Till The Bounty Hunter Sings

Many people change careers or know someone who has. It can be a life-changing experience.

"I thought I was making a big change when I went from human resources to weather," says The Early Show's Dave Price, "But it's not nearly as drastic a career move as the man you are about to read about."

The story of his transformation is about as dramatic as his performance on stage at the Kennedy Center.

Carl Tanner says, "When Placido read in the Washington Times that I was a bounty hunter, he came to my dressing room one night and he was, like, 'Are you serious?'"

Tanner always knew he wanted a career in music. He even earned a degree from a conservatory in his home state of Virginia. But like many artists, he wound up doing whatever he had to make ends meet.

Tanner says, "People that go into the arts thinking it's going to be smooth sailing for the rest of their lives - Uh huh."

Tanner got a job as a trucker, then became a bounty hunter, meeting people like the infamous Mad Dog Chapman along the way.

Discussing the bounty hunter profession, Tanner says, "In that field, you know if you make it, and if you're able to stay alive, you're lucky. He's one of the good guys in the field."

So how do you move from being a bounty hunter to becoming a rising opera star?

"Literally, I got shot at, then chased a guy out a window" says Tanner. "And then I thought: 'You know, my number's coming.' Two weeks later, I was driving my truck and I decided to move to New York to pursue opera."

It took him about ten years to go from working class to world class, performing at the most celebrated stages, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, La Scala in Milan and The Royal Opera House in London. He's spending this summer at the Santa Fe Opera.

Richard Gaddis, general director of Santa Fe Opera, says, "He's already a world-class singer. But I think that he's probably going to become a great star."

Despite his new life, he hasn't forgotten his old one. He still enjoys target practice and relies on his old bounty hunter bravado when necessary.

But are there times when he is performing with one of these divas or dealing with someone who is high strung in a performance, and he wishes to go back to his bounty hunter days, kick a head against the wall and throw them in a car?

Tanner says, "I've worked with some divas that won't show up for rehearsal, and you know, I've learned that I just do my job and then when they come, I make it as difficult as possible."

Believe or not, this man with the fearsome voice sometimes suffers from stage fright.

"You know, I get more nervous stepping onstage sometimes than I did when I'd have to kick someone's door open - when I was going after them," remarks Tanner. "They were wanted, suspected of murder or something like that."

Tanner has a remarkable life story, but it's a story with one regret.

He says, "My mom and dad got to see me sing the Lord's Prayer in church, but they never got to see me sing opera. So as an homage to my parents, for each major show that I do, if I can, if it's not sold out, I purchase two tickets in the audience and leave those seats open. I leave those seats for my mom and dad."

And he believes that he's climbing to the top because of what his parents taught him as a child.

He says, "I know that this was my calling, and I know that when this ride stops, I'm grateful for everything that's happened."

Tanner will be performing through the end of the summer at the Santa Fe Opera, and this fall, he'll be performing in Tokyo. In fact, he's one of the busiest opera performers in the world. He's booked until the year 2009.
  • Brian Leach

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