Ladies and gentlemen -- Mr. Marshall Tucker

The Tybee Pirate Fest headliner has always been a communal entity

Doug Gray, top left, co-founded the Marshall Tucker Band in the early 1970s in Spartanburg, S.C. The lead vocalist is the only original member of the band in the current lineup.

First, a little history: Marshall Tucker was a real person, but he never played in the Marshall Tucker Band.

Just like the young Jacksonville musicians who’d titled their group after their junior high gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, Spartanburg, S.C.’s Toy Caldwell and Doug Gray borrowed the name of a local piano tuner.

For no other reason than they just liked the way it sounded. They didn’t even know the guy.

The Marshall Tucker Band that’ll play the Tybee Island Pirate Fest Saturday isn’t exactly the same MTB that carved out a legendary spot in Southern Rock in the 1970s: Lead guitarist and chief songwriter Caldwell died in 1993; his bass–playing, stage–pattering brother Tommy has been gone since 1980. Original rhythm guitarist George McCorkle died in 2007.

The music, still as strong as ever, remains: “Can’t You See,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Take the Highway,” “Heard it in a Love Song,” “Long Hard Ride,” This Ol’ Cowboy.” Good music will do that.

Distinctive vocalist Gray has been “fronting” the Marshall Tucker Band since Toy Caldwell’s passing. He says the band has always been about a communal spirit.  “Me and Toy were both in Vietnam,” he says, “and we didn’t give a shit about leading. All we wanted was for somebody to bring us a drink, and then we’d go and play our ass off. It’s that simple.”

In its glory days, the band scored seven gold and three platinum albums.

At 61, Gray has become the keeper of the flame. Lately, he’s been going through live and studio tapes, and old film and video, and re–mastering them for archival release.

“The reason that I’m still doing this is not because I’ve got 17 and 18–year–old kids,” he says, “and 28–year–old kids. I do it primarily because I love it.

“I’ve been one of these fortunate guys to be able to have known some real, real legendary people. When I’m sitting there re–mixing some of this live stuff, that’s the beauty of being in the position that I’m in. I remember what all this stuff sounded like onstage.

“The reason we started the Marshall Tucker Band was because Toy and I got out of the service at the same time, and we said ‘OK, let’s give it one shot.’ Toy had ‘Can’t You See’ and ‘Take the Highway,’ and we decided we’d work for one weekend and make enough money for the beer. That’s what we’d done in high school.”

The current lineup performs somewhere around 130 shows per year.

“It is amazing to me that we still go out there,” Gray adds. “Sometimes you see different artists in the audience – people who are really big – or country artists that think we just ruled the world back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I don’t have a clue why.”

The songs are now considered timeless. “I’ve been singing for 55 years, and that’s a real figure,” Gray explains. “The reason I’m still having such a good time is because I can have an 18–year–old girl climb up on the stage that knows ‘Can’t You See’ as good as Toy Caldwell did.”

The Marshall Tucker Band has a very special place in the rock ‘n’ roll history books. “Well, Toy does,” Gray laughs. “My place in history’s yet to be found!

“All I’m really here for is to help present it. And Toy said it best one time, he says ‘Man, I’m writin’ this song for you to sing.’ And that’s what he did. That’s why I sang 99 percent of them songs.”

Tybee Island Pirate Fest

Friday, Oct. 9

Where: South Beach Parking Lot, Tybrisa St. to Strand Ave, oceanfront

Hours: Festival Area Gates Open at 5 pm

Admission: $10 both days for the festival area (age 12 and under free)

Thieves Market: 5–11 p.m.

Fireworks: 7:30 p.m.

Main Stage Entertainment:

Roy and the Circuit Breakers (5–6 p.m.); The Train Wrecks (6–7:30 p.m.);

Eric Culberson Blues Band (7:45–9:15 p.m.); Big Engine (9:30–11 p.m.)

Saturday, Oct. 10

Where: South Beach Parking Lot, Tybrisa St. to Strand Ave, oceanfront

Hours: Festival Area Gates Open at 9:30 a.m.

Admission: $10 both days for the festival area (age 12 and under free)

Thieves Market: 10 a.m.–11 p.m.

Activities: 11am – 5:00pm – Scavenger Hunt (11 a.m.–5 p.m.); Pirate Victory Parade (3 p.m.); Pet Costume Contest (5:30 p.m.); Adult Costume Contest (6 p.m.)

Main Stage Entertainment:

Brian Clees Band (12:30–2 p.m.); High Velocity (2:45–4:45 p.m.); Wormsloew (5–6 p.m.); Bottles & Cans (6:15–7:45 p.m.); Randy “Hatman” Smith (8–9 p.m.); the Marshall Tucker Band (9–11 p.m.)

For more information:


About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.
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