Singer Doug Gray doesn’t need a two-disc greatest-hits package to verify the Marshall Tucker Band’s impact on Southern-rock fans. He lives it every day.
Take one concert last year when, in the span of a few hours, he heard from a woman who said her brother died in an accident and they played his favorite Marshall Tucker track, “Desert Skies,” at his funeral, and the couple who approached him and said they played the same song at their wedding.
“If that doesn’t make you feel strange and at the same time very good about what you’ve done for people, I don’t know what will,” Gray said recently from his Spartanburg, S.C., home.
Marshall Tucker fans have waited years for a comprehensive career collection. A few weeks ago, the long hard ride ended, thanks to the release of an impressive 29-cut compilation titled “The Best of the Capricorn Years” (Era/K-tel, 2605 Fernbrook Lane N, Minneapolis, MN 55447-4736).
Some of the band’s best work, culled from seven gold- and platinum-selling albums on the Capricorn label, is here: “Take the Highway,” “Can’t You See” (the single and live versions), “This Ol’ Cowboy,” “Fire On the Mountain,” and their biggest hit, “Heard It In a Love Song” (Top 20 in June 1977).
Next year marks Marshall Tucker’s 25th anniversary. In that time, they’ve seen their share of heartache: Bassist Tommy Caldwell died in an auto accident in 1980, and his brother, Toy (lead guitar), died of respiratory failure in ’93. Only Gray and sax-flute player Jerry Eubanks remain in the current seven-member lineup.
“Right now, I’m looking at gold and platinum records on the wall in a memorabilia room I have here,” Gray said. “You look at these things and you think, ‘You can’t give this up,’ because people bought records expecting to hear these songs live every so often when they want to.
“That’s the reason I continued the Marshall Tucker Band. Not only is it financially successful, but it’s warming to me to walk out at a state fair and a little girl or boy walks up to me and says, ‘Listen, that’s my momma standing over there. She’s embarrassed to come over; she got your autograph when she was 9 like me, and my grandpa turned me on to you.’ That’s when you get to thinking, 25 years is a long time.”
BWF (before we forget): “M.T. Blues,” a collection of blues-based tracks, was released on Era/K-tel in October 1997. The follow-up, “M.T. Blues 2,” was released in the summer of 1998.
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