Carlene Carter met up with me, my co-producing sisters Nancy and Amy and our crew (Michael “Gonzo” Gandsey on sound, Sandra Valde shooting) at the Fess Parker Inn in Los Olivos, California. It was a spectacular June day and we were about to get an equally spectacular interview for our film. Carlene’s would be the last of the family remembrances for the film, so the whole mellow California afternoon had an air of sweet closure about it.
Carlene is the daughter of June Carter and country great Carl Smith. But after her folks divorced and Johnny Cash and June married, Carlene became a part of the large blended family that was the Carter-Cash clan. Though born Carlene Smith, when she started her professional music career in the late ’70s she realized the family name would stop if she didn’t adopt the Carter surname. But all you have to do is hear Carlene sing a verse of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” to recognize that the name is the least part of her family legacy.
Carlene has assured us that her next recording will be an all-Carter Family CD. We can’t wait.
Here are a few thoughts from her interview to tide you over until we finish editing the film.
ON HER HERITAGE:
“I really grew up with a legacy I didn’t understand until I grew up. But I’m really proud of being a Carter girl.”
MOTHER MAYBELLE’S MUSIC ADVICE TO CARLENE:
“Be yourself, be unique, you don’t have to be like us, but you have to carry it on.”
ON CARRYING ON THE MUSIC
“My momma always said, anything that you do is Carter Family music (laughing) and so we’ve done some interesting Carter Family music in that sense.”
ON A REVELATORY MOMENT AT A MUSIC FESTIVAL IN THE ‘70s
“I always knew my grandma had it goin’ on; there was no question about that. It was that I just didn’t realize the impact she’d had across the board. [But] to cause an audience of these pot smokin’ college kids sitting cross-legged on the floor to suddenly stand up just when she walked on the stage. She hadn’t played a note. It didn’t really dawn on me until then that it was such a big deal…But that moment I thought ‘Oh my goodness, there’s something bigger here.’”
ON SEEING THE NEXT GENERATION OF MUSIC TALENT
“It is so important that in our generations of this family that we do keep on passing it down. My little granddaughter Annie – Anita Grace – just had her first guitar recital and she played ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ and I think it’s time that I tell her where that comes from.”
CARLENE CARTER FAN CLUB PAGE
I Fell in Love
I’m Thinkin’ About You
Me and the Wildwood Rose