The first fiddler to play in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, Art Wooten never received the recognition he deserved. Wooten was a multi-talented musician from Alleghany County, who was also a member of the Stanley Brothers’ Clinch Mountain Boys from 1948-1952, when they made some classic recordings for Columbia. Though he was Monroe’s first fiddler, he missed out on the first recording session, and his stints with the band were somewhat short.
Wooten grew up in Alleghany County, where he learned to play fiddle and other instruments. He built a one-man-band outfit that allowed him to play organ and guitar at the same time. This act might have helped Wooten get hired by Monroe in 1939, as it was sometimes incorporated into their performances. Monroe spent time working with Wooten, teaching him the style of fiddling he wanted. Wooten also sang baritone. He was part of the band when they made their debut on the Grand Ole Opry, though he left before they made their first recordings. Wooten returned to Monroe’s band for a short second stint in 1941, and made a few recordings with the group, including “Orange Blossom Special.”
He joined the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys briefly in 1948, and helped them define their sound with recordings such as “Molly and Tenbrook.” Wooten also helped influence their vocal style, which featured two harmony parts above Carter Stanley’s lead. In 1952, Wooten rejoined the Stanley Brothers for another recording session, contributing to such classics as “Sweetest Love,” Wandering Boy,” and “Let’s Part the Best of Friends.”
Wooten left the Stanley Brothers in 1952 but remained an active participant in regional festivals and music gatherings.