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Timeline: the Carter Family's Role in Country Music

1891-1930s | 1931-1979  


Jimmie Rodgers, Maybelle, A.P. and Sara June: At Peer's behest, the Carters travel to Louisville, Kentucky, for a recording session with Victor's best-selling artist, Jimmie Rodgers.

In a natural disaster that will last for eight years, drought causes massive dust storms across the Midwest and Great Plains, forcing millions of people from their farms in the epic of the Dust Bowl. The difficult years will be memorably described in John Steinbeck's celebrated novel, The Grapes of Wrath.


Ralph Peer Peer renews the Carters' contract, this time with himself instead of Victor. The five-year contract gives the Carters $75 per song; Peer takes all the royalties.

Early 1930s

While A.P. is out on the road collecting songs, Sara falls in love with his cousin Coy Bays, and subsequently has an affair with him.


In order to avoid unpleasantness, Coy's parents move to California, taking Coy with them. Sara moves out of A.P.'s house and returns to her childhood home in Rich Valley, leaving the children with A.P.

Early 1930s

Despite Sara and A.P.'s estrangement, the family continues to give performances and make records with Victor, ARC, and later Decca. But with Sara no longer living in Maces Springs, it becomes harder for A.P. to spend so much time on the road gathering music, and he turns instead to his own imagination. By 1935, Maybelle and Sara are working up new material on their own.


September: After three years of trying to reconcile with her husband, Sara gives up and sues A.P. for divorce. Exhorted by Peer and his wife, Anita, the family continues to perform together professionally.


XERA Radio Station Consolidated Royal Chemical Corporation pays the Carter Family the unheard-of sum of $75 per week, each, to do two shows a day on the border radio station XERA. The Carters move to Del Rio, Texas. Their music is broadcast by XERA's 500 kilowatt transmitter to most of North America.


February: Sara dedicates a song to Coy on XERA. Coy, living in California with his parents, hears the song and goes to Texas to find Sara. Coy and Sara are reunited, and marry on February 20 in Brackettsville, near Del Rio.


Consolidated Royal sponsors a second season of the Carters on XERA, this time including Maybelle and Eck's three daughters, Helen, June and Anita.


The Carters' sales start going up again, spurred by the radio shows and the improving economy.


Mexico and the United States sign a broadcasting treaty that effectively shuts down XERA. Consolidated Royal sponsors the Carter family for two more seasons, from 1941 to 1943, on a local radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sara travels from California, where she is now living with her husband Coy Bays, to participate in the show.

Fall: Life magazine sends a photographer to Maces Springs to take pictures of the Carters. The pictures are to appear on the magazine's cover, but on December 7, less than a week before the magazine goes to press, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Magazines shift to reporting on the war buildup, and the Carter Family story will never run.


March: With the Charlotte contract having run its term, Sara returns to California, and the original Carter Family is no more. Maybelle and her daughters play on, first on local stations in Richmond, and later in Knoxville and at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.


Recording Book entry A.P., Maybelle, and Maybelle's daughters meet for a musical reunion in Knoxville, giving a number of performances on WNOX radio.


Carter family members continue to work as performers. Helen, Anita, and June continue in music, at first with their mother and later on their own. In 1949 Eck and June travel to New York, where June has a contract to record for RCA. There she makes records of "Plain Old Country Girl," and a parody of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," with Homer and Jethro.


June Carter Cash and John Cash June Carter meets another country music performer, Johnny Cash.


November 7: A.P. dies in Maces Springs after a long illness.


With the folk revival in full swing, the original Carter Family's songs are once more heard on the radio, sold on re-released records, and played by the likes of the Kingston Trio, Elvis Presley, and Flatt & Scruggs.


June Carter joins Johnny Cash's road show, eventually persuading him to take on her mother and sisters as well. Johnny falls in love with June, and after a long courtship the two will finally wed on June 1, 1968.


Sara and Maybelle reunite to perform at the Newport Folk Festival.


October 14: The Original Carter Family is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, whose first member -- inducted on its establishment in 1961 -- had been their contemporary, Jimmie Rodgers.


At her daughter Janette's request, Sara comes out of retirement to play a show with Maybelle at the Carter Fold in Maces Springs.


October 22-23: Maybelle dies.


January 8: Sara dies.

1891-1930s | 1931-1979  

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