Chance encounter turns into a big break for a Valley singer

Posted: Updated:
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)

A chance encounter at a Garth Brooks concert led to a big break for a Valley musician.

Tom Wagner started playing guitar when he was just 15 years old, but he didn't get into country music until he heard a certain superstar.

"It just shifted over to country music when I heard Garth Brooks," Wagner said.

That's what he's been playing ever since. In fact, Wagner has a standing gig at Buffalo Chip in Cave Creek. He plays twice a week to some pretty impressive crowds.

He said it was his mom who took him to his first Garth show years ago, so when he found out Brooks was playing in Phoenix again he wanted to return the favor.

"Got the tickets, called up Mom and said, 'Pack your bags. We're going to see him. The big guy's in town.'" Wagner said.

For many, that would be an amazing experience on its own, but things were about to get way more amazing.

As Wagner and his mom settled into their near front-row seats on Oct. 24, he decided he wanted to try and get a memento.

"Just started waving my phone around with a guitar pick on it, trying to get his attention - Garth's or anybody's attention - to get me a pick. That's all I wanted to complete the night," Wagner said.

Wagner got Brooks' longtime guitarist Johnny Garcia's attention, and after a four failed attempts Garcia was finally able to get a pick to Wagner.

The local musician was so grateful for Garcia's efforts he sent him an email the next day, just to thank him. The two guitarists hit it off.

"It was just like talking to another band guy. [That's] how it was, and we started talking about music, guitars, amps what he uses, what I use," Wagner said. 

Eventually, Wagner mentioned he could send Garcia a couple of songs to listen to if he had a long bus ride. He didn't expect to hear anything back other than a bit of praise. He got a lot more.

"This guy's voice just reminded me of a real soulful voice of an artist from the '90s." Garcia said.

Garcia said he knew right away that Wagner was special, aside from his obvious talent. Garcia also said he could tell that Wagner was a good guy who came from good people.

After some more back and forth between the two over the last week and a half, Garcia offered him a deal.

"He's definitely going to make a lot of noise in big radio, and I'm really looking forward to being a part of it," Garcia said. "He's got the voice and he's got soul. He can tell a story that's so convincing."

Wagner's mom, Elaine Johnson, is still in disbelief.

"[It was] amazing. You always want your kids' dreams to come true," Johnson said.

She was there the night he got the pick and witnessed the connection between the two guitarists. She said after all the hard work he's put in over the years to make his dream a reality, she couldn't be more proud of him. 

"I'm happy for him and whatever comes out of it. It's his dream," she said.

For Wagner, it was a full-circle moment, and it seems only appropriate that his big break would come from the camp of the man who turned him onto country music to begin with.

"How many times does this actually happen? Once in a lifetime. Front-row seats, get a pick, get a production contract out of it - it just doesn't happen," Wagner said.

Next up for Wagner is a face-to-face meeting with Garcia. The two plan to connect in the next few weeks at one of the tour stops and start talking songs for an album.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

  • Social Connect

  • Contact

    AZ Family