Thanks to the truckers
His favorite tours involve truck shows, like the Great American Trucking Show in August, where he appeared at the Dave Nemo Radio Show booth. And, says Martin, the hands he shakes make all the hard work worthwhile.
“I’m singing for them,” he says.
Driven to Sing
No one answered the phone at home after Carl Tanner’s truck broke down one night in 1990. He walked home at dusk through a clearing, as the last light faded behind the trees. Singing softly to himself, Tanner suddenly spotted a four-leaf clover in the middle of the field.
“I had asked God for a sign,” Tanner says. “And there it was.”
So after five years driving trucks and moonlighting as a bounty hunter, Tanner decided to put his career on hold and pursue his first love – music.
The four-leaf clover wasn’t Tanner’s only sign that day. While driving down the road, listening to the Metropolitan opera on the radio and belting out his own rendition, a woman pulled up beside him.
“Why are you driving a truck?” she said. “You know what you are supposed to be doing, but you aren’t doing it.”
Tanner graduated from the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in Roanoke, Va., in 1985 with a degree in performance, but he had never thought about a career in music until that day. Although he sang in his high school chorus and performed in college, it was more of a hobby than a dream.
But when he arrived home that day after finding his lucky charm, his father also mentioned that he had been thinking about his son’s musical future.
“‘Carl,’ he said, ‘you are supposed to be a singer,’” Tanner says. “But I didn’t want to be a singer. I wanted to be a truck driver or a bounty hunter.”
But in 1990, the future opera tenor quit his job trucking at Frame Masters in Arlington, Va., and moved to New York City with $75 and a suitcase of clothes. Richard Gaddes, head of the Santa Fe Opera, soon discovered Tanner while he performed in a bar in Greenwich Village. Gaddes then offered him a role in an opera, sparking Tanner’s now international fame.
Since then, Tanner has traveled all over the world, starring in operas in Germany, Japan, Italy and the United States. But becoming a jetsetter has its downsides, Tanner says.
“I miss the days of not having to answer to anybody as a truck driver,” Tanner says. “And I didn’t worry about traveling then – now I do. It can get scary with what’s going on in the world.”
Tanner speaks Italian, a little German and a little Spanish, but his success hasn’t made him forget his blue-collar roots.