Yesterday was a large celebration in West Vancouver for the 100th anniversary. We decided to go. Arriving later in the day than planned, we began to walk across the field, my wife sort of heading to what looked like a busy area and I, spotting the main stage, directed us to head that direction. When I see a stage, I always gotta know what is happening. One never knows do one, as Fats Waller used to say. Sometimes there is a surprise. As we continued to walk across the field, I could see something was indeed happening. Were they setting up or packing up?
I soon concluded that a sound check was in progress. We sat down and in a few minutes, the host announced that here was the act we were all waiting for. Really! Who? Suddenly, we heard the famous Luther Perkins guitar licks that contributed to the success of Johnny Cash. And this fellow in black sounded just like Cash. Standing along side of this guitar man were three women with sunglasses and, except for the guitars they strummed in unison, they looked a bit like secret service agents.
Wait a minute, this sounds great and the women with the big acoustic guitars with pickups, added a big sound. Bob Wootton and the Tennessee 3 were bringing the us the true authentic Johnny Cash sound. In fact, it turns out that there is not another person in the world as qualified to do Johnny Cash music.
As a kid, Bob Wootton learned to play guitar from his father. One day, his mother said that there was someone on the radio that sounds just like him. Wootton listened and loved what he heard. Grabbing all the recordings he could, he played them over and over, learning all the famous licks played by the auto-mechanic lead guitar Luther Perkins. He began to dream that playing with Johnny Cash was his destiny.
One night, Wootton and his girl friend were attending a Johnny Cash concert. Half the band was missing, delayed at an airport. Wootton’s girl friend managed to get the attention of June Carter Cash and told her that her boy friend can play all the songs. Cash handed Wootton a guitar and Bob Wootton played the gig perfectly. Cash took Wootton’s phone number saying he might call someday to fill in again.
Tragedy struck one day not long after as a fire took the life of Luther Perkins. Cash called Wootton in 1968 and a thirty year history began. Wootton took the Perkins style and built his own style. He even doubled for Cash on TV shows, like Medicine Woman, and in movies. When Johnny Cash retired in 1998, Bob Wootton, much younger than Cash, also retired. He did play again, however, when Johnny Cash passed away, Wootton retired once more. Some years ago, he was convinced to play again and revived the wonderful Johnny Cash style of music that captured the world for decades. “The sound must go on.”
Wootton, when playing with Johnny Cash, was part of a band called the Tennessee 3, the band Cash preferred to play with. Today, Wootton is not really part of the Tennessee 3. The show, however, is not about Bob Wootton recreating Johnny Cash. Sure the audience is treated to many hits, but, the show is also about the Tennessee 3 which today consists of his wife Vicki, also singing the June Carter Cash parts, daughter Scarlett and other daughter Montana, only 14 years-old. They are all accomplished musicians and even write their own songs. During the show they all get to do their own thing.
I listen carefully to music, I watch players and, at first, I wondered if there were two electric guitars. Wootton’s hands were not moving much and I seemed to hear both the famous Perkins bass line and more. I looked to see if there was another player, I even wondered if they had a track that was adding that part. Then I realized how great this guitar player he is. After so many years, playing this music is effortless to this guitar man, listed among the top 1000 guitar players in the world, yet, he obviously loves it still.
We only got to see a one hour show. I can’t wait to hear this group again and I’m sure it will happen. Checking their website, I find that they seem to play often in Canada. This is a show that is an absolute must see and hear. Check the links below.
Refs for further reading & exploration (some of the links have become inactive, however, have been left in case they become active again in the future):
Bob Wootton – Wikipedia
Tennessee 3 – Wikipedia
The Tennessee 3