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August Issue
more... ArtistsSeptember 2009Johnny Cash

Bob Wootton: Keeping the Johnny Cash Flame Alive



Bob and the Tennessee Three, 1969. L-R: WS Holland, Wootton, Marshall Grant.
What did you think of the movie, Walk the Line?

I thought it was okay, but I wish they would’ve concentrated more on the music than the story of Johnny and June getting together and Johnny getting off dope. I would’ve loved to have been included, but the movie ended in March 1968, and I didn’t join until September. Johnny actually proposed to June onstage just like in the movie. They were in London, and people were yelling to June, “Say yes! Say yes!” That was accurate. June was a wonderful woman. She was my buddy, and the one who got my daughter Scarlett into singing. June called her onstage to sing with the Carter Family in Branson, Missouri, and gave her the singing bug.

There might be a sequel now to Walk the Line, I’m told, and my character will be in it this time.

What’s your take on contemporary country music?

A lot of people like it, but it doesn’t sound like country music to me.

Do the European audiences appreciate you more than Americans?

Yes, European audiences appreciate our music more. Like I said, the Canadians especially give us a great reception. We’ve played the Whistler Garibaldi Ski Resort in British Columbia about six or seven times, and it’s always great. I could tell you stories about the kindness we’ve seen from Canadians. When we go to Europe, we get treated like royalty. Americans don’t appreciate their own styles of music like they should.


June Carter with Wootton.
What kind of reaction do you get from the hardcore Cash fans?

If they’ve never seen us, they don’t know what to think. Once they see us and hear what we’re doing, they love it. They’ll come up to me and say, “You sound like him, you look like him.” There’s a whole story that goes along with our show; we tell people why we’re keeping Johnny’s music alive.

Have you considered doing an instructional guitar video showing us how to play the Luther/Bob style of guitar?

It was mentioned to me in the ‘80s. I thought about it, but never did anything about it. It’s just something I’ve been doing my whole life. I wanted my daughters to take over my style, and Montana can do the solo on “Cry Cry Cry,” but then she might not do it the next day. I thought nobody would be interested in seeing a video of me.

You should do a video, Bob. How else would guitarists learn that style if you don’t pass it on?

BOB'S GEARBOX

Guitars:
Fender American vintage reissue Telecaster Custom-made Kramer Telecaster-style guitar

Amps:
Fender Twin Reverb reissue

Strings:
Fender heavy gauge with a wound G

Picks:
Custom-made, with Bob’s name imprinted in the style of the Fender Thin model
You know, I’m going to go talk to my people tomorrow about doing just that.

It’s amazing that you were destined to play with Johnny. There had to have been some divine power at work. Have you ever asked yourself why your life unfolded the way it did?

It was just meant for me to do what I did. I have thought about it often. God chose me to do what I did, and I knew it from the first time I heard Johnny’s music on the radio. I feel very blessed to have had this great career and to be able to do thisnow with my family. It’s just amazing to me every day. God is right in the middle of it. I always close the show with gospel songs, like “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” and people are appreciative that we say that God is in what we do.

What was it that made Johnny Cash so appealing to his fans?

What made Johnny Cash? He was different and unique. Be different. Give people something different. Other people try to sound and look like Johnny and imitate him, dropping their voice real low, but I was the one who played with Johnny for thirty years, and I’m the one who has kept that sound alive, and we will continue to do just that.