“We’re 45 years together and I see no end to any of it. I really don’t.” Doug Gray, founding member and lead singer of The Marshall Tucker Band says he’ll never retire.
The Marshall Tucker Band will perform at the Oxford Performing Arts Center on September 17. The Sunday show starts at 7:00 pm and tickets are available for $25, $35, and $45.
Gray, 69, has been The Marshall Tucker Band frontman for nearly half a century. “I have been very fortunate to have people that really love to be out there on the road with me, the drivers and all of us… it’s almost like having a family that you like,” Gray laughed.
The Marshall Tucker Band came together in the fall of 1973, a time when music giants such as The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, and The Grateful Dead were topping charts.
While Gray is the last remaining original member in the band, he says the original band was only together for eight years. “We had made an agreement between us just to keep it going just as long as we possibly could, and we did. And here we are 45 years later.”
In addition to Gray, the current members include the highly respected drummer B.B. Borden, a former member of both Mother’s Finest and The Outlaws; multi-instrumentalist Marcus Henderson of Macon, Georgia, on flute, saxophone, and keyboards in addition to lead and background vocals; Pat Elwood on bass guitar and Rick Willis on lead guitar and vocals, both of Spartanburg, SC, are disciples of the Caldwell Brothers, and acclaimed lead guitarist and vocalist Chris Hicks.
“It’s been really nice, having these guys so dedicated, but most of them have been there 25 years,” says Gray of his band mates. The Marshall Tucker Band has produced hits like “Can’t You See”, “Fire On The Mountain”, and “Heard It In A Love Song” just to name a few. Gray says, “The way to keep the sound going is to find people that want to be there with you and to help to create that sound.”
The Marshall Tucker Band has 40 tour dates lined up through January including a show at The Grand Ole Opry and a performance on the Southern Rock Cruise 2018. The band performs more than 130 live shows per year, which Gray says is the easy part of his job. “You get up there and you play for an hour and a half or two hours, maybe a little bit longer. That’s the easiest part of your day.”
If performing is the easy part, the hardest is the traveling, but Gray says, “That’s actually one of my favorite parts, is the traveling.”
The Marshall Tucker Band has influenced major acts like Alabama, The Kentucky Headhunters, Confederate Railroad, and Travis Tritt with its blend of rock, rhythm & blues, jazz, country, and gospel. The MTB has been labeled as a southern rock group for years, but Gray cares less about that and more about making good music saying, “You can’t change good music into bad music. You just can’t do it. If it’s a good song, people are going to like it forever.”
Over the years, The Marshall Tucker Band recorded 22 studio albums, three DVDs, three live albums, and other compilations, but the band’s presence on stage is what makes the MTB so special. “We put on a hell of a show,” says Gray. Seeing a crowd sing along, requesting songs is what makes his day, “People are smiling, that’s all that matters.”
The Marshall Tucker Band can be caught performing with groups in just about every genre, “One minute it could be opening for Kid Rock, the next minute it’s Zac Brown, the following minute The Doobie Brothers so you never know who we’re going to be with.”
In addition to MTB’s lasting effect on the music industry, Gray is proud to note the many engineers and crew members who have gone on to work for other big names like Brad Paisley. He says, “People hire people who have been with us because we didn’t train them well, we showed them how to have a good time and still get your job done.”
Gray says he’s never let himself slow down, “You just keep doing what you’re doing and try to do it the best you can.” He served as a sergeant in the Vietnam War, and he enjoys riding his Harley when he has time. Originally from Spartanburg, SC, Gray now lives in Myrtle Beach.
When we spoke, Gray was in Spartanburg visiting his daughters and grandkids, ages six and four. He had gotten home at 5:30 that morning, taken a nap, and started getting things back in order after being on the road. “That to me is relaxing,” he says, “because I can close my eyes at night and know that everybody’s on the right track.”
Gray says it’s kind of weird to see people looking at the MTB like they’re legends. “I can’t complain, nor will I ever complain, about these guys having respect for us,” he adds. “Every time we go to the Grand Ole Opry people would show up that think we’re supposed to be there at all times.”
After performing at the Oxford Performing Arts Center, The marshall Tucker Band will head up to Connecticut and then on to dozens of other shows. No matter where the band travels, Gray will bring his positivity and humble nature along for the ride, leaving thousands of fans smiling along the way.