Johnny Cash jealous of Elvis over affair with June Carter said son

June Carter and Johnny Cash touchdown in Australia in 1973

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This weekend marks the birthday of one of the most iconic figures in music history. Incredibly, Johnny Cash was just one of the legendary artists that emerged from the tiny Sun Records in Memphis in the 1950s that included Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and, of course, Elvis Presley. Cash’s relationship with June remains as iconic as his music but she knew elvis long before they met and their only child, John Carter Cash, recalled how his mother would get a “mischievous twinkle” when she spoke of her early days with The King. June even told her son she sometimes wondered what would have happened if she had married Elvis. After all, they built their music careers side by side in tour buses and local clubs and he would often sleep over at her house in between dates.

Elvis and June were contemporaries on the Memphis and Southern US music scenes in the mid-1950s and June later recalled how the young aspiring star would often talk about Johnny and croon his songs, innocently promising to introduce her to the man who would become her husband one day – although nobody knew it at the time. Nor could anyone imagine the twelve years of heartache it would take before they were finally married.

June Carter had been performing from a young age on the country music circuit with her sisters and mother Maybelle. Elvis also started his career touring the theatres, fairs and radio stations of the southern states with his bandmates Scotty Moore and Bill Black.

June later described how it was Elvis who introduced her to Johnny’s music on their first tour together.

She wrote: “He was stooped down on one knee and grasping a guitar trying to tune it to somewhere near the correct pitch to make a correct chord ring. (He would sing) ‘Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down, Ah-ummm, Ah-ummm’ and he’d strike the guitar again. Plink, plunk: ‘Ah-ummm …’

“‘What are you trying to do?’ I asked. ‘I’m trying to tune this guitar, honey, and I’m trying to sing like Johnny Cash.'”

June described Elvis singing one of Johnny’s earliest hits, Cry Cry Cry, as he tuned his guitar: “‘Who is Johnny Cash?’ I asked Elvis Presley. ‘What’s the a-um-a-um for?’

“‘That’s what drives the girls crazy,’ Elvis said. ‘I don’t know this Johnny Cash,’ I said, and Elvis said: ‘Oh you’ll know Cash. The whole world will know Johnny Cash. He’s a friend of mine’.

“So the whole tour, my first with Elvis, we went into small cafes all throughout the south and Elvis played Johnny Cash on the jukebox while I fought off the girls trying to get through Scotty, Bill and I to Elvis.”

As Elvis and Johnny’s fame grew they used to enjoy poking fun at each other. At a 1959 show, Cash told the crowd: “Just about on all of our shows we usually do an impersonation and we had a request here tonight to do an impersonation of a rock and roll singer. This is an impersonation of a rock and roll singer impersonating Elvis, is what this really is.”

June and Johnny finally met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, in June 1956. He was about to go onstage to debut what would become one of his most iconic hits, I Walk The Line.

June said: “I found myself backstage trying to tune my guitar humming ‘Ah-ummm Ah-Ummm’, when all of a sudden, there he was! The voice was the same. Johnny Cash took me by the hand and said, ‘I’ve always wanted to meet you’.

“The strangest feeling came over me. I was afraid to look him in the eyes. It was one of the things I did best. I never stammered and still found myself not able to say much of anything. I think I finally blurted out – ‘I feel like I know you already. Elvis plays you on the jukebox all the time and he can’t tune his guitar without humming Cry, Cry, Cry. Now he’s got me doing it.'”

Both described the powerful instant attraction, but both were also married – June to singer Carl Smith and then Edwin Lee Nix, and Johnny to his teenage sweetheart Vivian Liberto.

At the time however, there was more speculation over June’s relationship with Elvis. He was, of course, notoriously linked with women he worked with throughout his career, as well as fans in every city he visited.

In 2008, June’s son John Carter Cash released the biography Anchored In Love: An Intimate Portrait of June Carter Cash with his own insight into the stars’ relationship.

He wrote: “Throughout my life, I would see Mom get a mischievous twinkle in her eye whenever she mentioned Elvis Presley. Her eyes would flash merrily, and she would say, ‘You know, son, your father was always jealous of Elvis.’

“She even told me once that she sometimes wondered what would have happened if she had fallen in love with Elvis.

“Mom and Elvis occasionally toured together, along with other performers, sometimes including Mother Maybelle and one or more of June’s sisters. The Carter’s were friends of Elvis, and there are stories about Mother Maybelle sewing buttons on Elvis’ shirts when they popped off during his wild onstage gyrations.

“Though Mom always maintained that she never had an affair with Elvis, Carl (her first husband) believed differently and perhaps for good reason. After Carl moved out of their Madison home, Mom would sometimes let Elvis stay at the house to ‘rest’ after a tour.”

June, of course, was always destined for Johnny but they path to happiness was long and difficult. She divorced Carl in 1956 but quickly married Edwin Nix the following year. She had a daughter with each husband while Johnny had four with Vivian, while he wrestled with drugs and alcohol.

June and Johnny’s infamous chemistry was channelled into a hugely successful professuional partnership from the mid-1960s. She wrote his biggest hit, Ring of Fire in 1963.

Both divorced their spouses in 1966 and they were finally married in 1968, remaining together on stage and off until they died. June passed away on May 15 2003 after heart surgery. Johnny died four months later.

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