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Marshall Tucker Band has been playing at the highest level of the music scene since forming in 1972 and 50 years after coming together, Doug Gray – a founding member of the original Southern rock band – is “feeling good” as the group continues performing sold out shows.
“I’ve been working my butt off for this 50th year, going to United Talent Artists (UTA) and I thought [it] was going to be difficult being an older band,” Gray, 74, told Fox News Digital. “Usually, you’re kind of weeded out, and you play a few dates here and there and stuff like that. When we last spoke, we created those about the ability of Marshall Tucker Band to write songs and the crowds liking the songs and the memories that we first eight years that keep people of all ages keep coming back because they bring their kids, and they bring their grandkids.”
“It’s amazing because all those songs were kind of meant for people,” Gray added of the band’s infusion of blues, country and jazz music. “They were thought through. And Toy (Caldwell) and Tommy (Caldwell) and myself, we’d write songs that meant something to people. We’ve got songs on two Netflix movies right now, and then we’ve got about three coming up on Amazon and on their stuff because they still like our songs.”
Original Marshall Tucker Band members included Gray, brothers Toy and Tommy Caldwell, George McCorkle, Paul T. Riddle and Jerry Eubanks. Tommy died in 1980 following a car accident in the band’s hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Toy in 1993 from respiratory failure. McCorkle died in 2007 and Riddle and Eubanks both left the band in the ’80s and ’90s, respectively.
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With Gray as the last surviving member who is part of the original group, the band is currently embarking on their anniversary tour, which according to Gray, has the group booking dates into 2023.
For Gray, he said he’ll play for as long as life allows him to, especially after overcoming a bout with coronavirus. His lease on life is shrouded in appreciation for what he’s still able to do every day.
Gray explained a time when many weren’t sure what genre to place the band in. While it can be hard for a band to find their sound and their lane when it has the ability to play various types of music, Gray said he is still amazed to receive so much praise from big wigs in the country music space back in the days but even more so now considering the rate at which the industry has changed in the last 50 years.
“I’m a puppet and a lot of people think that’s an insult, but it’s not. I’m a puppet to what the audience wants to hear.”
“I’m running into people that I’ve known for years, some of them are country artists – people look at us sometimes like we’re country, and they didn’t know where to put us in the beginning because we could go and play with Spyro Gyra and Thelonius Monk, and then we’d be with Dionne Warwick, and then I’d go, ‘This is kind of cool because this is how I grew up singing was just like she was singing – from the heart ,'” Gray explained.
“Watching these younger guys look at me, I’d go out to dinner with four or five of the major buyers around the country and I wonder what do they really see in us? What is it they want?” Gray continued of his bewilderment at the fact that the Marshall Tucker Band is still as coveted a ticket as it was when the group was traveling alongside Lynyrd Skynyrd and BB King.
“They sit down, and they ask me my opinion of how to do other stuff because of my experience,” Gray added. “I knew when eight tracks were going out of style – I know when the change is coming. And thank God the changes did come because the music not only got more transparent, it got real. More people could put stuff out and things could happen like they have been for us now.”
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For the last 17 years, Marshall Tucker Band has never performed the same set twice and Gray hangs his hat on the fact that he and the players in his group have an extensive catalog of 333 songs to choose from.
“We’ve sung a ton of records and when we get up on stage and all the lights go out, I have to admit that I am completely blinded by the audience because that audience is what’s telling me what to do,” said Gray. “I’m a puppet and a lot of people think that’s an insult, but it’s not. I’m a puppet to what the audience wants to hear.”
Gray quipped a time when one venue worker approached him to tell him that the show only to explain that her grandfather had introduced her to Marshall Tucker Band when she was in kindergarten “We’re starting to get a lot of requests right now about being on the road,” he raved.
“It’s a whole other world, is what it is. And that gave me the inspiration to want to learn a new song ‘Without You’ and/or ‘I’ll Be Loving You,’ which is a song that Toy wrote, which I thought was great,” Gray said, adding that in his estimation Toy is one of the most prolific writers he’s ever worked with and Gray was often inspired by him to come up with new records of his own for the band.
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“There’s a song that I wrote on the back of a Burger King fast food bag and I didn’t write it down, my girlfriend at the time did, and she became my wife,” Gray explained of “I Should Have Never Started Lovin ‘ You,” making a point to qualify that they didn’t have much money at the time.
He went on to note that the 1977 record was written while the pair sat in an “old and beat-up” pickup truck Gray purchased from a gentleman who drove it on a peach orchard.
“I told her something just came to my head, and it’s not about you, but I want you to write this down,” Gray explained. “So we couldn’t find anything to write on because we were in that pickup truck. And so she found a pencil or a pen, and I said, ‘There’s something in your eyes that reminds me of all the loves I’ve left behind me. The looks on your face as they tell me that I should have never started loving you.’ And she wrote that down and she said, ‘You’re talking about me, aren’t you?!’ I said, ‘No! Is it true when they say that I was mean and cruel? All the loves I’ve had I’ve made them out as fools now the tide has turned, and I’m lonely too. never started loving you.'”
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Gray went on to explain the moral behind his tale is the fact that “I don’t know if my work is going to end tomorrow,” and reflected on the fact the song he thought of while sitting in a pickup truck “is now getting played in Belgium right now on wilderness family movies.”
“I know it’s freaky itself because it was like 1975-76,” Gray said in amazement. “But, you know, the real thing here about me feeling the way I do and you appreciating the fact that I feel that way and happy for me makes me happy for you because I’m able to talk to you and tell you about it ,” Gray said in reflection. “It means we can expand a little bit not just about the music, not about the band – I’m making a real difference.”
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Marshall Tucker Band’s next stop in their 50th Anniversary Tour is slated for June 4 in Laughlin, Nevada – and fans can purchase tickets into 2023 with Feb. 13 seeing the group playing the Rock Legends Cruise X aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.