Rosanne Cash wrote this song with her husband John Leventhal, who also produced and arranged the album The River & the Thread
. The song was named for Etta Grant, who was the wife of Johnny Cash's original bass player Marshall Grant, and a lifelong family friend. Etta died on August 7, 2011.
Rosanne told Radio.com
: "He was like a surrogate dad to me, after my dad died. So John and I wrote 'Etta's Tune' shortly after he died. And it was all true [the details in the song's lyrics]. They did keep a house on Nokomis Avenue in Memphis full of their memories. And he did play the bass guitar one last time the day he had an aneurysm."