Marshall Tucker Band and other big acts to play show at Spyglass

SUNBURY — Even though Pennsylvania is located above the Mason-Dixon Line, Southern rock music has a huge base of fans in the state. That’s especially true in rural areas like the West Branch Valley, where the music can often be heard blasting from pick-up trucks, cars and motorcycles as they roll down the road.

So, it should come as no surprise that Spyglass Ridge Winery has booked a show tailored to this group of music fans. Tomorrow night, the winery will host its Southern Rock Party, which will feature three huge acts in the genre — the Marshall Tucker Band, the Outlaws, and Molly Hatchet.

“Our tour is never-ending, and that is the best part about it,” said Doug Gray, lead vocalist and founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band. “One minute we are playing with Kid Rock or Charlie (Daniels) or Lynyrd Skynyrd. We just never know because we don’t stop.

“It has gradually gotten to where it is a lot of fun to be on the road,” he added. “We all have families, but when we are on the road we work real hard; and when we come back, we play real hard. That is the key to our success I think.”

After forming in 1972, the Marshall Tucker Band has produced several Gold and Platinum albums, and charted seven singles on Billboard’s Hot 100. Some of the group’s biggest hits include “Can’t You See,” “Heard it in a Love Song,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “The Last of the Singing Cowboys” and “Dream Lover.”

The group has toured continuously for 47 years under many different configurations. In that time, the band has teamed up with the Outlaws — a group best known for the 1975 hit “There Goes Another Love Song” — for many of its performances. Gray said that the two bands playing shows together “has worked out great,” adding that the combination is “blessed.”

“I would say the combination between us and the Outlaws is just about as Southern as you can get, because of the way we all went out and played in the earlier years,” Gray said. “It was almost like we were just one big band.”

Though the Marshall Tucker Band has toured with the Outlaws many times, the band has played much less with Molly Hatchet, who broke onto the national music scene with 1979’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster.” Gray said he hasn’t seen Molly Hatchet play live in several years, but he thinks “it will be a lot of fun.”

Given that the Marshall Tucker Band has been performing for nearly five decades, the band now has the unique opportunity to play shows for three generations of fans at their shows. They not only see their original fans when they hit the stage, but also the children and grandchildren of those original fans.

“When you are playing for three generations of fans, you start doing some different shows and start seeing some different people,” said Gray. “A lot of times people don’t realize that we are still on the road playing 140 shows per year. Most bands have come and gone.”

Interestingly, Gray said that currently the group’s core audience are those aged 17 to 47. He believes that’s because the younger generations are “realizing that there is more to this music than there is to other kinds of music.”

“There is a lot of music out there, and there are a lot of songs that are great; I listen to most of them, quite honestly,” he said. “But I am learning that you don’t have to change to be friends with the younger kids. You just let them be your friends, and you can go down the road together.

“I love when I hear kids say ‘Mommy and Daddy used to play that old record over and over, and they strapped me in the car seat so I couldn’t get away from it,'” Gray added, with a laugh. “Then they come see us play.”

To ensure that the fans in attendance have a great time at their shows, the Marshall Tucker Band only plays its most recognizable songs during performances. If the group does venture into playing a cover song, it is usually a tune from one of the other bands on the show’s bill. In those cases, the band will start out the song like it is one of their own, before transitioning into the cover. Gray calls that “the joke of the century.”

“Our setlist is going to be of the songs that (the fans) lived their lives with and that they grew up with,” he said. “We will do those, but our band has always been a jam band, if you want to know the real essence of what we do.

“We were alright on records,” Gray added. “But we are a live band.”

Today, Gray is the only original member of the Marshall Tucker Band still with the group. The rest of the band is comprised of B.B. Borden (drums), Tony Black (bass, vocals), Marcus James Henderson (keyboard, saxophone, flute, vocals), Chris Hicks (guitar, vocals) and Rick Willis (guitar, vocals).

“We have been through a lot of changes, as mostly every band in the world has,” Gray said. “But we went through those changes so that everybody that is in the Marshall Tucker Band wants to be in the Marshall Tucker Band — they have designed their whole career to be a part of this.”

Gray added that, back when he first helped form the Marshall Tucker Band after returning from Vietnam, he never imagined the group would still be playing this many decades later.

“We are lucky enough to still have that want and drive,” he said. “Me, being where I am in life, I am just about as happy as I can be.”