Don’t get the wrong idea. My partner of 22 years, Greta, was at my side. And as a special treat to me, so were my sisters Pam and Christine.
The reunion took place at the intimate and wonderful Poway Center for the Performing Arts, located in the quaint city of Poway, California, 23 miles northeast of San Diego, and about an hour’s drive from our home in south Orange County.
And why do I refer to it as a reunion? Because I’ve known this woman for 43 years, met her when she was about 21. Her name is Rosanne Cash, a multi-Grammy Award winner, and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
And if her last name has a familiar ring, it’s because Rosanne is the eldest daughter of the late Johnny Cash. That connection is how I met her.
In the mid-1970s, when I was the marketing director for the boxcar and caboose Victoria Station restaurant chain, I hired Johnny and worked with him for two years. He was our company spokesperson and sang our radio commercials. I also co-produced the Destination Victoria Station record album with Johnny Cash.
Needless to say, on the album, Johnny did 99.9 percent of the work; I just approved the songs that were featured on the album. He did the singing.
In July 1989, my sister Pam and I were photographed with Johnny, at Humphreys by the Bay in San Diego, a cozy concert venue next to the water with a plethora of yachts berthed alongside.
Tom Johnny Cash Pam Blake Peters
July 19, 1989, at Humphreys by the Bay – San Diego
When I published “Middle Aged and Dating Again,” my first book in 1997, Johnny endorsed the back cover with these words:
“In the 20 years I have known Tom Blake, he has become an authority on dating and relationships.”
I’m not sure how Johnny knew that, but I happily accepted his endorsement.
Because my sister Pam was with us last Saturday night, I printed out a copy of that 31-year-old photo of us with Johnny and gave it to Rosanne backstage after the show Saturday night.
Handing the above photo to Rosanne
Minutes later, a new photo was taken of Pam, Chris, Rosanne, me and Greta.
Pam Christine Rosanne Tom Greta
March 7, 2020, Poway Center for the Performing Arts
In the last ten years, Greta and I have seen Rosanne, along with her husband/co-writer/producer and arranger John Leventhal, in concert five times, including last Saturday.
When Leventhal saw us backstage Saturday night, he said, “And who are you guys?” I surmised that Rosanne hadn’t briefed John that the Blake clan would be visiting backstage.
John Leventhal and Tom’s sister Christine
The Poway Center for the Performing Arts is a fun place in which to see a concert. It’s small, 797 seats. The ushers are pleasant, friendly and helpful. Michael Rennie, President and CEO of Poway OnStage, greeted us warmly and was accommodating by leading us backstage after the performance.
Check out their website for upcoming shows: www.PowayOnStage.org. And, unheard of these days, the parking is free!
The audience was mesmerized by Rosanne. Her voice is clear and beautiful. Her stage presence and mannerisms are gentle and polished. Her songs are personal, sang as if she’s telling a story that she experienced.
Leventhal is a master guitar player and joins in on limited vocals. He and Rosanne have been married 25 years. They have fun together on stage. They played without an intermission for 90 minutes.
It’s evident that Rosanne loves the United States; she mentioned unity for our country several times. My sisters were deeply moved by her performance.
She sang “Ode to Billie Joe,” as beautifully as Bobbie Gentry did, when Gentry made it a hit in 1967. At the song’s conclusion, Rosanne said, “That song was recorded 53-years-ago, and people are still trying to figure out what Billie Joe was throwing off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Her comment triggered a huge laugh from the audience.
Rosanne’s rendition of “The Long Black Veil” was spellbinding. She sang “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” which her dad wrote, and she performed “Sea of Heartbreak,” an old Don Gibson tune.
She ended the concert with her 1981 hit song “Seven Year Ache.”
The applause brought she and hubby John back for an encore; she sang “Wayfaring Stranger” from the Ken Burns 2019 Country Music documentary, a tune her father had also made popular.
Add a future Rosanne Cash concert to your bucket list, it will be one of the most enjoyable 90 minutes of your life.
This article appeared in an edited version of the online edition of the San Clemente Times newspaper on March 18, 2020. Scroll to page 17: http://www.sanclementetimes.com