by: Alanna Conaway
For decades, the Marshall Tucker Band has been one of the greatest Southern rock bands of all time, changing the sound of ’70s music with hits such as ‘Heard It in a Love Song,’ ‘Can’t You See’ and ‘Fire on the Mountain.’
Today, the band is still going strong, despite the many tragic deaths of various original members over the years. Still fronted by founding member Doug Gray, the band is gearing up for yet another full year of touring with plenty of surprises planned along the way.
Ultimate Classic Rock recently caught up with Gray to talk about what’s on the horizon for him and the guys.
Last time we talked, you mentioned some new music was getting ready to be put down in the studio. Do you have any idea when we can expect to hear some new music from you guys?
“There are three or four songs, but there’s nothing set in stone. The studio’s there. How hard is it to go into the studio and record? Everybody makes a big deal out of it. With us, it’s like when there’s a record there, we got the deal, so we just got to put the songs together. If you rush to something, it’s totally an anti-climatic thing. It’s not as much fun to go into the studio if you know that you’ve got it down pat, which we never do. If you have it just a little bit rehearsed, that’s cool because it’s inevitable that it’s going to change because we wake up every day, and there’s different things you have to face. We never plan.”
You also mentioned this South Carolina Hall of Fame album that was being finalized in recent months. Do you have a release date set for that album?
“That record’s coming out probably in the next four to six months. It sounds really cool. It’s got the Allman Brothers on there … everybody kind of came in for that project. It was a dedication to Tommy and Toy [Caldwell] because they were gone at that period in time, but South Carolina wanted to induct us, so we did it. It sounded great.”
You guys have been making music and touring for so long now. What kind of things run through your mind before taking the stage?
“It’s kind of weird … we don’t talk to each other before we go on. We sit there in the bus, and we don’t go in the dressing room too much. It’s kind of weird, but once we get on stage, it’s like, ‘Hey! How are you doing?!’ [laughs] We start talking. I don’t know why it’s that way, but the original band was that way, too. We always would get up and jam before the show in the dressing room, and that’s how we learned what songs would be on the next record.
“When we do a large show like that, most of the time we’ll sit around and maybe have a beer and talk to old friends, and then when we walk out there, everybody has their individual routine that they go through. We’re not burning chickens or nothing, you know what I mean [laughs]? We’re not hanging feathered animals and no voodoo chant, but it is kind of rare that we get real social. Then you want to kind of calm down, and then you walk out there and it’s like, ‘Hey, how you doing, man? It’s great to see you!’ It’s like meeting new friends again once that first note is played. It’s pretty cool.”
Well I guess that saves you guys from getting into any fights right before you take the stage!
“We never get mad. Me being known as ‘Doug the Peace Maker,’ nobody in my band wants to do that. Plus, it’s harder to get up now [laughs]! You hurt a lot worse when you get older [laughs].”
In June, the Marshall Tucker Band will make a return to the Grand Ole Opry, this time taking the stage at the famed Opryhouse. How does that make you feel, knowing you are being welcomed back to the prestigious stage so soon?
“I’m excited because we’re acknowledged and that really matters more. We had a wonderful thing go on that [Opry debut] night, and I couldn’t have asked for it to be any better. I was scared. If a person could be afraid, I was a little nervous. I get weirded out before I walk into an interview with most people. If you’re worth your weight, then you supposed to be a little nervous, I believe.
“But up there, it was a trip walking in and seeing Bill Anderson and all those people welcoming us like we had known them all their lives. We actually hadn’t met that many of those people because we’re in a whole different world. For our band to be acknowledged by those people that had so much history and so much understanding was an honor. Those people were there because they wanted to hear country music. They wanted to hear Bill and all these other people who were on the Opry. They didn’t really expect the Marshall Tucker Band to come out there and shine them the way we did.
“The best words to come forth was when Bill said, ‘For the folks on the radio, that’s what you call getting a standing ovation on the radio, and that’s why we didn’t talk during that.’ I was knocked down. I just can’t express it. You can’t get it out of your mind.
“I remember just standing back there waiting to go on … [country singer] Joe Diffie was there, and he’s a buddy, but when you get these other people like [Opry legend] Little Jimmy Dickens coming up and saying for me to come over to his dressing room, and we sat there and talked. That’s pretty heavy.
“Having that door open to you and actually getting to go there, and then being invited to come back and play? I have a lot people to be thankful to for that offer. I really do. I love it.”
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