Interview: Doug Gray (The Marshall Tucker Band) – By: Rob Smittix

Written by on January 25, 2024

Interview: Doug Gray (The Marshall Tucker Band) – By: Rob Smittix
(photo credit: Mariah Gray)

Marshall Tucker Band
UPH: Great Hall
25 Washington St. Saratoga Springs
Friday Jan 26 2024 @ 7:30 PM

RRX: Well, it’s an absolute pleasure talking to you. I’m so happy that this actually became a thing. So thank you.

DG: It’s no problem and I enjoy it. Even if we’ve not done one before it’s fun to go back with people who’ve been hanging with us. Writers and radio station owners are now running. different satellite companies and things like that. They wanna do interviews and the good part is… we can do it with everybody with the same intensity. We just have to schedule a little bit tighter and when you got somebody that you’ve known for so long and they start talking about. the whole band, some of the partying we used to do and what we don’t do now compared to that. It’s just like an old time get-together, like seeing your grandma or your grandpa or something like that. Yeah.

RRX: Absolutely. Well, yeah, I mean… 50 year anniversary tour Right?

DG: It’s actually 51 starting this year.

RRX: Oh, ok. So we’re going into 51 years of The Marshall Tucker Band, so that means you have a lot of stories!

DG: Hey man, I could tell you stories about us opening for Sly and The Family Stone and bands that were around way before you were. Being out there with Santana and doing shows with them and the Allman brothers. Everything like that. It was a magnificent time because it was learning-music time for a lot of empty skulls; is what I call it because we were empty skulls.
We were young and dumb and watching the music was the one thing that was so creative. There were so many people out there that had so many musical talents. I mean, we as a band didn’t really know what kind of music we were playing. We just knew we’re from the South. They said well call it Southern music. Bam there it is! Here we are 50 something years later.
It’s kind of amazing, you know? The most important thing was… um I’ve got housekeeping knocking on my door, hold on.

RRX: No problem.

DG: I’m at the Hard Rock, we had a party last night. Hold on. Oh I guess it wasn’t my door. I’m back sorry, I know it can be a consistent knock. But yeah, it was an amazing time.
We all wanted to figure out what kind of music and what the world was doing, it was 1969. Some of them were out of college, some of us were out of Vietnam. Woodstock came to an end. And she thought, what are we gonna do? I went to work in a bank and then Toy (Caldwell) went to work with his father, a master plumber. And… that was what we did when we got back. Then we decided, hey, we’d already been playing in high school bands and stuff like that. So we all got together and said, you know we’re buddies, why don’t we just put a band together? We started to do that and it didn’t take very long… about a year to put the right people in there that we wanted. Of course, that was Tommy, (Caldwell) his brother playing bass.
We understood that we needed to play catch up and find out what kind of music we were doing. Catch up and find out what we really tried to do. So we decided well… kind of like never recording a live record, where you had to talk to the audience and then you hear it.
Some people sound stupid, okay?

RRX: (Laughs)

DG: Some people just sound like they’re a part of the audience. I love sounding as if I’m part of the audience. I want to be part of the audience because that’s who taught us that we’re just another band that’s out there. We’ve matured over so many years and we’ve watched them people have dogs, cats or horses. There’s been some full bred horses out there that have hung out with people that have hung out with us, the horses have passed some of the people have passed named Tucker or Marshall.
Watching that happen and keeping in touch with all these people because back then; people would charter a bus and come see five shows in a row. They’d put a keg or two at the back and then they had to ride all the way back home. Nobody would know or think anymore (Chuckles).
Some great adventures in New Jersey too, we stopped traffic for a day on the Garden State Parkway!

RRX: Wow!

DG: Yeah who are you telling? It was a little overwhelming, thankfully nobody got pissed really.

RRX: Right?

DG: The cars and trucks were stopped on the road, eventually it cleared off. But it was the next morning that all of those people got back home. Well, we had a great time and a good crowd but we weren’t able to get out either. So, it was just an overwhelming situation.
Just forming a band and turning it into a band that people in New York, New Jersey, Vermont or Massachusetts loved. Because of our music we actually made connections as a family instead of a band that just got up, played music and expected respect. We never expected respect. We assumed that if we didn’t get up there and play our asses off every night, every one of us in the band, there was no need for us to continue.

RRX: Yeah, that makes sense. So, I’m 45 and I discovered your music and other similar music by sifting through my parents vinyl collection at like the age of 9 or 10 years old. I don’t know if I was the only little kid that was really into that but it really kind of shaped me and my whole musical adventure. I think I was the only kid that was like 10 years old and was crying over Roy Orbison passing. I was into The Traveling Wilburys.

DG: There’s been a lot of them. It’s safe to say that a lot of those guys have passed.
18 and 19 years old’s now come up to these state fairs and meeting them on the side of the fence or whatever. They’re saying hello, wanting autographs.
I said this to a young lady not too long ago. I think she was 13 and she wanted an autograph really bad. I said, what are you doing here? She said, well my grandpa brought me here and he’s got a picture of you and him at his first concert. Think about this and every Christmas she gets to hear the same damn story because there’s a picture of him and me on his mantle.

RRX: (Laughs) That’s really cool and it’s great that these kids are getting into it. I don’t know if you’ve seen these reaction videos nowadays? Where young people are discovering music for themselves for the first time. I just saw these five young men that I assume are in their twenties listening to “Can’t You See?” Have you seen these?

DG: Actually, I’ve seen several hundred of these videos. I’m a big media type person.
It has helped me to understand and grow just a little bit more even at my age. We’re 30 years difference, you and I. I’m 75 and I’ll be 76 this year. We played this private show last night with Cheap Trick.

Rick (Nielsen) and I have known each other for 40 something years now. He’s from Illinois. We got a chance to sit back and reminisce. I just saw him 6-8 months ago and they were doing a show with us. So people are coming up to me and saying they ain’t no way in hell that you’re that age. But as far as those videos that you’re talking about, I watch them. This one guy, can’t remember his name but if you hear him react to some of the songs, like “Take The Highway” or “Ramblin,” that’s the stuff I learn from because their responses… because they’re probably 30 to 40 years younger than me, you know? Their responses are telling me what to do right now so that you can keep that response going all across the universe!

RRX: Yeah, I think it’s the coolest thing that people are still discovering it for themselves. It’s timeless music.

DG: It’s got soul

RRX: Absolutely, it’s got soul,

DG: And you know, what turned you on when you pulled out that album is the same feeling people get when they go to and we are putting out vinyl now. Collectors are coming straight to the source. We weren’t the first to put LP’s out but we were amongst the first five. We would just take the masters and make em’ sound better because you can’t change the music on them. Don’t forget the original band was only together for eight years.

RRX: That’s right. Yeah, Yeah.

DG: We had the death of Tommy, which started changing things.

RRX: Of course.

DG: So since then. I’ve been singing them songs and I sang 95% of those songs probably; because Toy wrote them for me to sing because he said, hell, you can sing, I’ll write some songs. He started writing songs I said keep on, keeping on brother.

RRX: Exactly.

DG: Toy and I had an arrangement from the very beginning of the band, we had some great lawyers and they always told us, we had to buy sell agreements to everybody. So when people wanted to leave, it was a lot easier when people just needed to leave to stay home and take care of the kids, so they didn’t get on crack or some sh**!

RRX: (Laughs) Yeah, right!

DG: There’s a lot of reasons out there today. Watching these kids today… back to that story, they’re watching TV and seeing our songs in 130 movies over the last five years. Most people don’t realize that. Not even being aware that when you’re watching Johnny Depp or Kevin Costner that you’re hearing one of our songs in the background because of the depth of the movie.

RRX: Oh, for sure.

DG: And they want us there because the depth of that song was related to what that part was. There’s people that do that kind of stuff in business. I can’t think that way because I sing from the heart. So every show that we do is from the heart. It’s not from the head. If it was from the head and the memory we’d play them the way the original songs were that people love so much. We play them the way the parts were in the way that we did them and we play them with soul and heart. Then what we do with the guys that have been with me for 28 something years now since the other guys have left. And what we do is… I tell the guys to just let it go, run it out. Let see what else we can do.

RRX: I love that.

DG: It’s like tearing a great building down. They don’t tear the foundation down most of the time because they know they’re gonna build something good back.

RRX: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it! So it’s been 51 years now. What’s a Marshall Tucker show like in 2024?

DG: Wow. Well, you know what? You don’t know what you’re gonna get, and nobody including Billboard Magazine and Rolling Stone said, we don’t know what kind of music they play but they sure as hell play it great. That’s actually a statement from both of the labels.
But I was surprised to find out that our logo is one of the top three logos in the whole world with the Rolling Stone’s lips and, I forget who else was second but we were third.

RRX: No kidding!

DG: I said, well that’s a great logo then!
(Both Laugh)

DG: That was about all I could say because it just happened. We didn’t know that. We couldn’t have planned that I’d be sitting out at the Hard Rock Cafe looking at the boardwalk in New Jersey. And actually Hard Rock hadn’t even been thought of then. So how could we plan it?
All I can do is give a great band the inspiration to the great people who want to play in this band because they respected the players so much. They wanna do just a little bit more to preserve their memory.

I personally we want to recreate the memory that people had the first time they met us, the first time they saw us or the first time that they talked about us. And hopefully that won’t be the last time because here you got a 13 year old girl over there getting an autograph because she liked it so much. She said I like this particular song a whole lot, you know? That’s cool.

RRX: That’s the coolest and that really says a lot. I know you’ve got a busy day. I don’t wanna take up too much of your time. Is there anything else that you wanted to say to your fans?

DG: I Just appreciate the fact that you’re doing this and I hope everything turns out right for you forever. Just remember there’s always a tomorrow, we just might not be a part of it. Okay? That’s why we have to be strong today.

RRX: I agree with that wholeheartedly.

DG: Mmm hmm. Listen, I love you, take care of yourself and just remember… keep on going. Never stop.

RRX: That’s a deal, man. I appreciate you.

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