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Janette Carter

July 2, 1923 - Jan. 2, 2006

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Janette Carter, photograph by Alan Govenar
The Carter Family (left to right, Sara Carter, Maybelle Carter and A.P. Carter), courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Janette Carter (left), courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Janette Carter, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Janette Carter, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Janette Carter, photograph by Michael G. Stewart

Janette Carter was born in Little Valley, Virginia. She was not quite 4 years old when her parents, A.P. and Sara Carter, and her aunt Maybelle Carter made their first recordings over a shoe store in Bristol, Tennessee. Those sessions on the RCA label are viewed as the beginning of commercial country music.

When she was about 6 years old, Janette Carter began performing with her family as a buck dancer. At 12, she took up the autoharp and began traveling with the family act. She also accompanied her father on song-collecting expeditions to rural homes, where he would write down the words and she would remember the tunes. He later said, “She was my tape recorder.”

In the late 1930s, Janette Carter performed with her family on radio station XERA, whose transmitter was located across the Rio Grande from Del Rio, Texas. After A.P. Carter died in 1960, Janette Carter retired from music and raised her three children. But a few years later, she began performing solo, and in 1974 she began staging shows in her father’s old grocery store. She went on to found the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, which includes a 1,000-seat music shed and a museum in the old store. Among family members who provided support were Maybelle Carter’s daughter June Carter Cash and her husband, country star Johnny Cash. The center holds a festival each August.

Janette Carter directed the center and served as master of ceremonies and performer at the Saturday night shows, often accompanied by her brother Joe. She toured in the United States and abroad, appeared on radio and TV and was recognized as a living musical treasure. But by all accounts she remained an unaffected country woman who called everybody, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, “honey.”

Carter told a Washington Post reporter in 1989 that a visitor to the center had once asked her what she was striving for. “That’s when it hit me,” she said. “I’m not striving for anything. I’ve reached it.”

Bibliography
Harrington, Richard. “Janette Carter Keeps Family’s Spirit Alive.” The Washington Post (June 2003).
Hendrickson, Paul. “The Carters’ Mountain Harmony: Taking Stock at the Family Store.” The Washington Post (August 1989).
RockyMountTelegram.com. “Janette Carter Wins Lifetime Music Award” (June 2005).
Roth, Marcus. “Twists and Twangs: Virginia Plots its Musical Heritage Along a ‘Crooked Road.’” The Washington Post (May 2005).

Watch

Janette Carter interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2005 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

The Carter Fold Band performs at the 2005 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Listen

Janette Carter answers the question 'How did your family make their music?' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter answers the question 'How did you get the Carter Fold building built?' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter answers the question 'How important is keeping traditional music going?' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter answers the question 'How did you get started in the music industry?' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter performs the traditional song 'Amazing Grace,' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter performs her song 'I Wish I Were a Child Again,' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter plays a tune on the autoharp, Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette Carter answers the question 'What was your father's last request?' Arlington, Virginia, 2005, interview by Alan Govenar

Janette & Joe Carter, 'Close Of A Day,' Last of their Kind, 2004, Dualtone Music Group, Inc., 80302-01186-2

Janette & Joe Carter, 'The Poor Orphan Child,' Last of their Kind, 2004, Dualtone Music Group, Inc., 80302-01186-2

Janette & Joe Carter, 'If Only I Were A Child Again,' Last of their Kind, 2004, Dualtone Music Group, Inc., 80302-01186-2

Janette & Joe Carter, 'Little Darlin Pal Of Mine,' Last of their Kind, 2004, Dualtone Music Group, Inc., 80302-01186-2