W.S. Holland: ‘Borrow Some Drums and Go With Me’

W.S. Holland: the man behind the Man in Black
John Connor Coulston, MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
10:55 a.m. CDT August 7, 2015


….Bicentennial Mall Park in downtown Nashville.

[O]ne name on the lengthy bill you may not recognize…is one of the architects of early rock ’n’ roll, Sun Records session player and former Johnny Cash drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland.

“I started playing drums in 1954,” Holland recalled…. “One night Carl (Perkins)…said, ‘We’ve got an appointment with Sam Phillips Thursday at Sun Records for a record audition. Borrow some drums and go with me.’”

In October 1955 Holland, with less than a week of drumming to his credit, headed to Memphis with Perkins, who landed a contract that day.

“When ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ came out, I had to make a decision to either keep working on air conditioners or play in a band,” Holland says. “So, I decided to play in a band.”

He spent the next five years touring and recording with Perkins….

Before he could call it quits, a musician called to ask if he’d join him on tour.

“He didn’t have a drummer in the band, and he wanted me to go on a two-week trip,” Holland remembers. “I went for that two-week period, and it lasted almost 40 years.”

The caller was Johnny Cash.

“We’re gon’ be playing a big building in New York, and I’d like for you to go, cause I think we’re gonna need more noise,” Cash told him….

When asked what it was like to tour with Cash, …Holland’s response is…: These were just the latest in a long line of gigs for what became known as the Tennessee Three.

“At the time we were doing it, we didn’t think anything about it,” he says.  “It was just another place to play. Even [during] the prison [shows] there was never any kind of a problem. We just went in and played the shows just like we played anywhere else.”

Holland toured with Cash until the singer fell ill in 1998….

[C]urrent bandmate/manager Ron Haney… convinced him to start his own band, aptly named “The W.S. Holland Band.”

The four-piece group tours across the globe…laying Cash’s songs as well as hits from Elvis, Perkins and other stars of the era.

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