It is always neat to reconnect with a band after many years, especially when it’s easily been over three decades since the last conversation was held. Such is the case with the legendary southern rock group known as The Marshall Tucker Band.

The Spartanburg, South Carolina, sextet is on the road for their 45th anniversary tour which will bring them to the Augusta Civic Center on Saturday, Sept. 23. Known for such classic songs as “Can’t You See,” “Heard It In A Love Song,” “Take The Highway,” “Fire On The Mountain” and many more, this collective is fronted by founder and lead vocalist Doug Gray. He’s joined by Chris Hicks (lead guitar, vocals); B.B. Borden (drums); Marcus Henderson (flute, saxophone, keyboards, lead and backing vocals); Pat Elwood (bass) and Rick Willis (lead guitar, vocals).

Gray called me from his Spartanburg home a week or so ago, and we chatted once more. I asked him to reflect on how the band got started those many years ago.

Gray: I got back from Vietnam the first part of ’69. Then I went out and worked in a bank for about a year. We (, Toy Caldwell, Tommy Caldwell, Paul T. Riddle, George McCorkle and Jerry Eubanks) rehearsed during the day and then, right around ’71 or ’72, we decided to give it one more shot and then we’d settle down, like in our song: “It’s a good time for this boy to head on down the line.” Ya know what I mean?

Q: That I do.

Gray: So we tried it and somehow people liked us, and today — even though most of the guys (the original members) have passed away — the sound that people liked is there. People don’t want to emulate, they want to be a participant with what we call a Marshall Tucker Band ’cause there’s no Marshall Tucker in our band. It’s never been about one person. It’s always been about the song and how well we perform it. Oh, and even with the members in the group now, the “new” Marshall Tucker Band has been together for 25 years.


Q: Having been around about the same amount of time as I have — I started reviewing music in 1969 — you know as well as I do that technology has really changed for the better.

Gray: It’s a beautiful thing. People ask me if I like technology. I like the fact that we can let people know that day where we are and when we’ll be somewhere, and that we’re having so much fun making people smile. Then they get home and say, “Can you believe it? There I am in that picture!” That’s a good thing, that really is a good thing.

Q: Well, all the changes in the music industry that I’ve seen over the years are mind-blowing, truth be told.

Gray: Well, I love it. I can go to my hotel room after doing 10 hours on our tour bus, and I can do three interviews — 15 minutes each — and give those people a separate piece of your heart every time you lay it out there. All they’re trying to do is figure out what the hell we’re all about. Billboard magazine said we was country, we was rock, we was jazz: “We don’t know what kind of music it is, but it’s damn good music!” I’ll take that, any day. And you know what? Forty-five years later here we still are, still doing great and still having a great time doing it.

Q: You’re still writing new music, correct?

Gray: Well, we’re writing new material but we’re not putting it out so much. We have some 330-something shows that were recorded with the original band and that’s been archived. Everybody knows what it is, so every time that we release a record — like the “’77” live record we just put out. I went back in there and I found myself reliving where I stood on stage during that song. And then you get this 20-year-old with his computer who’s engineering it and says: “I can fix that bad note,” and I look at him and I think: “Well, what in the hell would you do that for? That’s part of history and somebody might remember that bad note and want to see if it’s on there.”


Q: What about downloads, speaking of technology.

Gray: Well, I’ve got to tell you, our biggest downloads — because we own the masters — are between 18 to 47 years old. That is such a wide span and that’s why we’re still out there doing it.

Q: Hey look, Doug, what can folks expect at the Augusta Civic Center from this show?

Gray: Well, I think they’re gonna walk away surprised, I know they’ll have a smile on their faces. There’s no question about it. That’s one thing my band likes to see is everybody with a big smile. We like to lift a lot of the anger in people and a lot of what they gotta worry about for an hour-and-a-half . Hopefully, that helps to heal a lot of the things that are going on.

Q: And there is an awful lot to heal, too.

Gray: Oh, man, you’re telling me. It’s tough all over — some states got it real bad, they really do.


Q: Well, Maine isn’t as hard- pressed as some, thankfully. You’ve been coming up to our fair state quite often over these many years.

Gray: Oh, yeah, we have. Boothbay is one of my favorite places — I’ve got friends all over that place up there. There’s this one guy up there every time he comes down to see us in South Carolina he hangs out with us here. He’s a lobster fisherman.

Every time he comes down he brings lobster and we have a feast. Down here, he gets catfish and it’s fried. I’m telling you that you can have the best of both worlds if you’re friends with a lobster fisherman.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Gray: Just for people to come and have a good time. We just want them to smile coming in and to leave happy. That’s what I want.

Lucky Clark has spent 48 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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