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Luther Perkins with 1955 Esquire

Luther Perkins with 1955 Esquire

I am building a custom “partscaster” that is based on a 1955 Fender Esquire. This is a bit of a tribute to Luther Perkins who provided Johnny Cash with his “boom-chicka-boom” sound with his iconic whiteguard Fender Esquire so many years ago.

Luther was a member of Cash’s original Tennessee Two (eventually the Tennessee Three when they added drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland). Even though his Fender guitar only featured one pickup, he became an important figure in what would become known as rockabilly. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

With Johnny Cash singing in a low baritone and playing rhythm guitar Perkins and Marshall Grant on standup bass, devised a back up sound that was new and different. Luther used palm muting to deaden the three bass strings and cross picked the bass line with each chord change like Merle Travis. By playing the same notes as Marshall’s bass runs the “boom-chicka” style was born and would become synonymous with Johnny Cash’s sound. The haunting drone of Perkins’s guitar style with his signature reverb would quickly be embraced by rock-a-billy and early rock and roll guitarists.

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