Carter-Cash collection at Virginia Tech

Materials related to musicians of the Carter and Cash families, including June Carter and Johnny Cash, are now available at Virginia Tech.

The collection, which will be included in the University Libraries’ Special Collections department, includes biographies and memoirs, sheet music, programs from performances and festivals, funeral programs, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles, and other family memorabilia.

In 1927, A.P. Carter; his wife, Sara; and sister-in-law, Maybelle; traveled 22 miles from their home in Hiltons, Va., to Bristol, Tenn., to record with producer Ralph Peer. Peer saw promise in the young family and recorded six songs with them. The Carter Family quickly became established as the “first family of country music.” Their recordings of songs like “Wildwood Flower,” “Keep on the Sunny Side,” and “Will the Circle be Unbroken” made these previously unknown mountain songs country standards.

The Carter Family toured the United States throughout the 1930s, but the schedule took a toll on Sara and A.P.’s marriage. They divorced in 1936, and stopped touring in 1939. Maybelle continued to perform with her daughters, Helen, Anita, and June, as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.

In 1968, June married country star Johnny Cash. Sara and A.P.’s children, Joe, Gladys and Janette, also performed. Janette opened the Carter Family Fold, a non-profit music center that hosts weekly performances, at the family homestead in Virginia in 1979, to honor her parents and Aunt Maybelle.

The library’s collection also includes materials from the third generation of the Carter Family, many of whom continue to perform at the Fold.

In addition to the newspaper and magazine articles, sheet music, programs, and photographs, the collection also contains personal items, such as Maybelle Carter’s hunting and fishing license and her Holiday Inn ‘Inner Circle’ card, which show the disparity between her professional and personal life. You can search the collection’s finding aid online at Virginia Heritage

The collection is open for research in the Special Collections of Newman Library, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. For more information, contact Kira Dietz, acquisitions and processing archivist, at 540.231.3810.

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