Doug Gray was encouraged by his parents to take a stage with a group of musicians at an AMVETS club in South Carolina when he was just 7 years old.
He laughed out loud to open the band’s surf-rock song, “Wipeout”.
âThey weren’t expecting it. Then I realized it was entertainment, âsaid Gray, now lead singer of the Marshall Tucker Band.
âA guy came over and gave me $ 5, and I said, ‘Holy shit! This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, âGray said in a phone interview for The Herald Bulletin.
Gray, now 73, went on with high school buddies and military buddies to found The Marshall Tucker Band in 1972.
Celebrating 50 years, the group will perform on March 5 at Hoosier Park. Tickets are on sale. The opening will be guitarist and songwriter Dave Mason, co-founder of Traffic, whose biggest hit was the solo, âWe Just Disagreeâ in 1977. Gray has known Mason since MTB opened for him in 1973, and they have played together on several occasions.
Gray was speaking from his home in Myrtle Beach, SC, about a four hour drive from his family roots and his band in Spartanburg. Her voice is memorable on the # 14 hit, “Heard It in a Love Song”.
Gray performed in groups in his youth.
âWe had been playing beach music, like Ocean Drive (in Myrtle Beach), always in small groups. I mean, damn it, I was 10 to 12 playing fellowship parties, âGray said.
The ATV started to come together after the return of longtime friends from the Vietnam War. Gray and rhythm guitarist George McCorkle joined brothers Toy (guitar and songwriter) and Tommy Caldwell (bass), as well as Jerry Eubanks (flute / sax). Eubanks retired in 1996. The others are deceased, leaving Gray as the only original member.
When the group formed, Gray had a day job at a bank. âThey said I was a natural. I said, damn it, I’m not natural for nothing.
Toy Caldwell worked for his father, a master plumber.
âHe said there were too many people crawling under the houses, so he went to work in a place that sold plumbing parts. He was getting smarter and smarter over time, âsaid Gray, speaking in a Southern drawl.
In the early 1970s, when the Allman Brothers were popular, Capricorn Records invited the group to Macon, Georgia, after listening to their recordings. They rehearsed in the basement of a shuttered hotel. There they found a key printed with the name “Marshall Tucker”.
âWe never knew if we were going to make it the next weekend,â Gray recalls.
The group didn’t like the financial side of the industry.
âWhat we were connected with were the people coming to see you play. It was the most amazing thing for us to watch these people scream and scream when we finished a song.
The band grabbed attention by adding a flute for a distinctive jazz-oriented element compared to other bands from the early ’70s using trendy saxophones.
âEveryone had saxophonists. â¦ We talked about it during rehearsal, and someone said, well Jerry (Eubanks) was in high school playing the saxophone. Well, we don’t want a saxophonist, but let’s call him up and see if he can play the flute.
It worked, Gray recalls.
“Come find out I can play the flute, but you don’t want to hear it.”
Gray had hoped to find Charlie Daniels on stage. However, the popular violin player died on July 6, 2020 from a hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 83. Some musicians did not attend Daniels’ funeral in Tennessee due to Covid-19 restrictions. Not gray. He went to express his condolences to Daniels’ widow, Hazel.
âShe was as kind and sweet as she always was,â Gray recalls. âThe real blessing with Charlie is actually getting to know him.â¦ I don’t think anyone will forget how good Charlie was.