Marshall Tucker, rocking into fifth decade, bound for Bangor Waterfront

The Marshall Tucker Band
Courtesy of Absolute Publicity Inc.
The Marshall Tucker Band
Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 12:35 p.m.
Courtesy of Absolute Publicity Inc.

BANGOR, Maine — It’s notable when a marriage lasts 20 years or more, so much so that the anniversary is traditionally associated with china or — according to modern practices — platinum.

The Marshall Tucker Band is familiar with both gold and platinum with seven gold and three platinum albums among its 33 total albums, and since some musicians compare their makeup to that of a marriage, Marshall Tucker should be hitting double-platinum status as the band observes its 40th anniversary.

The longtime southern rock band is heading to Bangor to open for George Thorogood and the Destroyers Friday night in the 2011 Waterfront Concert Series finale, but despite the age of the band and some of its members, these rockers aren’t ready for walkers.

“All told, we do about 140 shows a year and we’re probably on the road for about 200 days a year, but no matter how old we get, we can still rock your socks off,” said founding and only remaining original member Doug Gray. “There’s really no reason to stop as long as you can get up there and play.”

They may not be ready to join AARP and hit all the early-bird specials, but they have noticed a few differences between then and now.

“We’ve done well for a band of redneck rock ’n’ rollers, but the girls who used to bring us other things, usually in glass bottles, are bringing us cookies now,” Gray said.

Gray, 63, is looking forward to his return to the Pine Tree State, as he has been here many times through the band’s infancy to its establishment as one of the premier southern rock bands in history.

“We’ve played a lot of shows up there over the years,” said Gray, who still handles lead vocals for the six-man band. While the original lineup lasted nine years, some of the current members have been together for the last 30 years.

Gray teamed up with Tommy Caldwell, Toy Caldwell, Paul T. Riddle, George McCorkle and Jerry Eubanks to form The Marshall Tucker Band.

Now the band from Spartanburg, S.C., is made up of Gray, bass guitarist Pat Elwood, lead guitarist Rick Willis, rhythm guitarist Stuart Swanlund, drummer B.B. Borden and Marcus Henderson, who handles keyboards, saxophone, flute and backing vocals.

While Gray is the only original member still performing, he is also one of only three originals still alive.

“Paul and I are still around. He stopped in 1982 and Jerry was the last to leave the band in 2003,” said Gray, who has a nephew, Clay Cook, playing with the popular Zach Brown Band.

The band known for such hits as “Heard it in a Love Song,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Can’t You See,” and “Take the Highway” will be sure to play them, as well as fan — and band member — favorites like “Desert Skies.”

“My own personal favorites are ‘In My Own Way’ and ‘Sea Dreams and Fairy Tales,’” said Gray, who has released his own solo album titled “Soul of the South.”

While he has explained it untold thousands of times, Gray still likes telling how his band got its name.

“Marshall Tucker is still a real person who’s 95 and living in Columbia, S.C.,” Gray explained. “He’s a blind piano tuner and church choir director who worked in the shop we took over. We wanted a new name and saw the name on a key tag. We decided to call ourselves Marshall Tucker for the weekend and that weekend lasted 40 years.”

Previously, the band was known as The Toy Factory.

“We still use that same studio space,” said Gray, a Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Army captain who played in USO overseas tours with Bob Hope.

As owner of the masters to all the band’s songs, Gray hasn’t had to perform or tour for years. But he can’t imagine not being on the road for a good part of the year.

“No, and you know what? If I ever got to that point, I’d have to stop,” said Gray.

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