Johnny Cash said it was difficult to be onstage without his wife, June Carter Cash, during his first public performance since her death. Cash made a surprise appearance Saturday night during the weekl

Johnny Cash said it was difficult to be onstage without his wife, June Carter Cash, during his first public performance since her death. Cash made a surprise appearance Saturday night during the weekly show at the Carter Fold in Hiltons, Va., near Maces Springs -- his late wife's birthplace. She died May 15 at age 73 of complications from heart surgery.

The venue is a musical performance center that strives to preserve the traditional music that the Carter family made famous. The husband and wife last appeared there in June 2002 at a birthday celebration in honor of June.

"I don't know hardly what to say tonight about being up here without her," Cash said, according to the Kingsport Tennessee Times-News. "The pain is so severe there is no way of describing it. It's the biggest ... losing your mate. I guarantee it is the big one. It really hurts."

Cash received standings ovations during the concert after each song. Among the classics he sang were "Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line," and he described performing again as both a pleasure and a painful experience.

Near the end of the performance, he told the audience that it was "a healing thing to come back here to this wonderful place with you," and that June had loved the valley and all the people. "I wish I could share it more, how we felt about each other."


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