While everyone laid their eyes on the fairytale love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter, many have forgotten that Carter was not Cash’s first love interest. Cash had earlier tied the knot with his first love and first wife, Vivian Liberto.
Unknown to many, Liberto quietly raised Cash’s four daughters, Rosanne, Kathy, Tara, and Cindy. But, with the product of Cash and Liberto’s love, what went wrong with their love affair?
Johnny Cash & Vivian Liberto’s Love Song
Three years after exchanging letters with each other (while Cash was in the military and stationed in Germany), Johnny and Vivian decided to tie the knot. On August 7, 1954, the two got married, and their journey to a happy-ever-after started. The couple was blessed with four daughters.
However, things did not go well. In 1966, Vivian filed for a divorce after her 12-year long marriage with Johnny. She then hid from the eyes of the public, where she and her daughters lived in simplicity and out of fame. Johnny, on the other hand, continued with his career in country music where he became an icon and a household name.
Unfortunately, he passed away in 2003, and two years later, she did. For many years, their love story has not been widely talked about and somewhat buried.
During her last years, Vivian came up with and co-authored a book, which she titled I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny. It served as her autobiography and memoir that was posthumously published. It details and describes the pressures of her marriage and bittersweet memories with the country music artist.
Vivian Liberto Shares Her Side of the Story
For years, Vivian’s romantic relationship with Johnny was hidden to the public. Little was known about their marriage, especially their divorce. With her book, she opened up and talked about her side of the story.
Vivian pointed out two main things that ruined their marriage – drugs and June Carter. She even reiterated that June was more of the reason than the drugs. Everything started to fall apart when Johnny got the most out of control with drugs and alcohol. Worse, he even got arrested and set a forest fire by accident. But, above all, it was really June who was Vivian’s main concern and worry. During that time, Johnny was on the road and June was with him most of the time. In the book, Vivian even reveals that the portrayal of Johnny and June in the movie Walk the Line is all wrong. According to her, it was actually June who pursued Johnny, not the other way around.
Also, she even refers to June as the woman who was a danger to my family. Further, Vivian claims that June supported Johnny’s addiction. June would give him drugs, and she was actually believed to be an addict as well.
Even though Vivian made such claims, her friends say that she remained a lady and was not hostile toward June in the book.
While most parts of the book show that June and drugs as the main reasons of their failed marriage, Vivian also cited ten things that you may not have known about her marriage with the Man in Black.
10 Things to Know About Johnny Cash’s Marriage with Vivian Liberto
1. Their love story started in Texas.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Vivian Dorraine Liberto met Johnny Cash at a roller-skating rink when she was just 17 years old and he was 19.
2. They got married after only three weeks of dating.
After a series of dating and seeing each other, Cash immediately proposed to the young Vivian and she unhesitatingly answered.
3. Love letters kept their relationship alive for quite some years.
Vivian compiled all the love letters he had received from Cash while he was serving as an Air Force serviceman in Germany. She then included these in her book.
4. Vivian was a dedicated homemaker.
A privacy seeker, she focused on looking after her children and household while Cash concentrate on his budding music career in the 1950s. This is why she never toured with him.
5. A rare photo of Cash and Liberto circulated raising speculations that she could have been black.
Although she is of Italian descent, Liberto looked like a black woman in some photographs. This raised issues about racism igniting a major controversy and harassment.
6. The couple received death threats.
These death threats sprang out of racism from white supremacist groups. Liberto considered this as one of the most difficult times during their marriage.
7. Liberto remarried after the failed marriage.
While Cash found a new love interest in the person of June Carter, Liberto also moved on when she married police officer Dick Distin in 1968. She left her home in California to share a new home with Distin.
8. Liberto was more than just a homemaker.
Aside from being Cash’s first wife, Liberto was an active participant in her local community following her divorce. She led her garden club as the president and then volunteered at the hospital and the local unwed mothers home.
9. Liberto and Cash stayed as friends until the end.
Following their divorce, their relationship was not all bitter. They were still on speaking terms even though they got separated. After June Carter’s death in 2003, Liberto visited Cash and talked about her book that reflected on their lives.
10. Vivian Liberto always loved Johnny Cash until the end.
As she stated in her book, Liberto always wondered what it would be like to have continued her marriage with Cash. For all of her life, she never stopped loving him and still always thought of him as the husband he once was.