Marshall Grant, original bassist for Johnny Cash’s band, the Tennessee Two, died August 7 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He was 83. A resident of Hernando, Mississippi, he was in the area to attend the Johnny Cash Festival, a charity event that raises money to restore Cash’s childhood home. After a rehearsal for the event, Grant apparently suffered a stroke.
Grant played upright and electric bass with Cash from 1954 until 1980. He and guitarist Luther Perkins are renowned for developing the “boom chicka boom chicka boom” rhythm sound heard backing Cash on many of his most famous songs, including “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire,” and “The Man in Black.” They were with Cash when the singer signed with Sun Records and became part of a wave of Sun performers that included Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Grant and Perkins were both employees of a car dealership in Memphis prior to being introduced to Cash when the latter returned to the area following a stint in the military.
After parting ways with Cash in 1980, Grant began a career in management, handling The Statler Brothers and later writing his autobiography I Was There When It Happened. In 2007, Grant and Perkins were among the first inductees into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Grant and Cash later reconciled and performed together in 1999. Perkins died in 1968.
Grant is survived by his wife, Etta, and a son.