One of the Marshall Tucker Band’s first of many big hits, “Can’t You See,” penned by original member Toy Caldwell, helped launch the band from it’s Spartanburg, S.C., home base to the national charts. Over the decades, and with hits like “Heard It in a Love Song” and “Take the Highway,” the band has earned southern rock superstar status. Lead singer Doug Gray, another founding member, has remained the front man ever since the Marshall Tucker Band’s inception in the early ’70s. In a recent interview, the singer talked about the band, its history and the current tour, which makes a stop at Norwalk’s Wall Street Theater on March 16.
Mike Horyczun: How did the name, the Marshall Tucker Band, originate?
Doug Gray: We were in bands prior to all of us going into the military right out of high school. So when we got back home, we were still playing, and we just decided, “Why don’t we get together, and let’s find us a place to rehearse.” So we started meeting two or three times a week after work. It was a fun time to us. It started out just like that. And about six months to a year into it, a promoter drove up to the building, and he wanted to hire us. We told him to come back in an hour, and we’d give him a name for the band, because we really hadn’t thought about what we were going to name ourselves. Toy didn’t want it in his name. I didn’t want it to have anything to do with my name. No one did. We didn’t want to blame it on anyone. As it turned out, the key that let us into that building was on a little white keychain, and the keychain had a name on it called Marshall Tucker. So, we said, ‘For this show, we’ll call it the Marshall Tucker Band.’
MH: How did your leadership in the band come about?
DG: After a few years, Toy decided he didn’t want to go on any further in the band. He shook my hand and said, ‘The best thing you can do is keep this thing going,’ and I did. It’s been crazy. I’ve been through a ton of musicians, but all of these musicians always wanted to be a part of what we had created in the very beginning. That’s what people got accustomed to, coming from Marshall Tucker Band, and they still do today.
MH: What’s ahead?
DG: As far as this tour goes, we were looking for something that would expose the band through what we’ve done, and there’s a lot of stuff there that leads us to where we’re going. People need to hear some real, real music again. They hear it with a lot of bands that get back together, but not in the way the band intended it to be. I know how the Marshall Tucker Band intended it to be.
MH: All those years fronting the band, and you’re still at it. What keeps you going?
DG: The only thing that I can explain is, I love singing. I love closing my eyes on stage and forgetting that I’m on stage and just trying to make a statement and a point.