The Marshall Tucker Band is a good example of music that radio has left behind. Oh sure, "Can't You See" gets played on the classic rock stations, but you miss out on so many of the band's other songs.

The Marshall Tucker Band is a good example of music that radio has left behind.


Oh sure, "Can't You See" gets played on the classic rock stations, but you miss out on so many of the band's other songs.


The Marshall Tucker Band sailed to stardom in the 1970s as the third great southern band, behind the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band struck a unique balance between rock and country. When you added the jazzy flute interludes and guitar artistry of Toy Caldwell, you had what every record company lives for: a group with a sound.


"After 39 years of touring, I'm looking at all these gold and platinum records and I'm reminded that, in the beginning, all we wanted to do was have enough money to buy beer," said lead singer Doug Gray, 61, a Vietnam vet and the lone original member of the touring band, who spoke by phone from his home in Spartanburg, S.C.


For a five-year period in the 1970s when the band was selling over 13 million records, Marshall Tucker would play over 300 dates a year, recalled Gray. "You had two families - one you left behind at home and one on the road," he said.


Now Gray and the group take life easier in the 21st century, working 100 dates a year. "We turn jobs down nowadays," he said.


It's not the same aggregation that recorded "Can't You See" and "Take the Highway" that currently plays shows. "We've lost three of them - they've left the planet," said Gray, referring to the deaths of original members, Tommy and Toy Caldwell and George McCorkle.


Today the lineup includes Gray on vocals with Pat Ellwood (bass), Rick Willis (guitar), B.B. Borden (drums), Marcus James Henderson (keyboard/flute) and Stuart Swanlund (guitar/steel guitar).


It's a group that has spent years producing Marshall Tucker music before appreciative audiences, Gray said.


What keeps him going after 39 years? "When the show opens and they announce, 'From Spartanburg, S.C, it's the Marshall Tucker Band.' I just close my eyes and hear the people react. That's my favorite thing," Gray said.


The lead singer also believes that bringing back memories for his audience is important while reaching out to a new generation. "Now the kids of some of our fans come to concerts," he said.


"I'm proud of what we've done," said Gray, noting that Marshall Tucker songs have been covered by artists like Clint Black, Alabama and Kid Rock. "Kitty Wells even sang a Marshall Tucker song," he said of the country legend.


Steve Tarter can be reached at starter@pjstar.com.