“Where’s Luther, Johnny?”
It’s a shouted question that was captured for posterity on Johnny Cash’s classic Live at San Quentin album. In fact, Luther Perkins, an original member of the Tennessee Two and originator of the legendary “boom chick a boom” guitar on Cash’s early records, had been killed in a house fire on August 5, 1968.
A lanky, somber-looking musician from Paris, Arkansas, named Bob Wootton had been hired to replace the irreplaceable Perkins. Wootton was up to the challenge, in fact, he had been training for it since childhood. As a youngster, Wootton had been fascinated by Johnny Cash’s early hits, especially the distinctive lead guitar. While playing the records over and over, he trained himself to play along, note for note.
On September 17, 1968, fate began to intervene, preparing the way for Wootton to step on stage with his idol and fill the void left by Perkins’ death. Cash was in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to perform - but his band had been delayed at an out-of-town airport- and it was show time. Wootton was at the front of the stage, when the girl he was with got June Carter’s attention and told her that he could play guitar “Luther-style.” June Carter motioned her husband from the stage, Cash gave Wootton a try on the spot, with no rehearsal - and was amazed to find that Wootton not only knew every song Cash wanted to do, but that he could play them just as Luther had. Bob Wootton was far more than a Perkins imitator, over the next thirty years he developed a style that paid tribute to, and expanded upon, what Perkins had originated. He stepped from Perkins’ shadow and became a guitar legend in his own right.
In the years that followed, everywhere you saw Johnny Cash, Bob Wootton was close by. For every major event in John’s life Bob was always there. He has traveled all over the world many times, has played John’s double in many movies, has been on more television shows than most major stars, and taken part in countless recordings including the multi-platinum selling album "Live At San Quentin." Bob Wootton is known as a guitar legend and is listed in the “Top 1000 Guitars Players in the World.”
Devastated by Cash’s illness and death, Wootton did not perform for several years. Today, however, Wootton is again touring the world, playing Cash tunes and keeping the magical sound of the legendary Tennessee Two and Tennessee Three alive to appreciative crowds around the globe. Along with Vicky Wootton formerly of “The Carter Family”and Scarlett Wootton, , Bob Wootton is keeping the tradition of the Cash - Carter Family alive. THE SOUND MUST GO ON!
From the days of early stardom until his last years as a performer, Johnny Cash chose only to work with one band and depended upon them to provide him with the unique sound that would come to be recognized by millions of fans over the world. Bob Wootton provided the unique "boom-chicka-boom" guitar that classifies most of Johnny's songs. The music of The Tennessee Three is as important to the sound and successes of Johnny Cash as his own voice. In 2006, an album titled "The Sound Must Go On" was released as an homage to the Cash legacy and Bob Wootton began touring the world once again with the music of The Tennessee Three.