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Doug Gray: Marshall Tucker Y2K

by Michael Buffalo Smith, 2000

Doug Gray has seen quite a lot of changes in his world since he started singing professionally in 1971 as front man for The Marshall Tucker Band. He has weathered the deaths of founding-fathers Tommy Caldwell and Toy Caldwell, as well as the death's this year of his Mother in April and Tucker sideman Paul Thompson in October. He has seen the breakup of the original band lineup back in 1983, and endured the personnel changes that were woven into the fabric of the organization.

In 1999, Charlie Daniels invited The Marshall Tucker Band to relive the glory days of the 1970's, by hitting the road with The Volunteer Jam Tour, the first ever attempt to take his annual all-star jam on the road. It was a successful tour that found The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Williams, Jr. and Molly Hatchet taking to the highway for a Southern-fried rock and roll party, pleasing fans from Carolina to Jersey, to California.

Former Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall toured as a part of Hank's band, and various friends climbed onstage at most of the shows to jam. Greenville, S.C. found Ricky Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd (formerly of Blackfoot) rocking alongside Charlie. In Charlotte, N.C., radio knuckleheads John Boy & Billy sang "Can't You See" with the Marshall Tucker Band, and in Nashville, Garth Brooks sang with the CDB.

We met Gray for dinner in Greenville, S.C., where we were joined by Upstate radio personality Tony Magoo, who had just an hour earlier conducted an on-air interview with Gray. We spoke with Doug Gray about Volunteer Jam, Charlie Daniels and what's happening with Marshall Tucker Entertainment, Inc. and his new Ramblin' Records label.

How did you enjoy the summer Volunteer Jam Tour?
The Jam was nice. Lots of fun. I think we should put a show together at least several dates a year, with us and Charlie. And we need enough time to do all of the songs that we like, and then do a jam.

You guys did a lot of Charlie's Volunteer Jams in the past didn't you?
Oh, yeah. It was always a great time for everyone. I have so many happy memories of watching Toy Caldwell rocking out up there on stage with Charlie and The Outlaws, all those great bands. I just stood over to the side until it was my turn to sing. A lot of that was recorded. Those two cd's on Blue Hat with Volunteer Jam tracks are great. I still wish Charlie would release "It's My Life," where I sang with him. I really liked that one.

Ramblin' Records has just released nine good old Marshall Tucker Band records, distributed through Platinum Entertainment, including six albums that originally came out on Warner Brothers, and have never before been available on CD. Your thoughts?
It's just surprising. It's like getting a gold record. That's how exciting it is. Like getting a whole new gold record. Just the fact that these good records are out there again, and are going to be accomplishing something instead of sitting in somebody's warehouse. And the fact that most of these have never been on CD. That's why I get so excited about it.

What do you think it'll mean to fans of the band to get these releases into their hands after so long?
I think it's a good idea. People have been asking for these records, like Running Like the Wind and Tenth, and to hear these songs for a long time. I think the fans will really be excited about it. I know we are too.

Does this mean you'll be resurrecting some of the old, what we call Warner songs, on your next tour?
No question about it. We are already doing "Cattle Drive," and we're bringing back "Running Like the Wind." I don't have it in front of me, but there are at least three more of those songs going back into the set list. I'd like to do Ronnie Godfrey's "Time Don't Pass By Here" again.

Some people have asked about the length of your show, saying they'd like to see a longer show with more old fashioned jamming like you guys are well known for.
We are already making it longer, and we're about to add some new songs which will extend it even more. But it's not really up to us. We are contracted for a certain length of time. But we are still working hard on that. We always try to give the audience their money's worth.

What's the deal with these Easyrider's Bike Shows in January?

Yeah, this is great. We are the featured band for a series of bike shows around the country in January and February. They are all sponsored by Easyriders magazine. That'll be a lot of fun, I'm sure.

What's next for The Marshall Tucker Band?
Well, we are still enjoying some air play on radio off of the last two albums, Face Down in The Blues and Gospel, and we're gearing up for another big summer, hopefully teaming up again with Charlie Daniels some. We may have some surprises in store for our fans in the summer as well, and my biography is coming out pretty soon, which you know about since you're the one who wrote it. And people are still buying the first book. ("Carolina Dreams: The Musical Legacy of Upstate South Carolina," Marshall Tucker Entertainment, Inc. 1997) We just plan to keep on keepin' on, and taking the music, both old and new Marshall Tucker, to the fans.


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