How Long Were Johnny Cash and June Carter Married?

Anyone who was alive during the era of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash would probably say Americans took them far too much for granted in the country music industry. For several decades, they were ubiquitous on TV, plus on the live stage–often in nationwide state fairs every summer.

After their passing, everyone realized what they missed and considered them close to a music industry myth.

Part of this myth came from Johnny Cash’s mysterious Man in Black persona that counteracted the sunny positivity of June Carter.

Their marriage is one for the record books as well, proving the field of country music has staying power in more than one category.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When and where did Carter and Cash meet?

Those of you who’ve always known June Carter Cash as merely Johnny Cash’s wife should go back and refresh your memory on what a multi-talent she was. Many called her a multi-hyphenate in the world of music, acting, dancing, writing, and general philanthropy. She even studied acting with Lee Strasberg for a time, something she didn’t utilize enough, despite a few acting roles.

Starting in the 1950s and ’60s, she was primarily known as an upbeat country singer who was also a notable songwriter. As part of the famous Carter Family, they frequently performed together as backup on countless country recordings.

When Carter wrote the song Ring of Fire in 1963, the first meeting with Johnny Cash had already occurred, outside some trepidation. They met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 when the Carter Family was backing Elvis Presley. Latter persuaded June Carter to listen to Johnny Cash’s music.

Reportedly, Cash and Carter had a dangerous attraction immediately, hence what Ring of Fire was really all about.

A romance with bad boy Johnny Cash

Let’s not forget why Johnny Cash was called the Man in Black. He never spent long periods in prison, though did end up in jail seven different times (all overnight stays), mostly for misdemeanors related to drug abuse.

His addiction to amphetamines was not just a temporary problem, plaguing him off and on up until the early 1990s. It was this that kept him from marrying June Carter earlier in the 1960s as they began performing together often.

Carter and her family tried to wean him off the drugs, and it worked for a while. In Cash’s case, he had to hit absolute bottom and have a spiritual epiphany until cleaning himself up.

He managed to do this by 1968, leading to Carter accepting his marriage proposal. Cash proposed to Carter on stage when they performed in Canada.

Carter still had to help Cash with further drug problems

There really wasn’t any stronger marriage in the music industry than Cash and Carter. Latter acquired Johnny Cash’s last name after they married to prove her commitment.

Unfortunately, Cash did go back to using amphetamines several times, starting in the mid 1970s, again in 1983, plus additional relapses in 1989 and 1992.

Many fans have probably forgotten he still struggled with his addiction so late in his life. By the mid-1990s, however, he seemed to finally overcome his vices. The painful irony is he and Carter only had a decade left together.

You may also remember Cash’s health started to deteriorate by the early 2000s, including struggles with diabetes and Shy-Drager Syndrome. When June Carter died from heart surgery complications in 2003, it was said Cash’s broken heart probably hastened his own passing four months later.

Are there stronger marriages in country music?

There shouldn’t be any claims to country music careers creating stronger marriages. While country music does have major career sustainability and stronger life foundations, we’ve all seen horrific divorce tales in this industry.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash were the epitome of having a purpose in staying together. Who’s to say that if Cash didn’t have his personal struggles, they would have instilled such a strong marital bond lasting 35 years?