by: Kenn Kasica
I am thinking back to the year 1979. This brand new teenaged rock and roller from Boston Massachusetts was sitting in the back of a Buick Wildcat during a late August afternoon cruise. The black as tar dashboard in this convertible was baking and the mad dog maroon vinyl seats were broiling. But there was nothing under the sun hotter than the deep southern "in your face" rock and roll blasting from an orange eight track tape of a South Carolina group called The Marshall Tucker Band. I cannot recall how long that cruise lasted. Perhaps it went on for a few songs, the next street light, into the next sunrise, or like the everlasting summer breeze whispered by the hands of time, the cruise rolls today alongside my memories. I often embrace this moment in 1979. It was a time of young and wild untamed twists and turns on the asphalt ribbon while dancing with the heat to Carolina Dreams by The Marshall Tucker Band. I had forever ahead of me but a moment in the circle was all I needed back in 1979.
I am back into 2009. Janurary 28th and ice is the special on the weather menu today served in a super sized heaping helping of sleet sprinkled slush. I am kicking back on a sofa in a cozy warm room backstage sitting next to a man with a head full of hair and hands full of a cell phone. His fingers are all over the gadget as he tries to check his voice mail and text messages. A few moments pass then he puts the phone away in his pocket. He gives me a look and smiles. Softly he asks, "Hey, how are you?" "Did you enjoy the show tonight?" This is how I met Doug Gray, lead singer and original member of The Marshall Tucker Band. Doug and the rest of the MTB had just finished a show in Foxboro Massachusetts at a place called Showcase Live. Meeting Doug Gray was quite special. He is an embracing spirit who poured it out on stage touching the souls of in an audience full of old faces and new admirers of southern music. It was a great show. Doug was charasmatic, directing the night with his one liners and a fresh picked set list. He reached the dancing crowd toward the back as he reached the fans seated in the front giving the crowd classic MTB songs they came to share with the night. The band was tight. The night went south in the best of ways. The time I spent backstage with Doug Gray as the MTB prepared to jump on a bus and head on out is something worth sharing. It is something very special.
A well groomed man enters the backstage room along with his lovely wife by his side. The two are already bundled up for the bitter elements outside. The mans shiny black shoes and matching hat along with a real expensive looking "buisness leather" jacket stands out among the MTB concert shirts and faded jeans that are worn by the band and the roadies as they pop in and out of the room. The couple had an appearance of just being "charmed" by a symphony and in the zone of blown kisses, plastic "shout outs," and blue blood fingers clenching fine crystal of finer French bubbles. As the tight glove wrapped hand of this man extended to greet Doug Gray's hand, I took it all back. This couple was here backstage to meet an idol. Perhaps they did well for themselves, It all depends on how you judge success. The man shook Doug's hand as his wife smiled. Two different men on opposite paths met to share a moment as a new friendship was born. This man represented all of the fans who have come out tonight to enjoy the music of MTB. They are young kids, old fools, hopeless romantics, working stiffs, poorly dressed garage rock relics, and a well groomed man who looked like a million bucks. What would become priceless was the words this man said to Doug Gray in the moment he realized he was face to face with a southern rock legend. Who, I ask, could ever say it better. "I have all your albums." "I play them to this day." "Your songs are such a part of my life." "They are part of my, best of times."
A lady entered the backstage room. She wore a pretty smile and had nice things to say. She was dancing as she was earlier in the night out beyond the tables from center stage. Her arms opened up to give a big hug to her southern song man Doug Gray. Doug wasted no time getting to his feet and accepting this very happy ladies embrace. She told Doug how the music of The MTB touched her life. I could see this pretty lady back in the day at a stadium show. She was up on somebodies shoulders, whistling to the band as mellow colors and loud southern boogie swirled from the stage mixing with the last of the twilight sky and enhancing the offerings of dearest Mother Nature. She wore a brand new denim jacket that night as she danced her heart out to her favorite group, The MTB. It was an amazing piece of life to be there seeing this lady after over three decades of singing and dancing to a great band and a lifetime of beautiful songs. She told us, "I remember where I was when I heard the first MTB album." "I remember who I was with and what I was doing." All the moments of a wonderful life and playing along with the memories was the timeless music of The MTB. Today, her denim jacket is a bit faded and she did not see tonights show from the top of somebodies shoulders. Her love for Doug Gray was as strong as it ever was. She left the room with a smile and an everlasting memory she will hold dear for the next three decades. I liked this gal!! I think the human factory put in an extra helping of "real" mix when they made that uplifting lady. With her love of The MTB, there goes one sweet, "Honey Tucker Rose."
Number sixteen in black and gold is a real deal legend in the Boston sports world. He is known around these parts as "Nifty" and Nifty has just entered the room backstage to visit a southern rock legend. Nifty was a fifty goal scorer one year for the Boston Bruins. I watch as Nifty hands to Doug an old band photo for Doug to sign. This is a picture where Jerry Eubanks standing on the left is wearing a black Boston Bruins jersey with the number sixteen on its sleeve. Doug smiles at the photo and signs his name above his picture. I remember the player who wore jersey number sixteen for the Boston Bruins. He was my favorite player when I was a kid. Tonight, Nifty, the sharp shooting NHL goal scorerfrom Canada is a humbled and excited fan of The MTB who goes by the name of Rick Middleton.
Between the long night of performing and the longer night of a bus ride, Doug Gray took in the silence of an empty room. He thought of his friend who had passed away earlier in the day. He was a friend who was an immovable mountain on the stage and an irreplaceable genuine spirit of inspiration. Billy Powell faced tragedy and walked from the wreckage that would forever change the great circle of southern rock. The crowd was gone. The colored lights were off. The bus outside was warmed up and ready to head down to the next MTB show in Phoenixville Pennsylvania. In a room backstage, Doug Gray felt like talking. I sat beside him and was all ears "We lost Billy today." "I was told the news before the show tonight." "We just did a cruise with Skynyrd and Billy looked fine." "You know," Doug said, "Billy was a man who took life straight on." "He was always there but now, he is gone." I could see the sadness in Doug's eyes but I could only imagine the miles, the hardship, and the friends that he keeps and how he can bring it all to centerstage singing over heartache and playing it pretty under the grace of god. Doug went on. "I think of this." "I think of Toy, Ronnie, and now Billy." "It gives me an understanding of why I am still out here doing what I am doing." "People wonder why I still go out on the road at sixty years old." Doug looked right at me. "Well," he said, "I don,t wonder at all." "I do it for my friends and for the fans." "It is important that I carry on and in some way, carry on the music of the friends who have passed on." Doug got to his feet. There was a bus to catch. Before the door opened, before we went our own ways I told Doug he was a survivor, he would be singing forever. With a handshake and a smile he left me one last thing, "I feel strong."
I was a brand new fan of The MTB back in 1979. Thirty years later, the music is as good as ever. I do believe that Doug Gray will forever sing the great music of The MTB for there is a centerstage to infinity and the spirits from SpartanBurg South Carolina are headlining the show. May Doug Gray carry on. Forever is a brand new moment. And so goes, the great southern circle.
I met Doug and the guys at Louisville Ky in '06 or 07. I have been a fan since the 70's and had always told my guys that my dream was to sing with Doug Gray just once. Doug was gonna do "Bob Away My Blues" But got side tracked by a drunk blond chick ( remember Doug?)
But I did get to sing with him in the parking lot after the show. (that's good enough for me) I'm on the road this week for work and doing a lot of driving. I've spent two days listening to all my MTB cd's.
We may have lost some great friends and players but they will never be gone as long as the music lives on. Life In A Song -- There is life in all the songs. May God Bless -- Jeff
I have seen the band dozens of times. I am sooo glad to have Y'all return to mablehouse. I live 2 miles(crawling distance) from there. I am going to bring my tambourine that you(Doug) tossed to me at the Omni in Oakland Ca. '84/'85ish for you to sign. My then boyfriend, now husband was the manager there at that time. I FREAKED when he said that you guys were playing there. I was standing in awe in the front row. See you on 6/26.......
Almost 50 and Still lovin' MTB KIM
First,I have to say....never heard much of The Marshall Tucker Band...never heard of Doug Gray...I read this article,and if I close my eyes I can almost be backstage watching the events unfold there...it was a fun article to read...seems so genuine...ok...and I must say...it made me want to go on a hunt for some Marshall Tucker music....guess it's better late than never,and it's always fun to have "new" music to listen to....I'm sure you'll have another fan to add to your list!!
You must login to post comments.