The Tennessee Three

The Tennessee Three

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The Tennessee Three

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The Tennessee Three was the backing band for country music and rockabilly singer Johnny Cash for nearly 25 years, until Cash's reorganizing of the group and naming it The Great Eighties Eight in 1980.

The group provided the unique backing that would come to be recognized by fans as "the Johnny Cash sound."


The band began in the mid-1950s as The Tennessee Two, consisting of Cash's friends Luther Perkins on electric guitar and Marshall Grant on upright bass. Perkins was the creator of the band's famous steady, simple "boom-chicka-boom" or "freight train" rhythm.

Originally called the Tennessee Three, Sam Phillips of Sun records suggested that the band be called Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. There was also a third member of the group, 'Red' Kernodle, who played steel guitar during the first audition. Kernodle was so nervous that he left the session, not wanting to hold back the group.

In 1960, drummer W.S. Holland joined the group, which was then renamed The Tennessee Three. Holland has been credited as one of the first country drummers. In the early 1950s, he had collaborated with Cash on recordings, as well as having played with Carl Perkins and the Perkins Brothers Band.

Luther Perkins died from injuries sustained in a house fire in August, 1968, after reportedly having fallen asleep with a lit cigarette.

Bob Wootton joined as the group's guitarist in late 1968, and continued Perkins' unique sound that had defined so many of Cash's...
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