A Tweet from Rosanne Cash

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter (special edition)

September 24, 2022

By Columnist Tom Blake

Picture of Johnny Cash and a future king together (photo courtesy of Rosanne Cash) below

Johnny Cash with Prince Charles (photo courtesy of Rosanne Cash)

Our Champ Andrew emailed on Tuesday a “heads up” of a Twitter post by Rosanne Cash, the youngest daughter of Johnny Cash. Andrew didn’t know if I had seen the @rosannecash post. I hadn’t and really appreciate him sending it to me. 

I have known Rosanne for 46 years and Greta and I try to see her in concert when she performs within an hour or two from our home. Rosanne is in the Country Music Hall of Fame (along with her dad) and is extremely talented and intelligent. Here’s what her Twitter post stated (keep in mind, this was the day after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral):

“I’ve been debating all day whether or not to post this photo, but it’s just too good to keep it under wraps. I expect a lot of captions, but none I haven’t thought of already. But go right ahead.” 

I decided to provide a caption that I can guarantee neither Rosanne nor any of her 103,000 likes followers thought of. As a co-producer of Johnny’s album of train songs, “Destination Victoria Station,” I came up with this caption:

Tom Blake


Replying to @rosannecash

“Johnny wrote a song titled “Destination Victoria Station,” about the Victoria Station train station in London. Album is the same name. JRC nailed it. The other guy in the photo passed through the Victoria Station train station but was probably lost. John is giving him directions!”

The other guy in the picture is King Charles III in his much younger days. 

Destination Victoria Station record album by Johnny Cash
Reunion with Rosanne Cash. Pam Peters (Tom’s sister) Christine Blake (Tom’s sister), Rosanne Cash, Tom, Greta after Rosanne performed in Poway, California in March, 2020

Live at the Ryman

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter

By Tom P. Blake – columnist

August 26, 2022


Man In Black by Johnny Cash autographed to Tom Blake on Aug 15, 1975

In September 2019, when Ken Burns’ eight-part film series “Country Music” premiered on PBS, my partner Greta and I watched the series in two-hour segments. We loved it. After that, we started watching more country music programs on YouTube.

This Monday night, I turned on YouTube music while working on a Sudoku puzzle before going to sleep. YouTube music often presents us with a choice of country music selections based on our previous viewings.

I noticed Monday that “Country Music. Live at the Ryman,” was on and featured many of my favorite country music stars. I thought perhaps it was a segment from the 2019 “Country Music” series, but it wasn’t. It was a two-hour show, also produced by Ken Burns, that promoted the release of the upcoming 16-hour “Country Music” series.

“Live at the Ryman” was released in March 2019 and filmed at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, which was home to the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years until the Opry was relocated a few miles away in March 1974. Greta and I took a tour of the Ryman in 2017.

That Ryman tour touched me deeply as my friends Johnny and June Carter Cash, on March 15, 1974, sang the final Opry song at the Ryman, which was “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” (Made popular by the Carter Family and others).

Many of you know that I worked with Johnny in 1975 and 1976 when I was the director of Marketing for the Victoria Station Restaurant Chain (restaurants were built of boxcars and cabooses–Johnny loved trains). Johnny agreed to do our radio commercials.

On the night that his band recorded the music for our commercials at the House of Cash recording studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., Johnny invited some of his friends to play along with the band. Band members included Carl Perkins (Blue Suede Shoes), Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers, Earl “Pool” Ball (piano), W.S. Holland (drums), and Marshall Grant (bass). I think Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell were there as well. I got to meet them all.

While watching “Live at the Ryman” on Monday night, I started to feel a little nostalgic. Especially when Larry Gatlin sang my favorite Johnny Cash song, “Sunday Morning Coming Down (written by Kris Kristofferson). Once, at the Sahara Resort in Lake Tahoe, Johnny asked me before the show what my favorite song of his was. He opened the show by dedicating that song to me before an audience of 2,000 people.

I have remained friends with Rosanne Cash. When Rosanne sang on the show, “I Still Miss Someone,” a song her dad, Johnny, wrote for her, it was a real grabber for me.

Marty Stuart was on the show. He had played guitar for Johnny and was married to Cindy Cash, Rosanne’s sister for a while.

Seeing Vince Gill playing guitar on nearly every song, regardless of the artist singing was indicative of his versatility and talent. Gil has been a regular at the Grand Ole Opry for years.

When Greta and I were having a private VIP backstage tour at Opryland in 2017, we walked past Gill’s dressing room. He was there receiving lots of visitors, so we did not get to meet him. Our tour had been set up by Johnny’s long-time manager and dear friend of mine, Lou Robin, who was still overseeing Johnny’s royalties, 24 years after Johnny had passed away.

I got to know the Carter family well. Mother Maybelle was a sweetheart, and June’s sisters, Helen and Anita were always nice to me. Mother Maybelle played an instrument called The Carter Scratch. Her best-known song is “Wildwood Flower.”

Anita Carter, June’s sister, had one of the purest women’s voices in the history of country music. Her singing of the song “Peace In The Valley” was breathtaking. Anita’s husband, Bob Wootton, and I became buddies during the two years.

When “Live At The Ryman” ended with the entire cast returning to the stage, and singing, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” I nearly lost it. Rosanne was front and center and she and Dwight Yoakam were having fun up there together. Ken Burns was even on stage singing. I thought to myself, how fortunate I have been to have known so many of these talented people.

By the way, I was so captivated that I didn’t make one entry in the Sudoku puzzle!

In 2015, I published an eBook on Smashwords.com, titled, “The Johnny Cash I Knew. A Kind and Caring Man.” The 64-page book details my time spent with Johnny and June. It’s $2.99. I think you’d enjoy it. The link is below. Once it opens, type the book’s title in the search box.

Link: www.smashwords.com

As I often do, I include an appropriate song in my articles. There were many from which to choose but I think this version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is exceptional, as many country music people are featured. Johnny opens the video. Watch for the picture of June Carter Cash near the end.

Link to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”

History of Country Music September 2019

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter September 27, 2019

by Columnist Tom Blake

   History of Country Music September 2019

When I first met Greta, one thing we did not have in common was a love of country music. I got hooked on it initially after seeing a Johnny Cash concert at Madison Square Garden in 1969. And, when Western Swing and Outlaw Country arrived in the early 1970s with the likes of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, I became a country music fan.

Greta, on the other hand, was busy raising four children as a single mom, teaching full time and attending graduate school at night. She didn’t have time or an interest in acquiring a taste for country music, although she admits to watching some of the country shows on TV, such as The Johnny Cash Show.

After 21 years together, my affection for country music has rubbed off on her. Slowly, Greta’s accepted most of it, just not the twangy, honky-tonk sound. Her meeting Rosanne Cash in person piqued her interest in the genre.

Greta, Rosanne and Tom – 2018

For my birthday one year, she got us tickets for a Kris Kristofferson solo performance in Los Angeles. I’ve dragged her to about six Alan Jackson concerts, a man I refer to as “The Dude.”

And I was quite surprised when she agreed to spend the night of October 20, 2015, at the San Manuel Casino so we could catch Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson in concert together there.

Kristofferson had written “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” one of my favorite songs; I will explain why a bit later. That night, he and Haggard performed it together. I captured this photo from the video I took of them while playing that song:

Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson performing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” Oct. 20, 2015, at the San Manuel Casino

Greta is a supporter of PBS. So, when she read in her PBS mail that Ken Burns, was directing an eight-episode, 16-hour documentary titled “Country Music,” this September, she wanted us to watch it together. One episode at a time.

Burns has directed many highly regarded documentaries including, “The Vietnam War,” “Jackie Robinson,” “The Dust Bowl,” “The Civil War,” and “The National Parks.”  We knew “Country Music” was going to be entertaining and informative because Burns is so thorough and professional.

In “Country Music,” Greta and I have been blown away with what Ken Burns has created. The music, the old black and white footage, the interviews, have all been spectacular. We’ve both learned a great deal about the history of country music and of our country.

Of course, in the series, we are reminded why Nashville is called “Music City USA,” home of the original Grand Ole Opry in the Ryman Auditorium, with footage of numerous performances there. Three years ago, we spent a week in Nashville and Memphis with my brother and his wife, including a visit to the Ryman, and a Saturday night show at the new Grand Ole Opry, on the outskirts of Nashville.

Series one in Burns’ documentary is called “The Rub.” It features the history of the banjo and fiddle and talked about the importance of the introduction of the radio in the 1920s.

Each series advances time wise across history. Burns uses musicians—not scholars or record-company executives—as spokespeople explaining the history of country music.

Actor Peter Coyote is the show’s main narrator. However, musicians who also share their thoughts are Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Rosanne Cash, Willie Nelson, Larry Gatlin, Dolly Pardon, Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, and Wynton Marsalis, to name a few.

For me, this PBS series hits home. In 1975, as the marketing director for Victoria Station, the railroad-themed, restaurant chain, I hired a boutique advertising agency in San Francisco called Pritikin and Gibbons, the last names of the agency’s two founders, Bob Pritikin and Jerry Gibbons.  They had done creative ads for “Marine World Africa USA” and Chevrolet (“The Chevy Man Can.”)

I remember distinctly the day Victoria Station’s top executives were summoned to the P and G office, located in a converted mansion on Sacramento Street for a “Creative Unveiling” presentation and luncheon. They wheeled out a reel-to-reel tape player and said, “On this tape, you will recognize the voice of the person we recommend hiring as your company spokesperson to sing your radio commercials; it will be a challenge to sign him.”

They played Johnny Cash. I about fell over. It was six years after hearing him perform at Madison Square Garden. As we left the building, Victoria Station president Dick Bradley said to me, “Make it happen, as soon as possible.” (In other words, get Johnny Cash hired).

That began a two-year association with The Man in Black and June Carter Cash and the Carter family.

Rosey Nix in car, June, John Jr., Johnny and Tom at the Miami Victoria Station parking lot the morning after first meeting them in 1975

As Greta and I have watched these “Country Music” episodes, so often featuring Johnny, his daughter Rosanne, June and the Carter family, I pinch myself and say, “Did this really happen to me?” “Did I become friends with Johnny and June?” “Did I co-produce a record album with Johnny?” “Did I actually go inside the walls of San Quentin Prison with Johnny and his band?” The answer to each: Yes, although it seems like a dream.

A few months after Johnny became the Victoria Station spokesperson, he and June invited several VS executives to be their guests at a dual-concert event at the Sahara Tahoe Resort and Casino in Lake Tahoe. Between concerts, 17 of us went back stage so I could introduce them to John and June.

Johnny said to me privately, “What’s your favorite song of mine?”

I said, “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” In the second show, he said, in front of a large audience, “Hello Tom Blake, this song is for you.” And he played it.

June Carter Cash with Tom in 1975 At the Sahara Tahoe Resort Hotel at Lake Tahoe when the Cashes hosted Victoria Station executives at a brunch the morning after the concerts we all attended. 

One day, Johnny asked me if Victoria Station would sponsor an album of train songs. We agreed. So, on August 15, 1975, I returned to Hendersonville, Tennessee, to the House of Cash recording studio, where we had recorded the radio commercials with him, to work with him on what songs would go on the album. It was my job to select the songs. He wrote the title song, “Destination Victoria Station.”


The album, Destination Victoria Station, still in its original clear cellophane wrapper, that Tom co-produced with Johnny (Trust me, Johnny did all of the work). 50,000 albums were pressed.

Johnny had just published his book, “Man In Black.” After the recording session, I asked him to sign copies of his book for a few of the Victoria Station people.

Johnny signed his Man In Black 1975 book to me on August 15, 1975, at this recording studio

After the Johnny Cash/Victoria Station association ended, I kept in touch with him.

  Tom, Johnny and Tom’s sister Pam, in San Diego at Humphrey’s by the Bay in the late 1980s

I feel the most noted biography in the entire series of eight is that of Johnny (OK, a bit biased here). The observations of Rosanne about her dad are precious. In the final episode , Rosanne sings a memorial at the Ryman Auditorium to her dad called, “I Still Miss Someone,” which I heard Johnny sing in person a dozen times. It could bring a tear to your eye.

Burns must have been preparing this documentary for years. He was able to include Merle Haggard as a spokesperson prior to Haggard’s April 6, 2016, passing. Haggard, was a huge contributor to the “The Bakersfield (California) Sound,” an offshoot from the music of Nashville. He and Buck Owens were the two most successful “Bakersfield Sound” musicians.

In episode six of “Country Music,” Kristofferson talked about writing “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” It sure brought back memories for me.

Seniors often ask for suggestions on what they can do for inexpensive entertainment. One idea is to have a “Country Music” party on eight different nights, and, invite friends to come watch this fascinating series on home TV. The sessions are archived on PBS. The shows can also be streamed online.

If you decide to watch “Country Music,” be forewarned if you aren’t a country music fan. You’re probably going to become one.

Link to PBS https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music

Update to above posted October 3, 2019

Country Music Final Comments

 The Ken Burns “Country Music” 8-part series on PBS, and, the responses from Champs affected me in many ways I did not anticipate. Here are two examples:

1 The John Denver lookalike comments

Champ Mary Lou emailed, “Oh my gosh Tom you outdid yourself with last week’s “Country Music” eNewsletter. Also, you looked so much like John Denver in your younger days. It’s uncanny in the photo with you in those (ahem) plaid bell bottom pants.

“I loved John Denver from the minute I heard his voice on the radio, and was so very, very sad when he died. Not the true country performer, I suppose, but such a beautiful soul.”

Reply to Mary Lou: Yes, I did resemble John Denver in the 1970s. Many people would tell me that when I first met them.

tom and jrc abook cover photo

 Tom and Johnny Cash 1975 at Victoria Station Newport Beach California

I think it was mainly due to my eyeglass frames being similar to the ones he wore. And I did meet him, which I suppose, is worth a paragraph or two.

After Bob Freeman (Victoria Station co-founder with Dick Bradley and Peter Lee) and I attended the San Quentin Prison concert with Johnny Cash, outside in the prison’s parking lot, Johnny’s agent, Marty Klein, invited Freeman and me to go to Folsom Prison for an afternoon concert that same day. Both Bob and I had plans and couldn’t go, it was a two-hour drive. (Not going to Folsom, by the way, was one of the biggest regrets of my life).

And then Klein invited us to attend a television-special taping (not a live show) the next day at the NBC studios in Burbank (Los Angeles). Johnny was appearing with Glen Campbell, Roger Miller, Mary Kay Place and host John Denver. I told Klein I’d be there.

Susan, my girlfriend at the time, and I flew to Burbank, rented a car, and drove to the studios. We had to pass through a security gate in the car. The guard looked at me and said, “Pass right on through Mr. Denver.” Susan teased me big time about that.

In the waiting room, we mingled with about 200 other members of the audience. Two people, thinking I was John Denver,  asked for my autograph. Susan insisted I sign them, which I did: “Bill Denver, John’s brother.”

At the six-hour taping, Susan and I sat with Rosanne Cash in the front row. Afterwards, Rosanne took us to her dad’s dressing room. Johnny was highly respected by his piers; the other entertainers stopped in to visit him.

Denver brought his parents to meet Johnny. Klein introduced us to Denver, saying I was his lookalike.

Denver extended his hand saying, “Far out.” Then, he stepped back a couple of feet, stared at me, and repeated, “Far out.” Then, he stood six inches from my face and said it a third time.

I was composed enough to tell him I’d like to be his stand-in for the upcoming movie Oh, God! that he was in with George Burns. He said he thought the role had been filled but he’d call me if it wasn’t too late. He never called. There went my film career.

Denver died October 12, 1997, in a private plane he was piloting in Monterrey Bay, south of San Francisco. As Mary Ann stated above, it was very, very sad. I hadn’t met Greta yet. After we were together for a short time, I related the above story to her. She had seen Denver, waiting for his luggage at a baggage carousel, in Honolulu. She was equally saddened when he died.

2 The history of Country Music

Greta and I watched episode 8, the final episode of the Ken Burns “Country Music” series, Saturday night. When the credits appeared, the last song of the entire series began. Again, I was amazed at the coincidence for me.

Just six eNewsletters ago, August 23, I wrote about the Irish singer in a pub we visited in Waterford, Ireland, who sang a song and asked if anyone in the bar could identify the song and who sang it. I blurted out, “Wildwood Flower” by the Carter Family. I hadn’t heard that song in 25 years.

The singer asked later how I knew that. I explained to him that I heard Mother Maybelle Carter sing it several times in person.

So, you bet, the Ken Burns “Country Music” series struck a chord with me. It made me realize how blessed I’ve been in my life.

Part 2 – The Sound of My Voice

I don’t want to confuse the above Ken Burns documentary music message with another documentary music message. But, on Wednesday afternoon, Greta and I went to the movie about Linda Ronstadt’s life and career, titled “The Sound of My Voice.”

Oh my gosh, an incredible movie. I had no idea she was so talented and versatile. She can’t perform now, as she has Parkinson’s Disease. But this movie is highly recommended. The music is lights out. Do you remember the song, “Different Drum,” when she was a member of the Stone Ponies? I sure do.

An Evening with Rosanne Cash

                          On Life and Love after 50 e-Newsletter –  February 8, 2019

by Columnist Tom Blake

There are two parts to today’s e-Newsletter

Part 1 –  An Evening With Rosanne Cash

Seniors often ask for suggestions on where to go when they’d like a little variety in their routines. For our southern California Champs, I can now recommend the magnificent Chapman University MUSCO Center for the Arts, in Orange, California. Most Champs in other parts of the country have similar venues they can visit.

Greta and I had a senior date night there last Saturday (February 2). It was to see Rosanne Cash in concert. Why Rosanne?

When I first met Rosanne Cash, the oldest daughter of Johnny Cash, she was 21. I was the Director of Marketing for Victoria Station restaurant chain, that specialized in prime rib; most of our restaurants were constructed of boxcars and cabooses.

Victoria Station had hired Johnny to sing train-themed radio commercials and it was my job to work with him to ensure the company’s association with him went well.

In January, 1976, I attended a TV taping of a country music show at the NBC studios in Burbank, California, that featured Rosanne’s dad Johnny, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Roger Miller and Mary Kay Place.

At that five-hour taping, Rosanne and I sat together in the front row; we became friends and have remained in contact—albeit sporadically–since then.

I’ve watched in admiration as she has matured into an incredible, prolific, composer and musician. I’ve observed her emerge from under her famous father’s coattails, and, become established on her own merit.

Her music isn’t solely country, it’s called Americana, which includes pop, rock, blues and folk. Rosanne’s career took off with a 1981 title track song and album called “Seven Year Ache.” She has released 15 albums.

In 2015, she won three Grammy awards for best Americana album, “The River & the Thread.”

Rosanne has had 11 songs that reached number one on the country music charts. She has published four books, her most noteworthy, a 2010 memoir, titled, “Composed.”

Last Saturday, February 2, Greta and I attended an evening concert at the magnificent Chapman University, MUSCO Center for the Arts, where Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, performed as a duet. She said the MUSCO has the finest acoustics of any venue in which she’s performed in California.

A guy in the audience yelled out, “That’s what Vince Gill said.” She smiled and said, tongue-in-cheek, “Vince is always copying me.” That brought a big laugh from the audience.

Rosanne sang a breathtaking version of the 1967 Bobbie Gentry song, “Ode to Billie Joe, from Rosanne’s “The River & the Thread,” album, and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “The Long Black Veil,” from The List album, which was based on a hand-written list of 100 greatest American songs her dad gave her when she was 18. She mentioned she still has that list.

She featured songs from her just-released album, “She Remembers Everything,” saying with emotion in her voice, “This is a deeply personal collection of songs for me.”

At the end of the two-hour concert, after playing Seven Year Ache (see link below), Cash and Leventhal received a two-minute standing ovation.

After the second encore song, “Tennessee Flattop Box,” Greta and I went backstage and were able to spend a few minutes talking with her.

When she noticed us, I held up a copy of my 2006 memoir, Boxcars and Prime Rib. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station? and said, “Remember this?”

 Front Cover: Prime Rib & Boxcars. Whatever Happened to Victoria Station?

“How could I forget?” Rosanne said, “That’s you and Dad on the cover. Didn’t I endorse the back cover?”

I showed her the back cover with her quote.

Back cover of Tom’s book with endorsement by Rosanne Cash (and Bill Walsh and Lynn Swann)

In a bit of an unusual twist, I had her sign the inside front cover of my book, which she did, writing, “To Tom and Greta, with love, Rosanne Cash.”

She said, “I remember you posted the book and my dad’s radio commercials on your Victoria Station ( http://www.VicSta.com ) website.”

I said, “Yup. When you click on the link, after about 5 seconds, you hear Johnny singing our commercials. He sounds as good as ever.”  Note from Tom: If you want to hear Johnny singing the commercials, avoid using the Google Chrome browser (a recent update by them muted the sound). Any other browser works well such as Microsoft Edge.)

I told Rosanne how proud I am of her, and how amazingly talented she’s become. She seemed to appreciate those words, from a friend of her dad’s, whom she’s known for 43 years.

Greta, Rosanne Cash, and Tom on February 2, 2019

It was a special “date-night-out” evening for Greta and me.

Link to Rosanne Cash singing Seven Year Ache:


This article appeared in the San Clemente Times Newspaper on February 14, 2019 and the Dana Point Times on February 22, 2019

San Clemente Times newspaper


Dana Point Times article on Rosanne Cash


                             Part 2 – New Facebook Page: “Tom Blake Publishing.”

Some Champs have said they’d like to read the e-Newsletter on Facebook so they can comment and interact with other Champs. So, I’ve created a new page just for that purpose. Hopefully, today’s e-Newsletter will be the first one posted. The Facebook page is titled “Tom Blake Publishing.” When you get a chance, check it out. This is not a closed page, anyone can post comments (at least for now) but not post photos. We will see how it goes.