Archived Arts & Entertainment

Gratitude is the attitude: Doug Gray of Marshall Tucker Band

The Marshall Tucker Band will play Harrah’s Cherokee on Aug. 25. Donated photo The Marshall Tucker Band will play Harrah’s Cherokee on Aug. 25. Donated photo

Last Tuesday morning, Doug Gray was standing outside his hotel room in Jackson, Wyoming.

Thousands of miles from his home in South Carolina, the lead singer for The Marshall Tucker Band was waiting to hear back from a mechanic about yet another tour bus down for the count. 

“Business is business, and I’ve been doing it ever since I was seven years old,” Gray said. “For me, I just don’t want to let anybody down. We’ve got to get this bus back on the road so we can play for the people who are coming to see us.”

At age 75, Gray is a human entity filled with gratitude and optimism. For someone who’s spent pretty much his entire adult life on the road and onstage with one of the most beloved acts of southern rock, he’s never taken a single day doing what he truly loves for granted.

“My sole concern has been to always make everybody smile,” Gray said. “And I like to see people getting along. There’s so much negativity being forced down our throats [these days]. I don’t care for it and I don’t want to see it — I’ve learned a lot [as a person] and I’m still learning right now.”

Born in 1948 and raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Gray remembers being a young kid in the mid-1950s during the height of the Elvis Presley craze that lay at the heart of the dawn of rock-n-roll.

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“My [older] sister would take me to the Tastee-Freez at the end of the street. It was like something out of [the film] ‘American Graffiti,’” Gray recalled. “She was going through the boy thing and wanted to me to get away from [her and her friends] so they could talk to boys and stuff. So, she’d give me nickels to go play the jukebox — I would just play songs and sing along.” 

As a teenager, Gray formed a band called The New Generation, which featured bassist Tommy Caldwell. Eventually, the group combined forces with The Rants, an ensemble that included Tommy’s brother, guitarist Toy Caldwell, and multi-instrumentalist Jerry Eubanks.

Following a stint in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Gray returned to the South. Once back, Gray rejoined the Caldwell brothers and Eubanks in their band Toy Factory, this time adding in drummer Paul Riddle and guitarist George McCorkle.

In 1972, the outfit changed its name to The Marshall Tucker Band, the label coming from the name on a key for the warehouse the group was renting to rehearse in at the time, with Tucker being a blind piano tuner in Columbia, South Carolina. Apparently, Tucker had tuned a piano in that rental space prior to the band’s use of it.

After signing with storied rock label Capricorn Records — whose roster back then featured The Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie, Cowboy, Bonnie Bramlett — The Marshall Tucker Band released its debut self-titled album in 1973. Side one of the record offered up the number “Can’t You See,” arguably one of the most beloved songs of the era.

From there, The Marshall Tucker Band became a marquee rock act in the 1970s and beyond. Not to mention endless spins on radio stations coast-to-coast with follow-up hit singles “Fire On The Mountain” and “Heard It In A Love Song.” And for the better part of the last 50 years, The Marshall Tucker Band had remained a force of nature on the national touring circuit. 

“We all want to be rich, and I’ve done all I could to get as much as I could,” Gray noted in a humbled tone when reflecting on the band’s decades-long success. “But, I still have my father’s pay sheet that he would get once a week. My daddy was making $64 a week and now I buy sushi for the whole band [on tour] and it’s over $800 — I walk by the pay sheet in my house and remember how lucky I am.” 

As the sole original member of The Marshall Tucker Band still standing out there onstage night-after-night, Doug Gray is not only a fiery torchbearer for timeless rock music, he’s also carrying with him the memory and legacy of those who aren’t on this earth anymore to proudly perform the legendary melodies. 

“You know, I remember some of the people that I’ve missed and loved, people who you would pick up the phone and just call to say hello,” Gray said. “And whether [those people] are gone or not, they’re all a blessing, everything I’ve been able to do in life has been a blessing — it’s all been a crazy ride and I’m still here.”

Want to go?

Classic rock icons The Marshall Tucker Band will hit the stage at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at Harrah’s Cherokee Resort Event Center.

Tickets start at $34.50 per person. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to and click on the “Shows” tab.

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