Marshall Grant, Longtime Johnny Cash Bandmember, Dead at 83
Marshall Grant, Longtime Johnny Cash Bandmember, Dead at 83

Marshall Grant, a longtime member of Johnny Cash's original backing band, The Tennessee Two, died in Arkansas after falling ill after rehearsing for a concert to raise funds for the restoration of Cash's boyhood home. He was 83.

Memorial Park Funeral Home and Cemetery in Memphis, Tenn., said Grant died Sunday in Jonesboro.

Grant had traveled to Arkansas from his home at Hernando, Miss., for a Johnny Cash Festival that also featured country music stars George Jones, Kris Kristofferson and Cash's children, Rosanne Cash and John Carter Cash. Thursday's festival was established to help restore Johnny Cash's boyhood home near Dyess in northeast Arkansas. Cash, who died in 2003, was born in Kingsland in south-central Arkansas.

"Grateful I was w/ him last 2 days. Boom Chicka Boom, old friend," Rosanne Cash tweeted Monday. She said in later Twitter messages that she was leaving Arkansas via the Memphis airport and eating barbecue as a comfort food. "He was my 'back-up dad'. Lot of bass players owe him a debt," she said in another post.

Grant and Luther Perkins were guitar-playing auto mechanics when they were introduced to Johnny Cash by Cash's brother, Roy, a fellow mechanic, in Memphis in 1954. He played bass guitar in Cash's band from 1954-80.

Grant then managed The Statler Brothers until they retired in 2002 and later wrote the autobiography "I Was There When It Happened."

He remained active in recent years by raising quarter horses, restoring old cars and spending time with his grandchildren.

A spokeswoman at St. Bernard's Regional Medical Center in Jonesboro did not return a phone call seeking comment and a cause of death was not immediately available. Funeral services were pending.

Cash grew up at the Dyess Colony, where during the Depression the government offered to support Delta farmers by funding homes and hospitals in return for their working the surrounding cotton fields. The experiment faded by the 1950s as the post-war boom attracted farmers to the cities. Years later, the town of Dyess purchased the colony's old administration building from the government $40,000, then had to spend $64,000 to fix its roof.

Arkansas State University recently acquired Cash's boyhood home and sponsored last Thursday's concert to benefit its restoration and the establishment of a museum in the colony.

Part of the 2003 movie "Walk the Line" about Johnny Cash was filmed in Dyess.