Michael McNevin once opened for Johnny Cash and the Carter family, back in the 1990s at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, but somehow missed the opportunity to meet the legendary musician.

The way McNevin explains it, the man in black came over to shake hands, only to greet someone else from McNevin's crew who resembled the Fremont singer/songwriter/Etch A Sketch artist.

"The story of almost meeting him is sad and comical at the same time," McNevin said. "I never did shake his hand, but he thinks he shook mine."

After a musical career that stretches three decades, McNevin can tell stories like a fountain can drip water.

Here are a few:

On his first paying gig: "I was living in the San Ramon/Danville area, and I got a job at Fat Fanny's restaurant dressed up as a pirate, singing to kids eating their hamburgers. That was my first paying gig. This was about 1983 or '84, my second or third year (at Cal State-Hayward). I had a little treasure map, and I'd throw it down on the table and say, 'This is me treasure map.' "

On his early music memories: "My early days of playing was just picking up stuff from my brothers' friends. UFO was my favorite band. Michael Schenker, German guitar player. Did a lot of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. My dad had Gordon Lightfoot and Mose Allison on the turntable all the time. By the time I was 17 or 18, I was good enough to play lead in a band -- did a lot of Van Halen and AC/DC. Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult. But I always had the acoustic -- the James Taylor stuff."

On his Etch A Sketch background: "I was good at it as a kid and was on a tour in '96 that started in Texas. I'm usually writing my journals when I am on the road, but I decided I'd bring that (Etch A Sketch) and draw. Every town that I went to, I'd have an Etch A Sketch with me, and I'd do a new drawing. I did a drawing of the St. Louis arch, and somebody took a picture of it and sent it to me."

Eventually, a woman in Hastings, Neb., saw his sketches and put the drawings in her gallery for a day.

"I had my personal art show before I even got home," McNevin said. "She matted three of the photos. When I got to Salt Lake City with the matted photos, people were offering me 30 bucks for the prints. I said, 'Wow, I've got myself a little side trade here.' "