times in their relationship before she finally agreed. She had previously turned him down because she didn’t want to get involved with someone who was so deeply entrenched in a drug addiction. She finally agreed in 1968 on-stage in the middle of a concert in London in front of 7,000 fans! The two wed only a few weeks later in Franklin, Kentucky. Their relationship was a huge inspiration for Johnny turning his life around.
9. They Supported Each Other
Prior to her marriage to Johnny Cash, June had studied to become an actress and had a solo career of her own. Once she met and fell in love with Johnny, much of her career was dedicated to Johnny Cash. “I was never looking back in regret. I never thought, ‘Oh, why didn’t I become an actress?’ or ‘Why did I just go paddling along after John?’ I’ve always walked along right by his side, and he’s always supported everything I do,” said June.
8. They Wrote Love Letters
Here is the love letter Johnny Cash wrote to June on her birthday: “Happy Birthday Princess. We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Happy Birthday Princess. John.”
June and Johnny both had children from previous relationships prior to their own marriage. June had two children, one with each of her previous husbands, and Johnny had four daughters with his first wife, Vivian Liberto. Soon after they wed, Johnny Cash and June Carter had one child of their own together. His name was John Carter Cash and he was born in 1970.
6. Demons in Their Marriage
Johnny Cash and June Carter were idolized by the media for their epic love story, but according to their son John Carter Cash, it wasn’t the perfect picture we like to paint it as. It’s true, they loved each other unconditionally and learned to forgive each other for their mistakes, but their relationship stemmed from an affair, and June Carter was often paranoid he was unfaithful to her. In John’s book Anchored in Love: the Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash he tells stories of endless cycles of rehab, near-death experiences, and interventions. He wrote that his parents fought so much that his childhood was riddled with fear that his parents would one day divorce. In addition to their verbal abuse and fighting, June and Johnny both struggled with addiction and were in many ways enablers to one another.
5. Unconditional Love
It’s widely known that Johnny Cash struggled with a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol, and June Carter helped him through it. She stuck by him through his various rehab stints and would even flush his amphetamines down the toilet. “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’s always been there with her love, and it has certainly made me forget the pain for a long time, many times,” said Johnny Cash.
4. Johnny Cash Had an Affair with June’s Sister
Johnny Cash had an affair with June’s sister, Anita Carter, around 1970 when June was pregnant with John Carter Cash. Former music critic Robert Hilburn, who wrote the book Johnny Cash: The Life, told Esquire that he was stunned to learn about it. “I thought I knew Johnny Cash but didn’t know things had gotten that dark. June was pregnant with John’s son, John Carter. They had gotten married in ’68, this was ’69, the boy was born in ’70. June learns while she’s pregnant that John was or had been having an affair with Anita. Then you have to trace back what happened in the ‘60s and they were both married to other people and having fights — ‘Why don’t you leave your husband?’ ‘Why don’t you leave your wife?’ — and they would break up. During that time John would have affairs with other women, and one of them was Anita,” he said.
3. Johnny Cash Listened to June on Mexican Radio Station
The Carter Family documentary, The Winding Road, revealed a lot of details not only about this influential music group but also about Johnny Cash and June Carter’s relationship, including the fact that Johnny Cash first heard his future wife on a Mexican radio station. John Brinkley started the radio station XER in Mexico and broadcasted the performances of the Carter Family. One of his listeners was a boy from Arkansas named Johnny Cash. Cash heard one of the youngest members of the act, June Carter, who later became his wife!
2. Adored One Another
There’s a reason these two are credited as having one of the greatest love stories of all time — they absolutely adored each other. This was most evident when the two would talk about each other in interviews. “He’s just like my father that way-my father just adored my mother and let her do whatever she wanted. John’s like that. He’s a very rare man, a very good man, and I’ve had a good life with him. I’m proud to be walking in the wake of Johnny’s fame,” said June. On the other hand, Johnny said about June, “She’s the greatest woman I have ever known. Nobody else, except my mother, comes close.”
1. Walk the Line
Roseanne Cash (the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto) has spoken out against the Oscar-winning biopic Walk the Line by stating that while it’s a great film, she doesn’t believe it perfectly represented their life, especially her mother Vivian. Even John Carter Cash, who served as an executive producer on the project admitted it’s impossible “to make a two-hour film and show everything about Johnny Cash or June Carter,” but it was approved by both Johnny Cash and June Carter prior to their death. “My mother and father actually got the wheels rolling for Walk the Line with both of them approving Joaquin before they passed away. And my father approved Reese, after my mother passed away. So they were very much a part of it and spent years working on it before the filming got under way,” said John Carter Cash. Sadly they never got to see the finished project as they both passed away in 2003, two years before the film was released.