Johnny Cash is one of the all-time songwriting greats, but his ‘boom-chick’ acoustic style is worthy of more attention – as is his ‘train on the tracks’ string-muting trick

Johnny Cash
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Think of country music and it’s hard not to conjure up an image of the legendary ‘Man In Black’, original outlaw country legend Johnny Cash. His warm bass-baritone voice and relaxed yet tight strumming patterns are immediately recognisable and laid the foundations for country rhythm guitar in the decades that followed. 

His mournful songs of heartache, struggle and trouble put him alongside Hank Williams on the pedestal of country fame. Growing up in Arkansas in the 1930s Cash started his working life in cotton fields at the age of five and would have learned the tradition of the ‘work song’ from an early age singing along with his family and fellow workers. Guitar lessons came courtesy of his mother and a friend and by age 12 he was already writing songs.

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Stuart Ryan

Stuart Ryan is best known for his acoustic guitar playing, from Celtic fingerpicking and traditional folk to modern percussive phrasing and fresh interpretations of popular pieces. He has released several solo albums, written pieces for UK examination boards and created nine tutorial books ranging from acoustic guitar arrangements to Americana styles.