Musician Marshall Grant, the final surviving member of Johnny Cash’s revered Tennessee Two, died yesterday, Aug. 7. Until the very end, the 83-year-old’s life was tied to the late icon.
Grant collapsed Wednesday (8/3) following rehearsals for a Cash tribute concert in Jonesboro, Arkansas that was raising funds to restore the singer’s boyhood home. Grant was hospitalized and never recovered. Among those who shared his final days were fellow concert performers Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, John Carter Cash, and Tommy Cash.
Grant’s “boom chicka boom” bass licks helped shape the Man in Black’s signature sound on classics such as “Ring Of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Walk The Line,” “Get Rhythm,” and “A Boy Named Sue.” The self-taught wonder was eventually inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
Cash and Grant’s storied relationship started in Memphis in 1954, where bassist Grant and guitarist Luther Perkins teamed to become Cash’s Tennessee Two, backing him during gospel songs on local radio. When they added drummer W.S. Holland in 1960, they changed the band’s name accordingly.
For years, Grant did double duty as Cash’s sideman and road manager, often shepherding the star through offstage troubles. Historian Robert K. Oermann recalls, “Of all the people around Johnny Cash during his heyday, Marshall was the heartbeat of the band and the steady presence in the organization. He was a rock.”
Later in his career, Grant furthered his management career, taking on the Statler Brothers as clients.
Through the years, Grant’s friendship with Cash waxed and waned, and their final appearance onstage together was in 1999. Cash died in 2003, and three years later Grant published the autobiography, I Was There When It Happened: My Life With Johnny Cash.
In 2007 The Tennessee Two joined the Musicians Hall of Fame, as part of its inaugural class of inductees. Grant played at the induction ceremony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, backing Johnny’s son John Carter Cash.
At the time of his death, Grant and his wife were residing in Hernando, Mississippi, outside Memphis. Arrangements have not been announced, but will be by Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery in Memphis.