''When I grow up,'' June Carter Cash said at age 12, ''I'm going to dine with queens.'' But as one of country music's blue bloods, Carter Cash, who died May 15 at 73 of complications after heart surgery, visited with royalty every time she sat down alone. The wife and musical partner of Johnny Cash and the daughter of the pioneering Carter Family's Maybelle Carter, she sang in an unvarnished voice, accompanying herself on Autoharp. She served as a link from the bedrock of the genre's history to its most respected modern practitioners, largely through her husband, daughter Carlene Carter (by first husband Carl Smith), stepdaughter Rosanne Cash, and former sons-in-law Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, and Marty Stuart. ''She was born into the best and stayed with the best throughout her whole life,'' says Stuart, citing her friendships with Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and James Dean. The three-time Grammy winner, born Valerie June Carter in Maces Spring, Va., began performing on national radio with her mother and sisters Helen and Anita at 10. She was an actress, author, and songwriter, penning Cash's classic 1963 hit ''Ring of Fire'' with Merle Kilgore, who recalls her nurturing personality: ''She was everybody's rock.'' She is survived by her husband, two daughters, four stepdaughters, and son John Carter Cash, who produced her just-finished Wildwood Flower (September). ''God has truly blessed me,'' she said in 1999. ''I have enjoyed being as big a part as I wanted of every change that came along.'' -- Alanna Nash
Press On (Dualtone) Her first solo album in nearly 25 years, this recently reissued 1999 effort blends the traditional songs of her youth with classics, including a remake of ''Ring of Fire.''
Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music (Simon & Schuster), by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. The definitive Carter Family history.