STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
21st Century Media
“The Marshall Tucker Band,” led by co-founding member and vocalist Doug Gray, is still going strong after 43 rocking years.
“I still have the fire and passion for what I do,” says front man Doug Gray, from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It’s all about being committed to the music and being loyal to the fans. I’m never going to let that go away. “
“I feel like the Marshall Tucker Band was meant to be on this earth,” added Gray. “I think the reason people look forward to coming to see us is that they met their girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife or got married to one of our songs. They want to come and celebrate that memory that we helped to create with them years ago.”
Leading an exceptional line-up of veteran musicians (Marcus James Henderson (keyboards and flute), Rick Willis (guitar), Pat Elwood (bass), B.B. Borden (drums) and Chris Hicks (guitar)), Gray sees no reason to pull the plug on Marshall Tucker anytime soon.
“A lot of people are saying this is the best line-up we’ve had in years,” says Gray. “It doesn’t hurt my feelings. I know how good our first band was, and I know that’s what has kept us around. I know it’s the loyalty that these guys have which is why people are selling out our shows and asking us to come back.”
“Our original band was great,” added Gray. “This new band is great. It’s just a new style, a new kind of great. It’s music that is flowing. It’s music that people are putting their hearts into. If you’ve seen us, you know what that’s all about. It’s about being great every night – being really solid and tight and making people wonder how in the world you can still do it and have that emotion. People ask me that a lot. I say, ‘well, when the music’s good and the foundation’s good, you can build the tallest building.’”
Formed in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1972 by Gray, Toy Caldwell (lead guitar), Jerry Eubanks (keyboards, saxophone and flute), George McCorkle (guitar), Paul Riddle (drums) and Tommy Caldwell (bass), the band merged rock, R&B, jazz, country and gospel to create the classic sound of Marshall Tucker (a name the band spontaneously pulled off the key tag of the rented warehouse where they first rehearsed; they later discovered the moniker belonged to the prior lessee of the space, a blind piano tuner).
Marshall Tucker’s self-titled debut album was released one year later, featuring the single “Can’t You See.” Re-released in 1977, “Can’t You See” reached Billboard’s Hot 100 and was soon regarded as one of rock and roll’s greatest songs. Music website Ultimate Classic Rock solidified the song’s standing in 2012 by recognizing “Can’t You See” as the greatest Southern Rock song ever recorded.
“Toy walked in and said, ‘I got this song,’” recalls Gray. “As the lead singer I tried to sing it, but it just didn’t sound right. I said, ‘the way you sing it is testified. You need to sing that.’ If you listened to the first version of it, it was testified in a real simple southern rock type of thing. He sang that song like he was almost angry, but he was smiling while he was singing it. I can’t imagine a better song.”
The hits kept coming. “Fire on the Mountain” (1975), “Heard It in a Love Song” (1976), “Dream Lover” (1978) and “Last of the Singing Cowboys” (1979) all helped secure the Marshall Tucker Band as one of Southern Rock’s greatest.
While riding a wave of commercial success, tragedy hit home when Tommy Caldwell was killed in a car crash in 1980. His brother Toy, then Marshall Tucker’s principle songwriter, left the band in 1982. Succumbing to health issues, he passed away in 1993.
After the 1983 disbanding of the original group, Gray and Eubanks resurrected Marshall Tucker, recording and touring until Eubanks departed the band in 1996.
For more than a decade, Gray has remained as the cornerstone of the Marshall Tucker Band, who perform as many as 150 concerts in a given year. The band has released a series of albums (“Way Out West Live From San Francisco 1973” (2010), “The Marshall Tucker Band’s Doug Gray: Soul of the South” (2011), “Greatest Hits” (2011) and “Live! From Spartanburg, South Carolina” (2013)) that keep Marshall Tucker in the hearts and minds of their loyal fan base.
“For people to recognize these songs and say, ‘man, that’s a pretty good song,’ and still want to hear those songs – it’s more than overwhelming,” says Gray. “The real reason, I think, people continue to come see the Marshall Tucker Band is that we don’t let them down. We know our foundation is the strength in the unity of the band. Once we walk onto that stage, we don’t think about anything else except how good we can make that particular song work. That’s the legacy of the whole Marshall Tucker Band – to go out there and play your a– off and show people how good you really are regardless of what period of time.”
“I’m just pleased that people still want us,” says Gray. “It excites me. It gives me life. It makes me feel good. All I want to do is keep playing.”
IF YOU GO: The Marshall Tucker Band performs at the Sellersville Theater, located at 24 West Temple Ave., Sellersville, Wednesday March 18, 2015 at 8 p.m. Tickets and can be purchased by calling 215-257-5808 or on-line at www.st94.com.
To stay up to date with the Marshall Tucker Band, visit www.marshalltucker.com.