Music

Johnny Cash Drummer WS Holland Dies at Age 85

Screengrab via YouTube

Drummer WS Holland, the longtime bandmate and road manager of Johnny Cash, died on Wednesday (Sept. 23) following a short illness. He was 85 years old.

WS "Fluke" Holland was born in Saltillo, Tennessee on April 22, 1935 and raised in nearby Bemis. His work for Memphis' Sun Records found him playing on Carl Perkins' original recording of "Blue Suede Shoes" and sitting behind the drum kit for the Million Dollar Quartet sessions which teamed rockabilly forefathers Perkins, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.

"People now will ask me, 'Man, what was it like to be in the studio with all those big stars?' " Holland said of the Million Dollar Band sessions (as quoted by the Tennessean). "And I say, 'Hey, I wasn't in the studio with any big stars that night."

After shaping music history in Perkins' band, Holland became one of Cash's right-hand men in three different backing bands: The Tennessee Three, The Great Eighties Eight and The Johnny Cash Show Band.

Holland's run with Cash, bassist Marshall Grant and guitarist Luther Perkins was supposed to last just two weeks in 1960, but his working relationship with the Man in Black ultimately lasted until Cash retired from touring in 1997.

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Cash referred to Holland as "the father of the drums," in part because of his legendary performances on live albums  At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin and such popular music-shaping singles as "Ring of Fire" and "Walk the Line."

In 2018, Holland was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award during the annual Tennessee Music Awards event at the University of Memphis Lambuth in Jackson.

Holland played music as late as 2019 with Ron Haney and other members of the WS Holland Band.

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Johnny Cash Drummer WS Holland Dies at Age 85