Anita Carter's name gives it all away: she was, of course, a member of the Carter family, country music superstars. Anita, who would have been 80 today, was just 10 years old when she began singing and playing guitar and upright bass with her sisters June and Helen, and their mother Maybelle. By the time Anita was 17, The Carter Sisters were Grand Ole Opry members, famed for their sweet singing – and they were playing with some of the brightest stars in the industry, from Elvis Presley to Ernest Tubb to Chet Atkins.
And, of course, there was one very special singer who frequently collaborated with the Carters – and later became one of the family when he married Anita’s sister.
But Anita Carter's career went far beyond her work with her family. A successful solo artist as well, she recorded a song, written by her sister June, which might sound familiar…
No, it wasn't a cover of the song that her brother-in-law made famous – Anita Carter recorded "Ring of Fire" before Johnny Cash ever did. After hearing Anita’s version, Cash had a dream in which he heard the song with Mexican horns added. He gave Anita's recording a little time, but when it didn't chart, he made his own acclaimed version of the song.
Just because "Ring of Fire" didn't chart for Anita, don't worry that her career was a flop. She made it to the Top Ten several times – once in collaboration with Waylon Jennings.
Two duets with Hank Snow were also hits.
Amazingly, Anita Carter enjoyed a five-decade-long career in music, but she never saw old age. After suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for many years, Carter died in 1999 at age 66. Helen had died the previous year, and June followed her sisters in 2003. As much as we miss them, their music lives on.
Written by Linnea Crowther