Whenever you drop that proverbial quarter into the virtual jukebox of songs that always manage to reach down and touch your soul the exact moment you cue them up, you inevitably find certain artists have a deeper resonance than others when it comes to providing the soundtrack that mirrors the highs and lows of your own life.
The Marshall Tucker Band is one such group that continues to have a profound level of impact on successive generations of listeners who’ve been searchin’ for a rainbow and found it perfectly represented by this tried-and-true Southern institution for over five decades.
“I’ve been in tune with how music can make you feel, right from when I was first in the crib,” observes lead vocalist and bandleader Doug Gray, who’s been fronting the MTB since the very beginning. “I was born with that. And I realized it early on, back when I was a little kid and my mom and dad encouraged me to get up there and sing whatever song came on the jukebox. It got to the point where people were listening to me more than what was on the jukebox! There’s a certain frequency I found I could share, whether I was in front of five people or 20,000 people. And once that frequency is there, everybody will listen.”
The Marshall Tucker Band came together as a young, hungry, and quite driven six-piece outfit in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1972, having duly baptized themselves with the name of a blind piano tuner after they found it inscribed on a key to their original rehearsal space — and they’ve been in tune with tearing it up on live stages both big and small all across the globe ever since. Plus, the band’s mighty music catalog, consisting of more than 20 studio albums and a score of live releases, has racked up multi-platinum album sales many times over in its wake. A typically rich MTB setlist is bubbling over with a healthy dose of indelible hits like the heartfelt singalong “Heard It in a Love Song,” the insistent pleading of “Can’t You See” (the signature tune of MTB’s late co-founding lead guitarist and then-principal songwriter Toy Caldwell), the testifying travelogue warning of “Fire on the Mountain,” the wanderlust gallop of “Long Hard Ride,” and the unquenchable yearning pitch of “Ramblin’,” to name but a few. (See, we can hear you singing along to all of them in your head right now as you read this.)
Though Doug Gray recently turned 70 years young, he sees no end to the road that lies ahead for The Marshall Tucker Band, whose legacy is being carried forward quite reverentially by the man himself and his current bandmates, drummer B.B. Borden (Mother’s Finest, The Outlaws), bassist/vocalist Tony Black, keyboardist/saxophonist/flautist/vocalist Marcus James Henderson, guitarist/vocalist Chris Hicks, and guitarist/vocalist Rick Willis. “You know, I think it was Toy Caldwell’s dad who said, ‘There’s more to gray hair than old bones,’ and we still have a lot of stories yet to tell,” Gray concludes. “People ask me all the time what I’m gonna do when I turn 80, and I always say, ‘The same thing that we’re continuing to do now.’ We’re road warriors, there’s no doubt about that — and I don’t intend to stop.” May the MTB wagon train continue running like the wind on a long hard ride for many more years to come. One thing we absolutely know for sure: If you heard it in a Marshall Tucker Band song, it can’t be wrong.