Published Aug 09, 2011Marshall Grant, Johnny Cash's bassist from 1954 to 1980, died in Jonesboro, AK last Sunday (August 12) after complications arising from an aneurysm and a stroke. He was 83.
The longtime musician was set to appear at the Johnny Cash Music Festival in Jonesboro last week to raise funds intended to restore Cash's boyhood home before falling ill. The concert, which took place on August 4, included performances from Kris Kristofferson, George Jones and Cash's children Roseanne and John.
"Marshall was supposed to give a speech, even play his bass on one song," Rosanne Cash told the L.A. Times. She also paid tribute to the beloved bassist with this quote to the Nashville Tennessean: "A solid, solid rock. I cannot imagine what would have happened on those tours without him. He understood how complicated my dad was, that he was a great musician who had real demons."
While Grant had participated in the rehearsal Wednesday afternoon (August 3), he was hospitalized later that night following an aneurysm.
Grant's career kicked off in the early '50s when he paired up with guitarist Luther Perkins to form the Tennessee Two. The duo first linked up with Cash in 1954 for the "Hey Porter"/"Cry, Cry, Cry" single. Some of the iconic hits that Grant played on include "Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line."
Grant is credited with helping develop the famous "boom-chicka-boom" backdrop of many of Cash's classics. In a 2010 interview with the Commercial Appeal, the stand-up bassist explained how they came to the sound.
"Luther and I played the same notes on bass and lead guitar, and John with that old awkward lick that he had ... well, here come this god-awful sound. But we worked with it," Grant explained. "Before the night was over, he said, 'We could go from E to A to D and back.' Slap, hit. Slap, hit. Boom-chicka, boom-chicka, boom-chicka; and all of a sudden the sound of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two was born."
On top of gigging with Cash for the better part of 30 years, Grant served as the legendary country singer's tour manager. Following his exit from Cash's group, he managed fellow country legends the Statler Brothers before retiring from show business in 2002.
Grant also wrote about many of his experiences in his tome I Was There When It Happened: My Life With Johnny Cash. He is survived by his wife, Etta, and son, Randall.