How I met Johnny Cash on September 5, 1996

Dad and I by one of Johnny’s tour trucks.

How I met Johnny Cash on September 5, 1996

My father (Rudy), has always been a huge Johnny Cash fan ever since I can remember. I was talking to Norm Provencher, who was a music reporter for the Ottawa Citizen at the time and he informed me that Johnny Cash was coming to Montreal on September 5, 1996. I was able to get tickets and take my father to the St. Denis theatre in Montreal, Quebec to see his musical hero. We made a day of it by getting there by 2 p.m. and having a few drinks and then walking around the St. Denis theatre area.

We stopped in for dinner across the street from the theatre and at some point I took my father over to where Johnny’s bus was parked in behind the theatre. We were in line for about half an hour in the brutal heat before Johnny had the chance to come out to say hello to his fans. My father was so excited seeing Johnny that close for the first time. We waited our turn and when it came time to meet Johnny, I took a picture of my dad with Johnny and my dad was totally beside himself. I also wanted a picture with Johnny, so my dad took a picture of us together. I also wanted to have my “Folsom Prison” and “San Quentin” live albums autographed. Johnny was extremely gracious to take the pic with my dad and to sign my live albums. My father took a pic of Johnny and I as well. I had the film developed and noticed that the picture I took of dad and Johnny was great but the picture my dad took of Johnny and I was basically a picture of the sky. So I have no proof of being with Johnny Cash. I had to laugh when I saw the picture, because I know how excited he was at the time. I did get my albums signed though.

We entered the St.Denis theatre and had dead centre 8th row seats, yeah baby. Johnny performed a two hour show and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it. He performed all the favourites from the 50’s to present day including “Rusty Cage” by Soundgarden. “Rusty Cage” was covered by Johnny Cash on the 1996 album, Unchained, which won a Grammy Award for Best Country Album, and Cash’s version earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.

Setlist from the show

Can you tell my Dad is just tickeled pink.
  1. Folsom Prison Blues
  2. Get Rhythm
  3. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down (Kris Kristofferson cover)
  4. (Ghost) Riders in the Sky (Stan Jones and his Death Valley Rangers cover)
  5. Cowboy’s Prayer / Oh Bury Me Not
  6. These Hands
  7. Ring of Fire (Merle Kilgore & June Carter cover)
  8. Unchained
  9. Rowboat (Beck cover)
  10. Rusty Cage (Soundgarden cover)
  11. Memories Are Made of This (Mindy Carson cover)
  12. Southern Accents (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cover)
  13. I Never Picked Cotton (Roy Clark cover)
  14. I Walk the Line
  15. Big River
  16. Orange Blossom Special (Rouse Brothers cover)
  17. Jackson (Billy Edd Wheeler cover) (with June Carter Cash)
  18. If I Were a Carpenter (Tim Hardin cover) (with June Carter Cash)
  19. Wabash Cannonball (The Carter Family cover) (with June Carter Cash)
  20. Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (traditional cover)
  21. Daddy Sang Bass
  22. Guess Things Happen That Way
  23. Country Boy

The show was absolutely amazing. Such a beautiful theatre. Johnny was in fine shape. The audience in the theatre were totally into the show. Johnny and June did a wonderful job on “Jackson” with June’s gravelly voice and “If I Were a Carpenter” were show stoppers.

We left the show and headed back to Ottawa. We talked the whole way about the show we had just witnessed. My dad was on cloud nine all the way home. I had the picture I took of my dad & Johnny blown up to an 8×10 and gave it to him for Christmas. He couldn’t believe he had this wonderful memory to look back at forever. He asked me for a second 8×10 and I got that for him. He ended up putting it up on a wall at The Gourmet restaurant in Carleton Place, Ontario, where he was a regular. This is such a great memory for my dad and I.

My dad passed away on Oct 15, 1998. Here’s a song I wrote for my Dad. I wrote this within a few days of his passing. Here was another one of these songs that came to me when I picked up my guitar to play a few Johnny Cash songs for my Dad. The song wrote itself within 30 minutes or so. My Dad was a hard working man, who did anything and everything for his family. He was taken from us way too early and every member of the Lepage clan misses him so much. He was definitely a big story teller who loved to laugh, be with his family and help people whenever he could.

Check out “On Over The Hill”.

Folsom Prison autographed.
It was so hot that Johnny smeared the autograph accidentally when signing the album. He offered to resign it but I was totally happy.
There were also many others waiting and he was feeling the heat of the hot sun.