In the early and mid-'70s, only the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd typified the sound of Southern rock better than the Marshall Tucker Band. The band became one of the leading lights on the budding Capricorn Records label courtesy of their eponymous 1973 debut. Originally dubbed the Toy Factory, the group later changed its name. The moniker was borrowed from a piano tuner who'd once rented space in the band's rehearsal loft in its hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
A promotional push by its record label helped the band achieve national prominence early on with several hit albums and a string of successful singles, among them "Can't You See," "Take the Highway," "Heard It in a Love Song," and "Fire on the Mountain."
"We loved the idea of being a very close and Southern group of players and always looked at it as if we were Southern rock's bad boys," says singer Doug Gray, the band's sole original member. "The Allmans were a huge influence for us, along with James Brown and all the rhythm and blues players of that era."
Fiddler player and singer Charlie Daniels became an early supporter of the budding outfit and even at the outset, the two entities began collaborating closely. "Charlie Daniels was always that Southern rock, country guy that always put his hand out to make everyone feel at home," Gray remarks. "Charlie remains one of my closest friends to this day."
Even while operating under its own aegis, the group showed its strengths, achieving consistent placement at the top of the charts, garnering gold and platinum status in the process. After Capricorn folded, it moved on to Warner Bros. and saw similar success. However, it all ground to a halt when founding member Tommy Caldwell was killed in an automobile accident. The band struggled on into the '90s with Gray and Eubanks the only remaining original members.
"The death of Tommy Caldwell was a devastating blow to the Marshall Tucker Band," Gray recalls. "But we are sure Tommy would be pleased that we carried on so successfully."
While the band achieved intermittent chart success, it regrouped with new members Marcus James Henderson on keys and flute, guitarist Rick Willis, bassist Pat Elwood, and drummer B.B. Borden. Meanwhile, the band's original legacy lives on courtesy of several soundtrack inclusions. "Can't You See" and "Take the Highway" were featured in Kevin Costner's Swing Vote, while "Can't You See" was also included in the 2001 biopic Blow. In addition, the group was name-dropped in the song "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line, not bad considering the fact that the single became the second-highest-selling song in country music history.
For his part, Gray is intent on keeping the Marshall Tucker Band's momentum up going forward. "The audience sees that we are still passionate, and that's why we continue to sell out our shows," he maintains. "It's that passion that everyone can expect to see at our show."
The Marshall Tucker Band. 8 p.m., Wednesday, February 18, at Lafayette's, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $70 for VIP, $55 for reserved seating, and $38 general admission. Call 561-420-8600, or visit ticketweb.com.
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