June Carter's Fascinatingly Insecure Live Recordings From the Louisiana Hayride

Posted by Al Barger on September 10, 2005

June Carter Cash largely gets looked over as an artist. She's sort of a sunspot between her Mother Maybelle and Uncle AP who largely created the country music industry, and her legendary husband. A great many people know her name, but few know more of her music than a couple of songs associated with Johnny Cash.

But even those who have bought an album or two don't really get the big picture. This album of her live appearances on the Louisiana Hayride radio show between 1960 and 1965 is a unique recorded window into her career before Johnny.

She was being billed as a comedienne rather than as a singer. These radio shows are the perfect or at least to my knowledge, really the only proper document of this aspect of her career. Her comedy schtick was definitely a live thing that wouldn't have made any sense in the recording studio. A big percentage of her early songs were humorous, but they couldn't capture the jokes and stories and original poems and how she related them to the audience.

The closest thing would be to compare her act to Minnie Pearl, only with a totally kickass band. Probably just over half the length of this is comedy bits, but then the comedy parts stop and she starts singing like the Carter she was.

On her first Louisiana Hayride performance from June 4, 1960, she had a cute routine about sports cars, leading up to performing "a little Western song": Chuck Berry's "30 Days." Damned if it didn't turn out to be a Western song, with some pedal steel and fiddle. Fine picking all around.

She had a great little story about a ski trip with Elvis, leading up to a cute poem. She has several original poems.

Certain gags get done repeatedly, little bits that become funnier with repitition. Notably, various male performers were teased for their supposed wolfish ways. Johnny among others was known for wearing some fancy aftershave called "Come and Get It." By about the third version several years in, she's come up with her own perfume, "I Wouldn't Know What To Do With It If I Got It."

It hadn't occured to me to think of the great legendary June Carter Cash as insecure, but it comes shining right through here. Almost every song is preceded by some kind of crack about not being able to sing. Now of course it's just a joke, but after awhile that same basic joke does seem to be a real confession of feelings of inferiority. You know, if your uncle wrote "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and Mother Maybelle was actually YOUR mother, you might tend to be hard on yourself.

From our latter day point of view, hey, this Carter was as good as any member of her family. "Keep on the Sunny Side" was great, but June wrote "Ring of Fire," (not on this album) and that's as good as anything from any member of her family, including Johnny.

The great centerpiece of this collection is a 1962 appearance [by my calculations some few months before writing "Ring of Fire"] performing "The Heel," a great testament of semi-comic murderous shame credited to "A Beach-L Ferre-W Robison." For starters, during the buildup, she's explains that "I haven't recorded in about six years because honest to goodness I sung so bad that I couldn't hardly stand it myself...I did this tune which I didn't hurt too bad because I didn't sing it, I talked it." Studying notes for her Keep on the Sunny Side collection, best I can tell she in fact went over five years without recording because she just didn't think she was any good.

It's not really talking, though, like a Red Sovine record. It's a distinctive tune with stiff rhythms. She's rapping. Accompanied only by a drummer, she tore into this peculiar cracker rap. It's one of the damnedest things I've heard in awhile, stripped down from the classic studio recording. This version becomes less cutely comic, and more just psycho, before determinedly deciding to become "the chewing gum that clings to that dirty, low down heel." Note that for one thing she left out the mitigating word "lovable" that's on the studio version. She was officially a comedienne, but this seems a little too real for "funny."

She also has a nice original country breakup song "He Don't Love Me Anymore" which I haven't heard anywhere else. She does good justice to Mom's "Wildwood Flower" among several Carter family songs. She has a particularly good performance of the "Worried Man Blues" with the Wilburn brothers that might make you forget all about the Kingston Trio.

She finishes up with a couple of duets with Johnny, still several years away from being her husband. "It Ain't Me Babe" even has the Statler Brothers backing them. "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" makes a good closer, though by rights it's more of a Johnny Cash performance. It's a little harder and more country than the hit studio version though, and a nice little fairytale touch to end things with.

In its own right, this is some pretty strong entertainment, with some hot picking and singing and comedy. But if you're even somewhat into the whole Carter/Cash family, this is really a must-hear.

June Carter and Johnny Cash wedding photo


Keep on the Sunny Side: June Carter Cash, Her Life in Music

June Carter Live Recordings from the Louisiana Hayride

Johnny Cash The Legend (4 CD box set)

Johnny Cash in memoriam

"Bird on a Wire"  KD Lang vs Johnny Cash for the championship of the world

June Carter make out music

Johnny Cash on The Simpsons, 1997

Final Johnny Cash composition published

Walk the Line movie review

WALK THE LINE PICTURES   2   3   4   5   6

Pictures of Johnny Cash - June Carter - 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50

Galleries 14 - 33 are from Hee Haw #169, first broadcast 12-13-1975

Galleries 34 - 47 are from the July 1994 Montreaux Jazz Festival, including June Carter and John Jr

These are images from a very good 1983 made for tv movie. It is based on a true crime story from Georgia in 1948 in which a wealthy landowner named John Wallace (Andy Griffith) murders a sharecropper who crossed him, with the co-operation of the local Meriwether County sheriff - but managed to do so across the line in Coweta County, where he didn't have control.  The righteous sheriff Lamar Potts (Johnny Cash) eventually busts him down, and Wallace was executed in 1950.  In the movie version, June Carter has a lovely feature role as a crazy old backwoods seer and oracle. 

Murder in Coweta County 1983 Images 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24 INDEX


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June Carter and Johnny Cash

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