CORONA — Like the man he had come to see, Tom Orsbun wore black from head to toe.
Not that he was trying to emulate Johnny Cash, Orsbun insisted. "I always wear black: I'm a gunfighter in Chloride, Ariz. I play a bad guy."
But even a bad guy likes a good tune. "I think it's time Corona had something like this," Orsbun said. "I'd like to see a lot more."
About 3,500 people seemed to agree, rising to their feet as the man in black--Cash, that is--took the stage at Corona High School on Sunday night.
His concert--with wife June Carter and the Carter Family--was a part of Corona's year-and-a-half-long centennial celebration.
But most fans said they were there to see Johnny. "He's been my idol for years," said Millie Massey of Riverside, as her husband snapped a picture of her standing next to Cash's truck.
"I was surprised he would take his time to play a rinky-dink place like this," Jim Massey said.
Not so surprising, Cash said. "I love to play small towns. . . . People seem to appreciate the show more."
Corona Councilman William Miller, a friend of the entertainer, convinced him to come to the city, Cash said. "I'm here to celebrate."
Fans came from as far as Victorville and San Diego to see the show, which filled the clear night and overwhelmed a chilly breeze.
"It's not every day we get a celebrity that comes to Corona," Cindy Close said. "I've lived here all my life. Corona's growing rapidly.
"And believe me," she added, surveying the growing crowd, "Corona doesn't have much entertainment."
Fran Cole wore a buckskin coat, plaid shirt, blue tie, red hat and, of course, her cowboy boots. "Between Western music and bowling, that's my life," she said. "And horses, of course."
The most excited fan, perhaps, was Emil P. Karas, who emigrated from Czechoslovakia 5 1/2 years ago.
"My dream's come true," Karas told Cash, as the man in black greeted Karas' family shortly before taking the stage.
"I saw your show in Prague in '78; it was great," said Karas, a dentist who now lives in Corona. "You mean, for us, freedom in the West."
Cash's appearance also was meaningful for the Corona Centennial Steering Committee, which had been counting on the concert to give its celebration a shot in the arm.
The large turnout, said chairwoman Diedre Lingenfelter, represents "great support for the centennial. Well, great support for Johnny Cash, I guess.
"It's certainly making everyone aware we're having a centennial."