Born in Bessemer City, N.C., in 1928, Grant moved to Memphis in 1947. He landed a job as a mechanic at Automobile Sales Company, which advertised itself as the world's largest Desoto-Plymouth dealership. In 1953, Grant — a budding guitarist — met Perkins, who was another Automobile Sales mechanic. Soon after, he began playing with Cash, whose brother Roy also worked at the dealership.
Although Cash had already been writing songs, none of the three was an accomplished musician. Perkins scratched out rhythms on his Fender, while Grant's bass lowered the boom on each measure. The trio took Cash's song "Hey, Porter" to Sun Records owner Sam Phillips, who released it in 1955. The group's recordings of "Folsom Prison Blues" and "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" became hits — like Elvis' Sun sides, they blur the boundary between rock and country.
Deputized as Cash's road manager, Grant stayed with him through years of success and craziness. They parted ways in 1980 — there were money disputes — but reunited in later years. Grant managed The Statler Brothers, wrote his autobiography and settled down in Mississippi. He died on Aug. 7 in Jonesboro, Ark., after rehearsing for a show to raise money to restore Cash's Arkansas birthplace. If the originators of Cash's "chick-a-boom" style are gone, their music lives on. As Grant told writer Gary James in 2008, "We really wanted to sound like those Nashville musicians, but thank God we couldn't sound like them."