Small world: Remembering a Johnny Cash concert 25 years ago

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – October 23, 2020

by Columnist Thomas P Blake

Small world: Johnny Cash concert 25 years ago

In early September, our next-door neighbors in Monarch Beach-Jake and Kresta Racker- invited Greta and me and our across-the-street neighbors, Alex and Colleen Torres, for a socially distanced happy hour in the Racker’s backyard. It was a spur-of-the-moment pleasant break for all of us after being isolated from people for months.

The Rackers, along with their son, Ethan—moved in nearly five years ago. They are ideal neighbors, friendly, fun, and considerate—but we had never socialized.

The happy hour conversation turned to Johnny Cash. Whenever the subject of Johnny Cash comes up, I always add my two-cents worth, having worked with Johnny for two years in the 1970s. I also co-produced an album with him.

Destination Victoria Station record album of Johnny Cash train songs

Jake said he saw Johnny Cash in concert only once. Jake remembered that he and his buddy Quinn from Utah saw Johnny perform at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.

I had a vague recollection of seeing Johnny perform at the House of Blues but I wasn’t sure when it was.

After the happy hour gathering, I didn’t think much more about when I had seen Johnny at the House of Blues, until last Friday (October 16,2020), when Jake sent me a text.

His text included a picture of a ticket stub from the February 25, 1996, Johnny Cash House of Blues appearance, which his buddy Quinn had found in a drawer and sent to him. Jake had told Quinn about our Johnny Cash happy hour discussion.


I started to wonder: had I been at that same show? If I had, I probably would have written about it. At that time, I had been a newspaper columnist for less than two years, writing about “Middle Aged and Dating Again” for community newspapers owned by The Orange County Register, including the Dana Point News.

I had boxes of old columns in the garage. I found a manilla envelope from 1996. I started leafing through the articles and was thrilled to find the 89th column I had written, dated March 14, 1996, titled, “Dream of a date includes an evening enjoying the music of Johnny Cash.”

(Today’s column is number 4,143—give or take a hundred).

So, I had been to the same concert that Jake and Quinn had been to nearly a quarter-century before. The article stated that it was the 31st Johnny Cash concert I had attended.

The article also stated: “This was a special night for Johnny. At midnight, he turned 64. Earlier in the day, he and his wife became grandparents together for the first time.”

And this: Johnny mentioned at the start of the show, “Later, we’ve got a surprise for you.” The surprise: “Tom Petty and two members of the Heartbreakers joined Johnny. That’s like putting a supercharger on an old Chevy.”

I printed out a copy of the article and placed it on Jake’s front-door mat. He emailed a copy to Quinn in Utah. An hour later, Jake stopped by and said the article helped him and Quinn “fill in the details” they had forgotten about the concert. Facts such as The Freewheelers were the opening band and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were also there.

The Racker family has lived next door for five years. It took Jake and me that long to discover we both enjoyed the same special night at the House of Blues 24 years before.

Jake and Kresta framed the copy of the article I gave them along with the ticket stub and presented it to Greta and me as a remembrance.

Framed article from March 14, 1996 with concert ticket stub – now on our living room wall

The world is indeed small–even in the neighbors’ backyard.

Author: Tom Blake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published five books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at

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