DIARY - 31 AUGUST 2005 - CARLENE CARTER
CARTER BLOSSOMS IN WILDWOOD FLOWER
fatale Carlene Carter has emerged from hell with a little help from
her late mother - June Carter Cash - and friends.
Carter, now 50, played June in the new Carter Family musical Wildwood
Flower that debuted in Nashville in July.
The production co-starred her cousin, Lorrie Bennett Davis, who
played her mother, Anita Carter - one of three sisters of June.
It was staged at the BellSouth Acuff Theatre, next to the Grand
Ole Opry House.
The show focussed on the lively dynamic between Mother Maybelle
Carter and her three daughters - June, Anita and Helen.
unfolded against a backdrop of acoustic music and family harmony.
After the Carter Family's breakup in 1943, Maybelle and her girls
began touring, as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.
the daughter of country star Carl Smith and then wife June Carter.
Her parents split in 1952 when she was two and Smith married fellow country
singer Goldie Hill who died at 72 in February of 2005.
When Carlene was 12, her mother married Johnny Cash.
Following the marriage, Carlene and her stepsister, Rosanne Cash, became
backup singers in the Carter/Cash touring show.
The four times wed singer, who lost partner of 15 years, Howie Epstein,
to a heroin overdose on February 24, 2003, has bounced back after fighting
her drug demons.
Carlene joined Billy Joe Shaver and Todd Snider performing songs handpicked
by Tom T. Hall at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Wednesday
Carter and cousin Lorrie sang Keep on the Sunny Side and Me
and the Wildwood Rose.
Now the four times wed mother of two plans to write a book about her career
that embraced nine albums and role with Kiki Dee in Broadway show Pump
Boys & Dinettes.
have great stories," Carter revealed recently.
"I am going to write a book. I've actually started it. I've got
10 chapters. It's not anything serious right now. It's just me trying
to find my voice and my writing style. Plus, I'm concentrating on
this right now. I like to do one thing at a time and do it to the
best of my ability."
Carlene was just 15 when she wed Joe Simpkins and they had a daughter
They were divorced within a few years.
Carter enrolled in college as a piano major in her late teens, but
she never graduated. At 19, she married fellow songwriter Jack Routh
and had a son, also Jack; they were divorced within two years.
stepsister Cindy Cash also wed Carlene's second ex husband Jack so she
became John Routh Jr's aunt and stepmother.
Routh became the second husband of both singing stepsiblings.
So he was
also legally his son's step uncle.
Cindy wed Marty Stuart in 1983 but split after six years in 1988.
Marty then married fellow country singer Connie Smith, 17 years his senior,
That was 18 years after Carlene, just 23, wed English rock singer and
guitarist Nick Lowe in 1979.
It was a year after she decided to pursue a musical career, heading to
Los Angeles where she received a record contract with Warner Bros.
Her debut album, Carlene Carter, was a rock record recorded in
London with Graham Parker's backing band, the Rumour.
The following year, she released second album, Two Sides to Every Woman,
which featured support from the Doobie Brothers.
That same year she married Lowe, who was currently the co-leader of the
new wave rock revival band, Rockpile.
Lowe helped Carter shape her musical direction in the early '80s, and
her third album - new wave-country-rock record Musical Shapes (1980)
- showed influence of Lowe, Rockpile, and Dave Edmunds.
Although the album was critically acclaimed, it was a commercial failure.
She followed Musical Shapes in 1981 with Blue Nun, which
continued to pursue a new wave-country direction; like its predecessor,
it was ignored.
Carter also released C'est C Bon on Razor & Tie Music in 1983.
MISSING YEARS WITH HOWIE EPSTEIN
later hooked up with acclaimed producer Howie Epstein - former bassist
for Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.
Epstein, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also produced John Prine's
Grammy-winning album The Missing Years.
He produced two Carter albums, one of which was nominated for a Grammy.
In 1989 she began working on a comeback record with Epstein - the
same year she performed a duet with Southern Pacific on the Top 40
hit Time's Up.
Reprise signed Carter in 1990 and she released her sixth album, I
Fell in Love, later that year.
in Love produced two hit singles, the title track, and Come on
Back that soared to #3 on charts.
Her 1993 sequel Little Love Letters on Giant Records was equally
It's first single Every Little Thing also reached #3.
Next album Little Acts of Treason enjoyed moderate success on the
country charts in 1995 and was followed by Hindsight 20/20 - a
greatest hits compilation in 1996.
But offstage Carter and Epstein were riding the storms of life that also
waylaid her stepfather Cash at the peak of his career.
The couple lived together for about 15 years and suffered a brace of arrests
for drug related charges after becoming heroin abusers.
They made headlines in June 2001 when they were arrested in Albuquerque
with 2.9 grams of black-tar heroin and drug paraphernalia in a vehicle
that had been reported stolen.
Epstein was not charged in that case.
Carter pleaded no contest to a charge of heroin possession and was sentenced
to 18 months probation.
EPSTEIN RIP AT 47
father of a daughter Jamie, then 15, was separated from Carlene for about
six months when he died at 47 on February 24, 2003 from a heroin overdose
in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The day before he was taken to the hospital, his dog, a 16-year-old shepherd
named Dingo, died.
He was taking antibiotics for an illness and had recently suffered from
flu, stomach problems and an abscess on his leg.
"I'm devastated," Carlene said at the time.
"I loved him very much. My kids thought of Howie as their father.
We had a good life together for 15 years. We've been apart since May last
year, and all I know is I'm going to miss him very much. He was working
on new music. He was liking living in Santa Fe. It was hard for us to
Local friends described Epstein as talented, kind and generous, though
he struggled with a drug problem.
"He had a lot more going for him than the Heartbreakers," said
his girlfriend of six months, Tanya.
"He was always warm, always kind, always generous to people who never
After the June 2001 arrest, Petty fired Epstein, citing the bass player's
"ongoing personal problems."
Epstein had joined the Heartbreakers
"His departure from Tom Petty wasn't something that hung over him,"
"He was looking forward to making positive changes in his life. Even
if his departure from the band didn't hang over him like a patio
umbrella, his other troubles certainly did. In a Rolling Stone
article, Tom Petty described the death of Epstein like finding that dying
tree that you've grown to love in your backyard has been cut down."
plans to relaunch her career in Music City where she is revered as
who did it her way from her recording debut as a teenager.
"When I came back to Tennessee, I thought I was going to stay
for just the run of the play," Carter revealed.
"I thought, "I'll stay for the summer." That's what
I had decided. But I got here and started singing this music with
the cast, with Janet and Gina and Lorrie and Mark W. Winchester, who
is so great as Chet Atkins. That week, I decided I've got to come
It's time. Before that, I went to L.A. and did some things for myself
to get myself on track. It took me about a year to feel like I could
do it. And it all worked out.
Carter rebuilt her career after regaining her health with the help
of support group MusiCares after Epstein's death.
"I actually really concentrated on my recovery, in all aspects,"
from losing so much of my family and losing my own love of music, too.
I've also had problems with my addictions. I really had to get it in perspective.
"I'm going to die if I keep doing what I'm doing. I was given a good
opportunity. MusiCares was really good to me. I can't say enough how MusiCares
helps other people. They really, really helped me. They have the greatest
groups and support for musicians in recovery."
Carter is now writing and planning her 10th album - with a little help
from loyal friends.
"I'd like to make a new record, yeah," she says.
"I've had a lot of thoughts on that, and I've had a lot of conversations
with other people about it, about the business. It's there for me because
I want it. I don't need somebody to offer me a record deal. I can make
music myself, whether it's just in my living room or here or wherever
I believe everything falls into place as it's supposed to. I need to write
some more songs. I've got quite a few new songs that I feel really good
about. I think I'm going to go into the studio soon. I like making records.
There are a lot of things I'd like to do. Now that I'm back here, I'd
really like to start writing with people and working my catalogue. I've
got a large catalogue built up over the last 30 years. I've been writing
songs for the last 30 years."
AND THE WILDWOOD ROSE
performed her song Me And the Wildwood Rose at the end of
"It's about those days," Carter says of the song that
detailed her Carter family era childhood.
"It's from my point of view. Mine and Lorrie's points of view
as little girls. When I wrote that song, I was still grieving for
my grandmother's soul because she was such a huge part of my life
and such my friend. I just wanted to be with Grandma and Aunt Helen
and Anita, too. All the time! That's what I wanted to do as a kid.
I loved being with Grandma.
I wrote it, it was like 1988 or something like that, I wrote it
at the suggestion of Howie. He said, "You should really write
a song about those days. You've told all those stories. Like how
you used to make beds in the floorboards." Mama always called
Rosey "the Wildwood Rose."
Adams was Carter's sister; she died in 2003.
"I couldn't really get Me and Lorrie and the Wildwood Rose to work
but it was about me and Lorrie and Rosey," Carter added.
"Also, yesterday was Rosey's birthday, and she passed away two years
this October. This is for her, too. This is her music too. I felt like
it was important to put in there.
When I sing the verse about "I'll always remember the day that she
died," not only do I think about my grandmother, I'm thinking about
my mom, Aunt Helen and Aunt Anita. I know it sounds really sad, and I
don't want to get any kind of pity from people, but I feel it every time
I sing it. I remember getting on that airplane and I remember riding over
there by myself, and we stood in a circle and sang Will the Circle
Be Unbroken. So I want to do that in life. I want to stand in a circle
and sing Will the Circle Be Unbroken. I don't want to sing it just
at funerals, or when I'm gone, I don't want people to just do that. I
want them to sing No Swallerin' Place - a novelty song in the play
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