Johnny Cash Once Considered Pasco Home
Johnny Cash had a wide circle of friends in Pasco County and enjoyed fishing and boating on the Cotee River and Gulf waters.
Nestled on the south bank of the Pithlachascotee River on Sunset Boulevard in Port Richey, just east of Oelsner Mound, is a quaint little bungalow home built around 1915.
This historic little home overlooks a most picturesque spot in the Cotee River, but it’s much more then the age of this structure that makes it important to our local history-- it’s the past owners.
This home was once owned by some of the most notable performers of country music-- Johnny Cash and June Carter.
County records show on February 18, 1966 the home was acquired by June’s parents Ezra J. and Maybelle Addington Carter. They purchased the home from widow Kittie C. Sheets and, on February 22, 1966, entered into a mortgage agreement with her for $6,000.
The Carters were famous in their own right. Maybelle was a well-known musician from the 1920s and, early in her career, performed with her brother Hugh Jack Addington and Carl Patton McConnell, her cousin.
After her marriage to Ezra in 1927, she joined brother-in-law Alvin Pleasant Carter and his wife Sara Dougherty Carter, her cousin, in forming the historic Carter Family singing act.
In the early 1950s, “Mother” Maybelle Carter became a well respected member of the Grand Ole Opry community and was widely accepted as the matriarch of country music.
Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Maybelle and her daughters toured the country as "Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters" but after the death of A. P. Carter in 1960 the group revived the old name "The Carter Family.”
In 1956, June Carter and Johnny Cash met when they were both part of the Opry Company and in the mid 1960s began performing together as a duo.
They were married on March 1, 1968, at a church in Franklin, Kentucky.
The Carters frequently toured with Johnny Cash, and became regular performers on his weekly network variety show from 1969-71.
Cash's Ties to Pasco
Cash's ties to the community started shortly after the Carter’s purchased the waterfront home in 1966, when he would come to visit June and the family.
Here, Cash often traded his normal black attire for a good ol’ white t-shirt, claiming it was “too hot” to wear black.
And fishing in the Florida sun was a favorite way for him to pass the time. It wasn’t uncommon to see him around Korman’s Landing or out on the docks in front of the Carter’s riverfront home.
According to the recollection of Jo Korman, “"He would buy shrimp, squid and mullet (for bait) and head off in his boat-- later you'd see him on the deck cleaning the fish.”
In his 1998 book Cash: The Autobiography he wrote about Port Richey saying:
Once you're on our little street, on Pop Carter’s front porch with the river right across the pavement from you and your boat bobbing at the dock, waiting to zoom you out into the open waters of the Gulf just a few hundred yards away, all [the other] stuff could be in another country. Here you have the tide, the meeting of freshwater with salt, the seabirds and marsh birds and land birds.
Some even remember the day when Cash’s boat, the “JC”, ran over some shallow rocks and actually sank in the river.
His boat was usually docked in front of the old home where he could slip away, often enough to the Des Little’s stilt house fish camp at the mouth of the river-- one of his frequent fishing spots.
Local Memories of the Man in Black
In a 2002 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Pete Little, Des Little’s son, said, "Johnny was always good to us.” For use of the fish camp, Cash bought Des a Toyota truck.
Little added, "Johnny was always bighearted like that. In his last years, his whole life was dedicated to that area: to family and to God. He was a marvelous man to know.”
It was on the docks around Korman’s Landing where local fisherman Randall Rewis first met Johnny Cash.
According to Nita Rewis, Randall’s sister, Cash used to frequently visit the Rewis fish camp off Green Key Road. She said “he used to come by just to visit, maybe trade a few fishing stories.”
In 1970, after John Carter Cash was born, June and Johnny’s only child, Nita recalled the day she and her friend Jean Carmack stopped by their house to visit and see the baby.
She said, “he came walking out of the bedroom in a blue jumpsuit and looked a bit scruffy, but didn’t say too much as we visited with June and the baby and had coffee.”
In late April 1971, as Randall’s wife, Katie, lay dying in a hospital bed, she requested to visit with Cash one last time. Within a few days he was there at her bedside with flowers.
In the late 1970s, Cash even offered to give a concert at Gulf High School, the proceeds of which went to the New Port Richey’s police pension fund-- he was always willing to give back to the local community.
After Maybelle Carter’s death in 1978, according to county records, on March 27, 1979 June and Johnny purchased the riverfront home from estate representative Anita Carter Wooten for $49,800.
But they still kept their primary home-- the House of Cash-- in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a little closer to Nashville then Port Richey.
The Old Home is Sold
Pasco’s Gulf Coast remained the Cash family's little get away spot until May 2002, when they sold their local home for $180,000. The sale included all the furnishings, pots, pans, and even a bedroom set.
The two-sided fireplace still bears Johnny’s name on one end, June’s on the other.
Today, there are countless stories of June and Johnny’s days spent here in Pasco, and there were many who considered them friends.
June, Johnny, and the Carters always had a wide circle of friends on Pasco’s west coast. He truly enjoyed the time he and June spent here -- people didn’t bother them and here they didn’t have to act like celebrities.
Writing about their time here, Cash said:
It reminds me a lot of the farmhouses you see in the hotter, more northerly parts of Australia. Unlike there, though, our neighbors are close. Next door is only twenty feet away. That helps us feel less like celebrities, and the people in the neighborhood help in that regard, too. They're friendly, but they allow us our peace and quiet. Strangers knock on the door sometimes, wanting to say hello or get an autograph, but not often enough to bother us.
Editor's note: Be sure to check out Jeff Cannon's stories about Land O' Lakes history.