One of the most famous phrases is “boom-chick-a-boom”, but how many of us really know what exactly it means or to whom we owe it?
I confess that I did not know where it came from and what it means and so I decided to look for it.
So, I came across a name… the guitarist, Luther Monroe Perkins!
Perkins was known in Rockabilly music circles because of his relationship with Johnny Cash.
To be precise, he was one of the members of the band “Tennessee Three” that accompanied Cash.
But it was not just that! Perkins was a virtual figure in what would later become known as Rockabilly music.
His ingenuity, as well as his creatively simple use of Fender Esquire, Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars, created Cash’s “boom-chick-a-boom” style.
In the beginning…
Before we get to the introduction of style, let’s get to know Perkins a little better.
Born in 1928 in Como, Mississippi, he began learning rhythm guitar on his own, at the urging of his father.
At age 25, he began working as an engineer at Memphis for the Automobile Sales Company.
Specializing in electrical systems and radio repair, it was no wonder he could “tease” his guitars.
He meets Cash’s brother Roy, bassist Marshall Grant and guitarist A.W. “Red” Carnodle.
Together they start bringing their musical instruments to work and playing.
When Cash returned to Memphis in 1954, they began playing together.
At that time Perkins bought his first used electric guitar (Fender Esquire).
His guitar was already “teased” by its previous owner, with the result that the volume and tone control did not work.
Unable to control either the volume or the tone, Perkins began to close the three strings (E, A and D) with his right hand.
Something like the style adopted by Merle Travis.
Of course, he did not stay there and included the “scratching” of a rhythm, something we hear in later recordings with Sun Records in 1958.
In a way, this was the ticket to the world of recording.
In 1954 Cash managed to close an audition with the then Sun Records producer and of course took all three with him.
Unfortunately, Kernodle’s anxiety caused him to give up, leaving Perkins and Grant behind.
And they did it!
Perkins, as a member of Tennessee Two (later Tennessee Three, with the addition of drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland), began touring with Cash.
A characteristic of Perkins was that on stage he was always expressionless, laconic and simplistic.
In fact, at such a point that Cash did not fail to make jokes about him and specifically said:
“Luther has been dead for years, he just does not know it.”
Perkins was Cash’s lead guitarist on many of the Town Hall Party’s most popular television appearances in the 1950s.
Interacting with each other on stage, they created various effects, as well as the characteristic “boom-chick-a-boom” sound.
The music is not due to the one that many recognize, but to a group that makes up and creates a band or a reputation…