Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Southern Rock Legends


Rick Kreps

Whatzup Features Writer

Published August 1, 2018

Heads Up! This article is 4 years old.

Southern rock’s family tree can be traced to the late 1960s and early ’70s with three principal, indisputable roots: The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Marshall Tucker Band.

The legendary Marshall Tucker Band will kick off the 2018 Sweetwater Performance Pavilion’s Outdoor Concert Series 7 p.m. Saturday, August 11.

The opening act will be blues/rock guitar phenom, 20-year-old singer-songwriter Hannah Wiklund, and her band, The Steppin’ Stones, who also hail from South Carolina.

Tickets range from $20 to $55 for the event, which will offer free parking, 3,500 seats, and state-of-the-art sound at the covered outdoor venue.

Fronted by lead singer and sole remaining founder Doug Gray, The Marshall Tucker Band will come into the Fort from an August 7 gig in Sturgis, South Dakota. The band is also touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd and their Last of the Street Survivors Tour, appearing in Noblesville, Indiana, on August 4 at the Ruoff Music Center. The two bands have traded opening for one another since their mutual beginnings way back in 1973.

At age 70, lead singer Gray and his guitar army continue to perform 150 or more dates a year, bringing its generations of fans its brand of nascent Southern rock, a pleasing mix of country, blues, and jazz, creating their unmistakable eclectic sound.

He credits the band’s current members with carrying on its musical essence: drummer B.B. Borden; multi-instrumentalist Marcus Henderson (flute, saxophone and keyboards); Pat Elwood, bass guitar; and Rick Willis, on lead guitar and vocals; and Chris Hicks, acclaimed lead guitarist and vocalist, who recently rejoined the band after a two-year absence.

Recent performances bring fans a full 90 minutes of extended play versions of their top songs: “Fire on the Mountain,” “Take the Highway,” “Desert Skies,” “Asking Too Much of You,” “Midnight Promises,” “Dog Eat Dog World,” and, of course, “Heard It in a Love Song,” and “Can’t You See,” lauded by Country Music Television (CMT) as the #4 Greatest Southern Rock Song.

As most Southern rock fans know, there has never been a “Marshall Tucker” in The Marshall Tucker Band. The band got its start in Spartanburg, South Carolina, when Gray teamed with Tommy and Toy Caldwell, Paul T. Riddle, George McCorkle, and Jerry Eubanks.

With their first major gig approaching, the band had not yet decided on its name. They grabbed the name “Marshall Tucker,” borrowing it from a piano tuner whose name was found on a key ring in their old rehearsal area.

Achieving regional fame and an ardent fan following, The Marshall Tucker Band landed a recording contract with Capricorn Records, the same Macon, Georgia, studio that guided the slightly earlier career of The Allman Brothers Band. The band opened for the hard-touring Allmans and struck Gold (and eventually Platinum-Plus) with its 1973 self-titled debut album.

Propelled by the success of its first recording effort, the band began what would become a 45-year-legacy of constant touring. The Marshall Tucker Band’s string of albums in the 1970s that earned gold status is impressive regardless of the music genre: The Marshall Tucker Band (1973 gold); A New Life and Where We Belong (both 1974 gold); Searchin’ for a Rainbow (1975 gold); Carolina Dreams (1977 platinum); and Together Forever (1978 gold). A 1978 Greatest Hits album earned platinum status.

The band continued to craft nearly 30 studio, live, and compilation albums throughout their ongoing career.

Dozens of country and Southern rock artists sing the praises of The Marshall Tucker Band for influencing their music, including Alabama, The Kentucky Headhunters, Confederate Railroad, and Travis Tritt. The popularity of Hank Williams Jr. and his “family tradition” vibe in the 1980s drew directly from the roots of Southern rock.

Founding members Tommy and Toy Caldwell both left life early, Tommy in a 1980 car crash and Toy in 1993 at the age of 45. Toy Caldwell was considered the architect of the band, writing the majority of the songs. Doug Gray sang lead vocals almost exclusively, the exception being perhaps Marshall Tucker’s most revered song, “Can’t You See.”

Gray points out that fans have gotten “married and buried” to classic Marshall Tucker songs. He admits that as he and his bandmates age, “our Southern heritage seems to come out even more. But no matter how old we get, we can still rock your socks off.”

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