James Garner first heard the Johnny Cash’s “At Folsom Prison” live album when he was in junior high school in the early 1990s.
“It was just so amazing to me,” Garner said. “You heard the inmates, the rawness of the music and even announcements from the prison. It was so different than anything that was on the radio at the time. It wasn’t Milli Vanilli or Sinead O’Connor from around that era. It was so unique and captivating.”
Garner, the lead singer, is bringing his James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash show to Carmel to play a “Folsom at 50” concert at 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at The Tarkington at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s performance at Folsom Prison. Although the concert is focused on that album, Garner said the group plays Cash’s other hits as well.
When Garner was 12, he picked up a tape of Cash’s greatest hits because his dad was going to Cash’s concert.
“I didn’t know who he was because he wasn’t on the radio at that time. It was Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire and Clint Black,” Garner said. “My dad was going to the show, so I went to a music store and got a tape of Johnny Cash’s greatest hits. It was amazing, the voice, the spareness of the production. I thought, ‘Where has this been all my life?’”
A couple of years later, he got to meet Cash backstage in Fresno, Calif.
“I just told him I was his biggest fan. I was so nervous my voice was cracking,” Garner said. “We shook hands and he said, ‘Glad to know you.’ It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Garner’s band performs as the Tennessee Three, which was Cash’s band, with lead guitar, bass and drums. Garner, who plays rhythm guitar, said the band has been together for 11 years. He said the show involves a lot of storytelling about Cash’s career.
The California-based band performs 50 to 60 concerts per year.
“This is our first foray into Indiana and we’re marrying this up with the Arts Midwest Conference that happens to be (in Indianapolis),” Garner said. “That’s where the presenters buy talent for their performing arts series. We thought, ‘We are right there. We should do a show.’”
For more, visit thecenterpresents.org.