Living the good life

Marshall Tucker Band brings southern charm to Clark State Community College

(L-R) B.B. Borden, Rick Willis, Doug Gray, Marcus James Henderson, Tony Black, Chris Hicks; photo: Marshall Tucker Band

By Allyson B. Crawford

“We’re nothing special, we’re just a bunch of guys that get together and make people smile and have a good time,” Doug Gray tells the Dayton City Paper. Gray is the only original member left in the Marshall Tucker Band. The singer will bring his jam band to Kuss Auditorium at Clark State University in Springfield on Sunday, Oct 1.

Over the years, Marshall Tucker Band (MTB) has been called southern rock, gospel, country, jazz, and everything in between. That’s the way Gray and the rest of the band likes it: not having a clearly defined sound has let the band evolve since its inception in 1972. Four decades later, MTB is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, playing big festival gigs and sharing the stage with acts as diverse as Larry the Cable Guy to Kid Rock. Through lineup changes (20 different members have been in the band!), sudden deaths, addiction, and sobriety the two constants have been Gray’s voice and the band’s collective loyalty to their songs. 

“You have to keep going, you can’t give up,” Gray explains. “When we started MTB there was no such thing as giving up.” Some of the band members were just back from Vietnam. The men snagged day jobs and practiced in their off hours. Within a year, MTB had a contract and were jamming with any other band that would have them. Things might not quite work that way these days, but back then a strong work ethic, mixed with a lot of talent got you far. That same work ethic that got them a record deal in the first place allowed them to write and record over 300 songs – and stay on the road over 100 days a year, every year. Road life can take a toll on anyone but members of MTB keep it fresh by letting their songs air out as they see fit. That means some live versions of their classic tunes can last 30 minutes or more. That doesn’t always make sense in an instant gratification social media world, but for MTB, it works. 

“All the guys in the band understand that we have a duty to the old fans as well as the new ones. We’re loyal back to [our] fans by playing as close to the real sound as [on the recording]. And each person takes the song where they want – we don’t rehearse it. It always falls into place. We always stay loyal to the songs and then we’re out of there.” 

There’s a lot of southern pride and culture that goes with being a MTB fan. A big piece of this pride is enjoying the music of youth: going to shows and reliving some great memories. It’s no secret that Ohioans love to travel to the south on vacation, especially to places like South Carolina, the birthplace of MTB. Gray calls Spartanburg, S.C. home and notes how many Ohio plates he sees while driving around town. 

“All Ohioans want to do is come down and have a good time. They remember that good time all throughout the year and they want to come back. That’s what our music is all about.”

For Gray, being southern in 2017 means just being you. It’s that simple: good friends, good music, good life. For Gray and the rest of the MTB, their fans have become friends and even family over the years. The band has a dedicated following that seeks out their shows and special events. 

“I’ve done Sturgis Bike Rally for 37 years,” Gray recalls. “You get to see the same fans every time. You get tighter and tighter with them – it’s like seeing family every time. It’s like having a separate family.”

For Gray and the rest of MTB, treating fans like family isn’t just southern hospitality: it helps keep them grounded. In the past, Gray has noted that band always wanted to be “one of the people.” 

Beyond regular road shows, the Marshall Tucker Band will take part in the sold-out Southern Rock Cruise this coming January. Some of the other acts on that bill include Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, and many more. This cruise allows fans to have a more intimate experience with the band – smaller gigs and once-in-a-lifetime jam experiences. 

Through it all, Gray is still amazed that people pay to see him perform. “It’s real nice. You don’t know if people will show up, but you have high hopes. There’s always so many nice people.”

The Marshall Tucker Band performs at Kuss Auditorium at Clark State Community College, 570 E Leffel Lane in Springfield on Oct 1. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster by calling 937-328-3874. Prices range from $30 – $60. For more information, visit MarshallTucker.com/

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About Allyson B. Crawford

View all posts by Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com

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