Although they may not be the first act to spring to mind when someone says "Southern rock," The Marshall Tucker Band count members of more obvious groups (Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Charlie Daniels Band, The Allman Brothers Band, The Outlaws) and even such country music superstars as Garth Brooks and Alabama as loyal fans.
The classic lineup consisted of Doug Gray (lead singer), Toy Caldwell (lead guitarist), Tommy Caldwell (bassist), George McCorkle (rhythm guitarist), Paul Riddle (drummer) and Jerry Eubanks (flute, saxophone). Funny enough, the band never had a member named Marshall Tucker. That name comes from a piano tuner from the band's Spartanburg, South Carolina hometown. In some stories, the real Marshall Tucker had previously used the band's rehearsal space.
The band first made a name for itself with a 1973 debut album on Capricorn Records. Breakthrough single "Can't You See" mixed country music and country rock in between an iconic flute intro and outro.
Had the band stopped at "Can't You See," it still would've impacted country music. The Toy Caldwell original reached the country charts when covered by Waylon Jennings in 1976 and the team of Zac Brown and Kid Rock in 2010.
Subsequent albums stand the test of time, namely 1974's A New Life and its mellotron-accompanied cut "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky." Yet the band's next mainstream benchmark came with "Fire on the Mountain," the opening track from 1975's Searchin' For a Rainbow. It became the band's first top 40 single and remains a classic rock radio staple and one of the most iconic Southern rock songs from the '70s.
With the 1977 album Carolina Dreams came an even bigger hit: "Heard it in a Love Song." It became the band's only top 15 single and cemented Toy Caldwell as a songwriter and storyteller on par with just about anyone in Nashville.
By 1979's Running Like the Wind, the group began embracing a jazz fusion sound which to modern ears bridges the very narrow gap between classic Southern rock bands and the jam band scene.
One post-'70s studio album of note, 1993's Walk Outside the Lines, features a more country sound. Brooks co-wrote the title track for one of many bands to inspire his high-energy live show. As it turns out, Brooks plus the Marshall Tucker Band sounds like a would-be Hank Williams Jr. single.
Speaking of live shows, Gray, the final original member, and the current lineup of bassist Tony Black, drummer B.B. Borden, keyboardist Marcus James Henderson, guitarist Chris Hicks and guitarist Rick Willis were known in pre-COVID 19 times to hit the road with Daniels for a split MTB/CDB bill.
This story previously ran on Feb. 12, 2020.