The Marshall Tucker Band

  • Southern rock band formed in 1972 from Spartanburg South Carolina. The founding members were Doug Gray (lead vocals), Toy Caldwell (lead guitars, vocals, songwriting), Jerry Eubanks (saxophone, flute, keyboards), George McCorkle (rhythm guitar, occasional songwriting), Tommy Caldwell (bass guitar) and Paul Riddle (drums).
  • Gray and Tommy Caldwell were high school classmates, and they performed in a band called The New Generation. After graduating, they merged with another local band which included Tommy Caldwell’s brother Toy, Eubanks and others – the merged band took the name Toy Factory. Various members of this group included McCorkle and Franklin Wilke. The band remained together despite the enlistment of several members into the military. By the early 70s, all of the members had completed their service, and Toy Factory resumed performing in local clubs. In 1972, McCorkle and Caldwell shuffled the lineup again, bringing in Riddle. They decided for a name change. The warehouse that they rehearsed in had a key to the door with the name “Marshall Tucker” inscribed on it. They liked it, and chose The Marshall Tucker Band as their new name.
  • It turned out that Marshall Tucker was the name of a blind piano tuner who maintained the piano that was used in their rehearsal space. The real Marshall Tucker died in 2023 at the age of 99.
  • They developed a sound that incorporated rock, country and jazz, along with extended guitar solos. This sound evolved into the Southern Rock genre, and The Marshall Tucker Band became pioneers of that developing genre. During the band’s performance at a club in Macon Georgia, a record producer heard the performance and the producer agreed to help the band record a demo. The demo was presented to a record company, and the band was signed.
  • Their debut studio album, the self-titled The Marshall Tucker Band, was released in the spring of 1973. It was a moderate success, peaking on the album chart at #29 and eventually it received Gold status. It drew heavily on country and bluegrass, as well as jazz, R&B, folk, psychedelic rock and Gospel. This unique combination of styles led to great reviews – in 2014, Rolling Stone included it on a list of “50 rock albums that every country fan should own.” The single Can’t You See from the album did not perform well on the singles chart (it was re-released in 1977 and it peaked at #75 on the Hot 100 chart) but it became a signature song for the band and it received frequent radio play on classic rock stations. Waylon Jennings later recorded the song and took it to #4 on the Country Singles chart.
  • They went on tour, opening for The Allman Brothers Band, and this increased their recognition. After releasing two albums in 1974 with modest success, they released their Searchin’ For A Rainbow album in 1975. It included the song Fire On the Mountain, which songwriter McCorkle hoped that his friend Charlie Daniels would record. When Daniels opted not to record it, The Marshall Tucker Band did, and they had their first Top 40 hit. Daniels contributed on the song, playing the fiddle. It became a southern rock classic.
  • In 1977, they released their sixth studio album. It would become their best seller – Carolina Dreams was certified platinum. It included their most successful single, Heard It In a Love Song, which peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 chart. Three more albums were released between 1978 and 1980. Later in 1980, Tommy Caldwell was killed in a car accident – he was replaced by Toy Factory bassist Franklin Wilke. They continued to record, but their albums did not sell well, and by 1983 the original lineup split up. Gray and Eubanks continued to record as The Marshall Tucker band with various lineups, and a few singles managed to chart on the Country Chart.
  • They released five albums in the 90s and three in the 00s. They continued to tour, releasing six live albums during the 10s. Eubanks retired in 1996, so Gray remained as the only original member. Any hope of Toy Caldwell returning was dashed in 1993 when he died. McCorkle died in 2007.
  • The Marshall Tucker Band has been touring for over 50 years, and they continue to perform in 2023. They make all the lists of pioneers of southern rock, along with Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, ZZ Top and a few others. The flute playing of Eubanks was such a signature sound for them. Here’s my favorite, Can’t You See, from 1973.

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