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Although Johnny Cash is no longer with us in body, his spirit will forever live in the music that he and his band, The Tennessee Three created and played from one end of the world to the other. They have played for royalty in foreign countries, to command performances for four standing presidents, to Folsom and San Quinton prisons. They were the first country artists to take their show to Carnegie Hall. Without question, for decades Johnny Cash and his band, The Tennessee Three, have been one of the most popular music groups in history.
The Tennessee Three have made it their life’s work to be the men and the music behind the man in black. It is without a doubt that Johnny Cash would want W.S. Holland (drums) and Bob Wootton (vocals, guitars) to carry on the legacy of the unique sound and keep the show alive on the road. That is exactly what they have done, even though after Johnny’s death they never did have the intention of playing again. The fans still wanted that “Johnny Cash” sound and so The Tennessee Three resumed their touring career. They now travel around the world, bringing the same style of show, even to the point of keeping Johnny’s chair on stage with the black Fender guitar on it that he used to play.
“After 30 years of standing by the side of Johnny, September 12, 2003 altered my life as I knew it. For me, when Johnny died, so did my music,” explains Bob Wootton. In fact, after that fateful day, Bob never intended to play again. “The fans wanted to see a ‘Johnny Cash Show’ and at first I was real hesitant. But in the audience of a sold out show in Northern Ireland there was a familiar face that changed everything and made me feel what I was doing was right.”
That person was none other than George Hamilton IV who is proclaimed to be the International Ambassador of Country Music. George told Bob if he had closed his eyes he would have thought this friend Johnny Cash was on that stage singing and although Bob Wootton is known for his guitar abilities fans have never known how eerily similar he and Johnny’s voice is—until now.
One person knew--Bob’s Mama. When he Bob was a young man his mother heard a song on the radio and called out to Bob to ask what he was doing singing on the radio. That was the day Bob discovered Johnny Cash and he went on the learn every song and bought ever record until the fateful day on September 17, 1968 went fate stepped in on Bob’s life.
“I remember everyone feeling like the magic sound could not and would not ever be heard again after Luther Perkins tragically died in a house fire. But that show in Fayetteville, Arkansas changed that thinking—and changed my life forever,” explains Bob.
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The band had their flight delayed and only Johnny and W.S. Holland were around to perform. June Carter had asked if there was anyone who knew Johnny’s songs in the audience and sure enough there was Bob. With no rehearsal, no practice stand on stage, Bob took the stage with Johnny and W.S. Holland. Johnny was amazed at Bob’s ability to create and even expand the sound Luther Perkins had done in the past and offered Bob a job. And so Johnny Cash went on to travel the world with Bob and W.S. at his side, always remaining faithful to their friend and colleague who stood tall on stage as the “man in black”.
W.S remained Johnny’s drummer and road manager up until the day he retired in 1997. He was nicknamed by Johnny as “Father of the Drums,” which is a fitting title for a career drummer like W.S. After all, he was the first drummer to play a full set of drums on the Grand Ole Opry.
W.S Holland’s career began back in 1954 at Sun Records and he played for Carl Perkins and toured with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also played on Carl Mann’s hit “Mona Lisa,” and Rayburn Anthony’s, “Alice Blue Gown,” the Statler Brothers “Flowers on the Wall,” Marty Stuart’s first video, “Hillbilly Rock,” and Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album.
In July 2004 W.S and Bob went into to the studios to record an album titled appropriately, We Still Miss Someone. It is a treasure trove of timeless Johnny Cash hits and features many of the hits on which they both instrumentally created, as well as a few original songs. Their next album, Guaranteed Cash, is due out in stores SPRING 2006. No doubt there will be many tributes to the late and great Johnny Cash, but The Tennessee Three is a legendary experience and a concert with the original sound that changed the history of music.