Looking for a home steeped in Nashville’s soul and musical roots? The former home of June Carter Cash and Carl Smith is now on the market for $3.5 million!
Honored with a listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the estate was the playground and backdrop to Nashville’s true music legends. The architectural details include century-old pegboard heart of pine wood floors, a wood-burning fireplace and oversized windows connecting the cozy interior to the abundant nature outside.
The kitchen was the center of the home by design and once host to the likes of Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Faron Young, Kris Kristofferson, Red West, Roland White and many others. Upstairs are rooms where Smith, Carter, Cash, Cline and even Presley slept.
This 1925 structure figures greatly into the history of Nashville and Tennessee itself. The home is located on a secluded parcel of land in Madison, which is located approximately eight miles northeast of downtown Nashville. The town began as a result of improvements made to an old Bison Trail. Early resident Jonathan Taylor, a farmer with a large estate valued at $10,000 on the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, settled the land where the current house sits.
Later, Taylor’s descendant, prominent businessman J. Taylor Stratton, who was also a descendant of well-known community figure Madison Stratton, Madison’s namesake, acquired a portion of the property and established a home place. In 1925 the house was built on the land for one of his descendants, but within a couple of decades, the house would forever become associated with the country music industry.
James “Jim” Denny and his predecessor Jack Strapp were responsible for updating the face of The WSM Barn Dance, a country music show that first started as the regular Saturday night broadcast over Nashville’s WSM radio station in 1925. This radio show later became known as the Grand Ole Opry and promoted “down-home music” over its 1000-watt signal. Denny and Strapp transformed the Opry from a barn dance to a showcase of country superstars, including Carl Smith, who in 1951 released “Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way,” which hit number one on the Billboard country and western music charts.
Denny bought the house on June 18, 1952, from Comer Newburry. Just a week after acquiring the property, Denny sold it to Carl Smith for $10. This “business transaction” was the start of Denny and Smith’s relationship, and the two became close friends and business partners.
Denny had a reputation as an aggressive businessman, and the house sale was in keeping with Denny’s management pattern. He cultivated a strong relationship with the young country music stars he managed and kept his Opry talent close to Nashville. Two weeks after Smith acquired the house, Billboard reported that Smith married his Opry co-star June Carter, of Carter family fame, on July 9, 1952.
By that time Carter had become a popular performer, making Smith and Carter the “it couple” of Nashville. The acquisition of the home appeared in Billboard, with the headline “Carl Smith and his wife, June Carter, have purchased a small farm in Madison, Tenn.”
Carter’s marriage to Smith did not last because Smith had other expectations for her.
“Carl may have wanted a more stay-at-home wife, someone who was not in the limelight as much as he was,” Carter’s son, John Carter Cash, later wrote.
Carter learned that Smith was seeing Goldie Hill, another country musician on the side, prior to the birth of their daughter Carlene. According to the bill for divorce, “[in the] early part of the year 1955 the parties separated, the defendant (Smith) leaving the home of the parties, and on occasion his whereabouts were not known to this complainant (Carter) for a period of several days.”
Carter stated in their divorce proceedings that during their married life she “suffered the most extreme mental cruelty as the result of the conduct of the defendant.”
Though the two had separated and Smith had been living elsewhere for months, they welcomed daughter Rebecca Carlene Smith in September of 1955. As divorce was imminent, Smith deeded the property to June in early 1956 before he moved to Hollywood. Their split was publicized in newspapers and magazines across the country, and the divorce was finalized in January of 1957.
After her divorce to Smith, “[June] would sometimes let Elvis stay at the house to ‘rest’ after the tour.” Carter also let fellow country musician and Opry co-star Patsy Cline stay with her at the house, as the two became good friends during this time. This was the start of the home becoming a retreat for country music musicians.
Carter married local racecar driver Edwin “Rip” Nix on Nov. 11, 1957. Nix moved into the Madison home, using the barn as a garage for his car. June welcomed her second daughter, Rosie, eight months later on July 13, 1958. The home became a place where Carter grew enormously as a person, mother and artist. Nix and Carter’s marriage began to dissolve as June’s relationship, and her love for Johnny Cash developed.
Carter and Merle Kilgore wrote the song “Ring of Fire” in the kitchen of this home in 1963. Several years later, in 1968, she married Cash, who had recorded “Ring of Fire” and made it a hit.
June’s mother Maybelle Carter moved into the house with her husband in 1971 and remained there until her death in 1978. It was during this time that she recorded “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their Grammy Award winning 1972 album by the same name.
After Maybelle’s passing and into the 1980s, the farm was used for “pickin’ parties” where friends and country musicians played impromptu performances, often after Opry shows. Hee Haw star Roni Stoneman remembered the “pickin’ parties” that were held at the barn on the property. These events, attended by country musicians like Emmylou Harris, Peter Rowan, Roland White and Marty Stuart enabled the bucolic farm to have continued association with country music history, functioning as a gathering place for those in the industry.
Carlene Carter became the sole owner in 1994 and lived here until 2001. On Nov. 25, 2016, the Metropolitan (Nashville) Historic Zoning Commission designated Smith-Carter House as a Historic Landmark District, which provides the highest level of local protection from inappropriate alterations or demolition on the property.
In being declared a place of national historic significance, it was noted that This property is the best property to be listed for association with June Carter as it was the site where she lived when she made her own significant contributions to country music, independent of her involvement with the Carter family’s career and fame. This house was where she matured and developed as a songwriter and an iconic female country music artist. Among the songs she wrote at this house was “Ring of Fire,” which played a major role in her eventual husband’s career and significance in country music. The only other property associated with the significant contributions of Carter’s career was the Cashs’ Hendersonville home, where they lived from their marriage in 1968 until their deaths, but that home was destroyed by fire in 2007.”
Note: The sale of the Smith-Carter Estate is being managed by Michael Jezewski, who can be reached at 615-669-2541.
Header Photo credit: Michael Jezewski