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Volunteer Jam Blazes Through Greenville

Posted: May 03, 2007

The Volunteer Jam Tour of 2007 kicked off in style on Friday night with The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws invading the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC. Going in, I expected a great evening, but I really had no idea whatsoever that it would become a homecoming for The MTB.

It all began with my buddy Scott Greene and his son Steve along with Pastor Cliff (the ultra-cool leader of my favorite church, Freedom Fellowship) picked me up in the Suburban (a vehicle that has logged many a mile on the rock and roll highway). we made our way over to Sticky Fingers for a pre-concert meal and some fun conversation.

At the venue, we separated, as I had to be backstage while my friends took seats out front. (Although Pastor Cliff would later meet Charlie Daniels backstage during the meet and greet).

The first person I saw backstage was my pal Smoke, Tony Heatherly. Smoke was the bassist for The Toy Caldwell Band, and most recently spent a few years thumping the four strings for The Marshall Tucker Band. It was indeed great to see ol’ Smoke again. We made our way back to the MTB dressing room, which was filled with Doug Gray’s children, all chilling out. It was at about this time that the familiar faces started popping up in rapid succession.

The second familiar face I saw was that of Clay Cook. I was so happy to see him at the show, as I believe he really adds a lot to the band. Not only that, but he has pipes reminicent of uncle Doug.

Chris Hicks and his wife Jenny (I love ‘em!) came in, and I was surprised and happy to see the band’s manager, Ron Rainey, in from California. It was great speaking with Mr. Rainey again. It was also great to see Paula and the others from the CDB office in Lebanon, TN. Paula has helped us out so much over the past eight years - she is a "superstar" in our book!

Doug Gray came in followed by his wife Rene, and we all caught up for a bit. Soon MTB guitarist Stuart Swanlund walked in, along with drummer B.B. Borden, sax man David Muse and bassist Pat Elwood and his wife Linda. Then I saw Buddy Strong and his wife, of Southeastern Sound Studio, where the MTB recorded their new record.

I glanced around in the hall, only to find founding MTB members Paul T. Riddle and Jerry Eubanks in the house, and my mind began to reel. Would this be an MTB reunion? Everyone was here, except Nashville based George McCorkle. I’d still love to see all of the surviving Tuckers join with the current band for a jam someday.

The original Tucker road crew came out to support the band. Moon Mullins, Puff, Blackie and Stump were all there. Did someone say family reunion? I even got to meet Toy Caldwell’s youngest daughter Geneal, a very sweet young lady, and her friends, all nice folks.

Seems like every turn brought another friend. I was really in my element. Tom and Ann Bell were there. I usually only see those kids down at The Angelus in Florida.  Dave Peck and crew were once again present and accounted for, only on this night they were not shooting video. It was good to see them able to relax and enjoy the show without working.

The show began with a blazing set from The Outlaws. While I have long been a fan of the “Florida Guitar Army,” this was my first ever live experience with them. Hughie Thomasson lead his band through an hour of hits, including “There Goes Another Love Song” and their show-stopping jam, “Green Grass and High Tides,” with Chris Anderson swapping off on smoking guitar leads with Hughie. It was a great set, and I kept walking between the side of the stage and out front and back to the Tucker dressing room. Somewhere during the show, I ran across Charlie Hayward and kidded him about following me. He was at the Boyer benefit in Muscle Shoals a couple of weeks ago. I also spoke to Taz DiGregorio and Bruce Brown from the Charlie Daniels Band.

Next on deck was our home town heroes, The Marshall Tucker Band, supported by friends, family and all of Greenville. They kicked things off with “Fire On The Mountain,” with Clay Cook playing Toy Caldwell’s pedal steel opening note for note. The band rocked through the title track of Chris Hicks’ upcoming solo project, “Dog Eat Dog World,” and later played “Georgia Moon,” a beautiful Paul Hornsby penned song from that same record.

Doug led the audience in a sing-along on “Heard it in a Love Song,” and at one point Hughie Thomasson snuck up onstage behind former band mate Hicks with a tambourine, goofing for the audience. It was beginning to look like the Volunteer Jams of days gone by, and would only become more so.

Everyone got a treat when Doug brought founding MTB drummer Paul T. Riddle to the stage to play “This Ol’ Cowboy,” and Chris Hicks sang “The Rain” from Tucker’s “Beyond The Horizon” CD.

When “Can’t You See” started up, Chris signaled for me to come up and sing, and Tony Heatherly came up to play bass, with former MTB drummer Ace Allen on the kit. It was truly an honor for me when Chris relinquished his verse and let me belt it out in front of my home town crowd. A true highlight of my life.

After the Tucker set, Chris Hicks introduced me to Hughie Thomasson and Chris Anderson from The Outlaws. I was in Southern Rock heaven.

The Charlie Daniels Band was locked and loaded, and took absolutely no prisoners, dedicating their show to the memory of Toy and Tommy Caldwell, and performing “Long Haired Country Boy,” “El Toreodor,” “Simple Man,” “The Legend of Wooly Swamp,” “In America” and many more before pulling out all the stops on “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” I have heard the CDB so many times live, but I have never heard “Devil” sound better than on this night.

Charlie stepped up to the microphone and announced that, in keeping with the grand tradition of The Volunteer Jam, he was bring all the members of all three bands out onstage. All of The Outlaws, Tucker and The CDB joined in for an amazing extended version of “The South’s Gonna Do it Again,” with smoking guitar solos from Hughie Thomasson, Chris Hicks, Clay Cook, and Chris Wormer. Charlie Hayward held down the bass duties along with three full drum kits going at it. It was a memorable close to a wonderful show.

I said goodbye to as many friends as I could, and made my way to the exits to locate Scott, Steve and Cliff. By all reports, they had enjoyed it as much as I had. Now I am just ready for another one.I could do this Southern thang every weekend baby.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern

All Photos by Curt Conway except where noted!


Charlie sings "In America"

The Outlaws deliver the goods. (Photo by Tom Bell)

Clay and Pat of Marshall Tucker.
(Photo by Tom Bell)

Doug Gray, Jerry Eubanks and David Muse. (Photo by Tom Bell)

Swampland's Buffalo sings "Can't You See" with MTB. (Former MTB bassist Tony Heatherly and original roadie Puff join Doug.)

More "Can't You See" - Clay Cook, Tony Heatherly, Buffalo and Chris Hicks.

Doug, Puff, Buff and Chris. (Photo by Tom Bell)

One more..Hey! This was a special moment in my life, okay? LOL. Doug, Puff, Buff and The Hitman.

Doug introduces Paul T. Riddle. 
(Photo by Tom Bell)

Charlie squares off with Chris Wormer.

Charlie battles the Dark Side in Georgia.

Hughie rocks out with Charlie. (Photo by Tom Bell)

A serious Volunteer Jam.

Dave Muse and Clay Cook during the end jam.  (Photo by Tom Bell)

The end jam! Saving the best for last!

"The South's Gonna Do it Again"

Goodnight folks and God bless ya!
(Photo by Tom Bell)

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A great review of a magical night. It sure was great seeing all the legends on stage and back stage. Looking forward to the Fl. dates in a week. Just found out the Outlaws are going to do 3 days in Oct. at Disney - Epcot during the food and wine festival, that out to be a rocking time, sure looking forward to those 9 shows.

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