By Chuck Dauphin
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner recently took the mound to the tune of “Fire On The Mountain,” the 1975 classic from The Marshall Tucker Band, during the baseball team’s post-season run.
Throw in the constant inclusion of classic songs like “Can’t You See” in television shows like The Voice and American Idol, and the music that the band made seems as vibrant and as relevant as ever. Longtime member Doug Gray offers this explanation.
“I think that one reason that these songs are timeless is that the period of time that Toy Caldwell wrote them, there was an American-ism thing going on. You were doing stuff for your kids, and that’s how people are wanting to do it now. Every record of ours is a reference is to moving. ‘Fire On The Mountain’ has references to staying on the move and accomplishing things.”
After all, Gray reasons to The 615 that the year on the calendar might have changed -- but life is still kind of the same, at least from an emotional standpoint. “People still get married, they still break-up. And that’s why people still come to the shows. They have their memories -- and they bring their grandkids now.”
Gray definitely has his memories of a concert he and the band played on Sept. 3, 1977, in Englishtown, N.J., along with the Grateful Dead.
“I remember flying in that morning. We had been on the road all the time. It was about four in the morning when we arrived at the hotel. We thought we had till about 12 or 1 o’clock to get up. They woke us up at 7 in the morning. We didn’t have cell phone then, and our road manager comes down and says, ‘We’ve got to go to the airport. You are going to have to helicopter in. There were already 150,000 people there,” he says with a warm and nostalgic smile.
When he got to the venue, Gray couldn’t believe his eyes. “I remember flying over it, and thinking, ‘What is the clearing down there?’ It was people for as far as you can see. I had seen the Woodstock movie, and all the stuff that was going on, but you never seen anything other than a couple of long shots of all the people. You had a band that could draw, and you had one that they were starting to hear about, so it was the perfect storm. I started to look around, and everywhere people were happy. It was like they took a chill pill.
“Everybody was so into the music, but there wasn’t enough PA there so everybody could hear it. They didn’t expect that many people to show up. I was amazed at it, and couldn’t believe it. We tried to bring the music and people back together, instead of keeping them separate. Everybody was having fun. Nobody was having any problems. They were passing their joints around, their liquor, and everything else. They were just up and starting dancing. It was great.”
The music from that historic show is now documented on the new collection Live! Englishtown, NJ -- September 3, 1977. Gray said that it took a while to get things like he wanted it on the album, although the word “perfect” doesn’t figure into that description.
“It took me four months to take the tapes and make it the way it was. The engineer would ask me if I wanted to take a bad note out, and I said, ‘No, You can’t do that. None of us are perfect.’ The bad goes along with the good. This is not the most perfect performance, but it indicates a reference in time for the 150,000 people that were there. I sat in the studio for four months putting those tapes together, and wanted it to have good sound for today -- regardless of bad notes. It was an amazing time.”
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