As Johnny Cash's drummer and road manager for 38 years, he was a steadying force for the Man in Black.
But most of the public didn't latch on to Holland's cool ways until his hair started turning gray.
"I can't believe I played for 50 years and all of the sudden I'm being called 'cool,'" Holland once told a friend. "If I had known that, I would have dyed my hair gray long ago."
Holland is in demand now more than ever. This weekend, for example, he is in Las Vegas as a special guest on a tribute show to Cash.
On Friday, he'll be back in town among friends, helping raise money for the International Rock-A-Billy Hall of Fame and Museum at 105 N. Church St. in downtown Jackson.
They are having a pancake-breakfast fundraiser from 6 to 10 a.m. downtown at the Baker's Rack Restaurant, 205. E. Lafayette St. Holland will begin speaking at 7:30 a.m. about his life on the road with Cash and his early days as a drummer with Carl Perkins. A minimum tax-deductible donation of $5 is requested, and all proceeds will go toward improvements at the hall of fame.
Holland will answer questions, sign autographs, pose for pictures and even play a little music with former Sun Records artist Rayburn Anthony, said Henry Harrison, president of the hall of fame. Johnny Cash's life-size oil portrayal will also be on display.
"We need to raise $130,000 immediately to finish the hall of fame's stage area and install an elevator for handicap accessibility," Harrison said. "Once the elevator is ready, we can develop the second floor of the museum."
Holland is a polished storyteller, recalling his experiences with the likes of Cash, Perkins, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Fabian, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings ... the list seems endless. Holland has performed for U.S. presidents, the queen of England and even traveled with Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades.
It is an incredible saga for a boy born in Saltillo by the Tennessee River in Hardin County. In 1948 his family moved to Bemis in Madison County, and he attended J.B. Young High School.
One of Holland's buddies was Clayton Perkins, brother of Carl Perkins. That led to his first work with drums, playing with the Perkins Brothers Band. And through Carl Perkins, Holland met Cash, Orbison, Lewis and Presley.
In 1960, Cash asked Holland to join his group for two weeks and play drums at shows in Syracuse, N.Y., and Atlantic City, N.J. Holland and his wife, Joyce, were expecting their first child, and Holland was ready to settle down and get out of the music business. He had even lined up a job with a surveyor, he told The Jackson Sun in 1992.
But he agreed to work with Cash for those two weeks, and the rest is history.
It is a rich history that Holland will be happy to share with listeners over a hearty breakfast on Friday.
2008/01/21 www.jacksonsun.com / www.epgold.com