Though it’s been a decade since the Marshall Tucker Band released new music and much, much longer — about 25 years — since the band last grazed the charts with “Walk Outside the Lines,” that hasn’t quashed their live following.
Led by singer Doug Gray, the Southern-country-roots rockers steadily run the casino and club circuit, and in January, they’ll join Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, the Outlaws, Atlanta Rhythm Section and others of that ilk for the Southern Rock Cruise to Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
But first, MTB will hit Georgia for a couple of shows Friday and Saturday night, at the Cox Capitol Theatre in Macon and Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, respectively.
Gray, 69, is the only original member of the band and still lives in his native South Carolina (currently in Myrtle Beach). But he clearly relishes being on the road with bandmates Rick Willis (guitar), Chris Hicks (guitar), Marcus James Henderson (keyboards), B.B. Borden (drums) and Tony Black (bass).
Calling recently from Pasadena, Calif., and getting ready for a sushi meal (“Or ‘bait,’ as my redneck friends call it!” Gray said with a guttural laugh), the gregarious frontman talked with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kaedy Kiely of The River (97.1 FM) about the band’s two Georgia Jam dates and spending 45 years singing classic rock staples “Heard It in a Love Song” and “Can’t You See.”
Q: Tell us about the Georgia Jam.
A: This is re-creating moments in time we had before when (other artists) would come in and play (with us), not looking for money. People are going to be able to enjoy reminiscing about not just this kind of music, but the times. I like to throw things up in the air and see how it falls. We’ve been a jam band ever since the beginning. The ability for us to sing country, play rock ‘n’ roll … you don’t want to be somebody you’re not. … There’s a lot of invitations out (to artists to play) and a lot of people calling. I would rather keep it (quiet). An evening with the Marshall Tucker Band is a real jam. It’s not something that we’re going to let you down on.
Q: How does it feel after 45 years with the band?
A: I feel like this is just another start with the band. Every band has its ebb and flow, high tide and low tide; luckily we remembered that. When we started this band, we knew it might not last forever, so we bought as much beer as we could! We knew to prepare to make a long stay for this thing … we came back from Vietnam and decided to get jobs, but we knew we had to do it, so we decided we’d put one more year into the band and make it really, really strong and try to write our own material. I was working in a bank and I asked the guy if I could start growing my hair back after Vietnam and he said, “I don’t care what you do as long as you wear a suit and tie.”
Q: Do you consider yourselves Southern rock?
A: Billboard said it best of all when we were charting a whole lot. They said, they play rock, they play jazz, they play country — and God knows they’re country — but one thing most important about this band is we don’t know what kind of band they are, so keep your eyes open. We don’t know what kind of band we are. Being from the South, you make soup on Sunday from all the leftovers that were going bad. I look at (the band) like a vegetable soup — you have all kinds of vegetables in there and with everyone in the band having different likes and backgrounds and being able to go from playing the Grand Ole Opry to opening for Kid Rock and playing with Zac Brown … and you know, (Zac Brown Band multi-instrumentalist) Clay Cook is my nephew. I taught him everything he knows. When I do interviews and they ask, “Who will I be interviewing in 20 years?,” I always say Zac Brown.
Q: You have a catalog from four decades. How do you structure your shows?
A: We have a set list that we put down every night in three different places on the stage, and for 15 years, we have never paid attention to that set list! It’s so much easier to live like you’re blindfolded and, walking into a crowd, you can feel what the crowd wants. I’m a caretaker in a lot of different ways, so in each show we do, when we get up there, I’ll ask the crowd what song do you want to hear now? There’s only 330 of them!
The Marshall Tucker Band’s Georgia Jam
With Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and Randall Bramblett. 7 p.m. Friday. $40-$60. Cox Capitol Theatre, 382 Second St., Macon. 478-257-6391, www.coxcapitoltheatre.com.
With Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. 8 p.m. Saturday. $40-$45. Variety Playhouse, 1099 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 1-877-987-6487, www.ticketfly.com.