Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: Five June & Johnny Classics

By Alex Rice
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teenaged Johnny Cash vowed he would marry June Carer one day. They met for the first time six years later, after she watched him make his debut at the Grand Ole Opry. They wed 12 years after that. Here are five June & Johnny classics that aren’t “Jackson” or “It Ain’t Me, Babe."

“Long Legged Guitar Pickin’ Man”

Carryin’ On (1967)

Cash and Carter’s first duets album (the title of the next, Johnny Cash and His Woman, probably wouldn’t have flown in 2020) opens up with this number by Johnny’s longtime bassist, Marshall Grant. Stepping out from The Man in Black’s shadow, he pits the titular six-stringer against a “big mouth woman” in this catchy  call-and-response ditty.

 

“The Loving Gift”

Any Old Wind That Blows (1973)

The happy couple celebrated their second wedding anniversary with the birth of their only child, John, in 1970. This sweet duet from an underrated Cash album finds the grateful lovers, over a soaring melody, listing the blessings each has bestowed upon the other: among them a blanket, the courage to live with yesterday and, last but not least, a baby.

 

“Far Side Banks of Jordan”

The Last Gunfighter Ballad (1977)

Johnny leaves his guns at home for this heavenly collab with his wife. Cash looks like a disheveled madman on the front sleeve, but he cleans up nicely to serenade Carter about the afterlife. June’s lyrical premonition about dying before him ultimately came true 26 years later.

 

“Where Did We Go Right”

Water from the Wells of Home (1988)

Might as well call it American 0. This LP, one of only four studio albums from Cash’s short career with Mercury Records, features guest spots from acolytes like Paul McCartney, Emmylou Harris and Glen Campbell. The plaintive, piano-led “Where Did We Go Right” was the final time June would appear on a proper studio release from her husband.

 

“As Long as the Grass Shall Grow”

Unearthed (2003)

There are countless hidden gems across this box set five discs, such as this reimagination of the lead track from Cash’s 1964 concept album about the plight of the Native Americans, Bitter Tears. Not far from the grave on this updated version, Cash and Carter trade lines while tellingtheir shared story. Cue it up and see if there’s a dry eye in the house.  

 

Alex Rice is the founder of Bandbox. His writing has appeared in the Denver Post, Guitar World and Minneapolis's City Pages.

 

Photos: Flickr