Wildwood Flower, June Carter Cash's final album, had been a labor of love for Nashville-based Dualtone Records for more than a year before its release on Sept. 9.
Dualtone founders Scott Robinson and Dan Herrington officially announced on Sept. 13, 2002, at the Americana Music Awards in Nashville that the singer-songwriter had been signed to the label. It was on that night that she and her husband, Johnny Cash, made their last public performance together.
Explaining the label's attraction to her music, Robinson told CMT.com, "We fell in love with her, as a person, and the magic she represented. I don't even know how to put it into words. We just realized there was such a richness of musical talent, plus the Carter Family heritage. It was just an amazing jewel that was just there."
She signed with Dualtone after the label re-released 1999's Press On, her Grammy-winning CD. In the process, Robinson and Herrington asked if she'd be interested in recording a new album. Robinson recalled, "She just kind of laughed and said, 'Why would you want to make a record with an old lady like me?' We said, 'Because it's you, and you have a lot to share.'"
The conversations continued when the two Dualtone executives were invited to the Cash home in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tenn. "It was one of those three or four hour afternoon gatherings at their house," Robinson said. "She was getting to know us and we were getting to know her. Suddenly, her whole life was being unveiled to us. After this beautiful lunch she said, 'If I make a record for you, would you be interested in hearing some songs I'm thinking about for this project?'"
After pulling out an autoharp and strumming some Carter Family songs, Johnny Cash and manager Lou Robin entered the room. By the end of the 40-minute performance, her daughter, singer-songwriter Carlene Carter, had joined the couple on acoustic guitar. Robinson's devotion to the project grew even more after spending time with the Cashes at the Carter Family's home in Maces Springs, Va.
"I knew we had something that was bigger than life," Robinson said. "I went back to the office and said, 'Guys, we're sitting on something. I don't care if it sells a thousand units or a million units. This is something that's going to be part of history."
June Carter Cash died unexpectedly on May 15, 2003 after suffering complications from heart surgery. Johnny Cash died Sept. 12, 2003.
"June was so sweet," Robinson said. "I wish I had 20 or 30 years of knowing her, versus 18 months. She was just an amazing person."
In the radio special, June Carter Cash, husband Johnny Cash and son John Carter Cash talk about the songs featured on Wildwood Flower:
Segment 1: Listen now.
Segment 2: Listen now.
Segment 3: Listen now.
Segment 4: Listen now.
Segment 5: Listen now.