My job has afforded me many chances to speak with a plethora of music stars throughout my career, Doug Gray of the Marshall Tucker Band is the latest.Being from the South and having grown up on Southern Rock, it was a true pleasure to have a small conversation with someone who's lyrics made an impact on this southern lad. I enjoyed the conversation and look forward to seeing the Marshall Tucker Band at the 2012 Beartrap Summer Music Festival, Saturday, August, 24th in Beartrap Meadow atop Casper Mountain. Doug Gray is a true Southern Gentleman. Give a listen and you'll understand what I mean.

Doug Gray interview part 1.

Jon Michaels: Jon Michaels, we are privileged this morning to be speaking this morning with Doug Gray from the Marshall Tucker Band, a founding member of the band. How are you doing today sir?

Doug Gray: Hey man, I’m doing really really good.

JM: It’s a pleasure to talk to you, I can go back to 1971, 72 I believe it is, Fire on the Mountain and Gold in them hills and it’s waitin’ for me there. I never found the gold but uh, I’ve had a pretty good search.

DG: Well I’m tellin’ you what. If you can wake up in the morning and you can live where you’re livin’ now, buddy, you have found the gold.

JM: Well, you’ll get to experience a little bit of that, headlining the Beartrap Summer Festival, coming up on Saturday August 4th. We’ll take you up about 7,200 feet, put you in the meadow there, put you in front of some smiling faces and let you do what you do best.

DG: Hey man, listen. I am so ready for it, cause ya know, we’ve been criss-crossing you here for the last month and a half and uh, we’ve got a couple of things goin’ on out there so it’s all good. It’s all been really good for us and that’s 7200 feet that we’ll get used to fast.

JM: (Laughs) Hey now, there is truth about that going to sea level and drinking and coming back here, there is some truth in that, I can tell you that.

DG: Oh, I thought it was from being from Alabama; you carried some moonshine with you.

JM: (Laughs) My dad likes moonshine, so ya know, there is a pipeline.

DG: I started to say, Fed-Ex won’t take it, but you can ship it simple ground and it’ll still get there, right?

JM: Most definitely, most definitely.

DG: No, we’re really looking forward to it, and ya know, we’ve been out there several times and in that area, and [we’re] just really excited to be coming out there, especially this kind of festival. It’s gonna be a lot of fun for us.

JM: So let’s talk about Marshall Tucker Band, labeled as a Southern Rock band but if you dig into the roots you find out you guys were versed in Country, Rock and some Jazz music as well.

DG: Well it’s kind of weird. The jazz part just kinda fell together as all of us grew up and Toy and I would go sneak into these jazz festivals and, ya know, we were like 16,17 years old and it cost $4 to go 300 miles in fuel then, and um, we would go to Schlitz malt liquor jazz festivals and we’d go there and see some people that most people wouldn’t even appreciate and the thing is, we appreciated it and we’d come back and added it to the influence of the band, not purposefully I say, ok, cause we really didn’t know what we were doing. I don’t think we still do. But uh, we add stuff in and, ya know, just a couple of weeks ago we got to play the Grand Ole’ Opry again, for the second time in seven months, so I mean, who knows? One minute, we’re playing Sturgis and the next minute we’re playing the Grand Ole’ Opry. And ya know what? The same kind of people come to all the places and it’s all just laid back fun.

JM: So after 41 years I believe it is, what are you like right before you go on stage? What is that moment right before you go on stage? What is that like?

DG: It’s, I got asked that by my daughter, the youngest one’s 20 and the other day she said ‘Dad, what do you feel?’ I said, ‘Do you know I’m really nervous and it makes me wanna drink a lot of beer?’ But I don’t do that ‘til after the show now. (Laughs)

JM: Well, that’s probably a good thing there so, uh, we won’t hold that against you. There are a lot of beer lovers here so I’m sure you’ll find somebody to share a beer with you.

DG: Well that’ll be good. I’ll be lookin’ for the first one once we walk off stage, but listen. It’s all fun, ya know, and you’re used to it, you’ve been there for quite a while now. You know that the people out there are very heart-warmed from the inside and everybody’s just the nicest damn people you run into.

JM: Now, you talk about the rock, the country, the jazz, the dynamic of the band. You know, to me, music is one of those things- it has no color, it has none of that stuff that we often bring in ourselves. If you have got some lyrics that touch somebody’s life, or a groove that makes people move their feet, that’s what’s enjoyable about the music.

DG: Right. And we created memories because of that. People come back and say, well ya know, and this is weird, but they say “I buried my brother to ‘Desert Skies,’” and then a couple days later some girl would come up and she said “ I got married to ‘Desert Skies,’ or ‘Heard It In a Love Song,’ or you pick the song and I think what we did is that first 9 years that we were together, and sold all of those records, and was out there in front of so many millions of people, the media was different then and it’s so much different now, that you can, as long as you’ve still got it true to heart, and you can sing country, and you can sing Rock and Roll…it’s hard to take the country out of me, ok? So I get the chance to sing a little rock and roll, a little bit of country and then whatever else comes next. It’s according to who’s there. Ya’ll, you might even get up to sing.

JM: Oh, I don’t know about that. I may run some people off. But, ‘Heard It In a Love Song,’ that goes back to, as you said, a memory. One of my best friends at the time, that song was a big hit. I did not know that he didn’t know the lyrics; he thought it was ‘Pretty Little Love Song.’ So every time we’d get together, we’d play that song, we’d have a great laugh. Yeah, memory for sure there. No doubt about it.

DG: (Laughs) Well it does happen that way and I think most music, and listen, a lot our kids who are coming to see us now, and believe it or not, you know, everybody knows you can go download stuff now, and it’s not quite like what is was, but these kids, and I know this stuff, it says from 17, the most people that downloaded it, was from 17 to 54 years old.

JM: So you’ve still got a huge following there. Moms and Dad’s teaching their kids the value of great music.

DG: Exactly and that’s what keeps us out there. I mean, I’m out on the road 150 shows a year, and some of ‘em are large, some of ‘em are small, but the ones who we love the most are the ones where the people have wanted us to be there for quite a long time and they’re appreciative.



Part 2 of Doug Gray's interview



JM: And speaking of being appreciative, I know you guys support the military. You’ve done some shows in Iraq and Kuwait. What is that feeling like?

DG: Well that’s a little payback for me because when I was in Vietnam in ’68, and Toy was in there of course, but the real trick was, you go back over there and these people, ya know, they’re just like I was. You just wanted something else to think about to bring you a little piece of home. And that’s all we were there for, ya know? It’s just as much, instead of playing, it’s just as much about going out there and hanging with those troops, men and women, that were there and had served 2 or 3 different tours, and they just wanted to touch something from home.

JM: So I know you guys like to party, like to have a good time. What about the Rock Legends 2 Cruise?

DG: Well, if you can put that on your agenda, I think you would come back and be a changed person. I think it’s part of growing up, it’s a part of reacting to everything. We’ve got one of my favorite singers in the whole world on the cruise with us this time, Paul Rodgers.

JM: From Bad Company.

DG: Yeah. And so, and Foreigner is gonna be there, Molly Hatchet, The Outlaws I think are there. 38 Special. So we’ve got like, 25 bands that are all gonna do 3 shows each in different locations and, ya know they got, on those big cruises. The cruise leaves out of Ft. Lauderdale, going to Haiti, and Labadie Haiti is where it is, it’s the northern part. And, uh, we go there, then turn around and come back. And I’m telling you, it’s music til 4:00 AM and it starts again at 8:00 in the morning.

JM: We are privileged to be speaking with Doug Gray from the Marshall Tucker Band. Of course, your headliner for Beartrap Summer Festival 2012, coming up on August 4th. 40 years, do you see an end in sight or are you just content to continue to do what you do?

DG: Well, what I do, I ain’t figured it out yet. What I plan to do is to keep on going, cause ya know, we know we love what we’re doing. We know you love what you’re doing. We’d all love to think that we’re gonna stop one day but I don’t see the end.

JM: So, any new music? I read something not too long ago about a hall of fame album for the state of South Carolina?

DG: We do have that, that’s already in the can. We’re just waiting to put it out at the right time. But what we’re doing right now is one of the bigger things is we’re…we tried to put out, ya know, we put out a greatest hits, ya know for the whole 40 years, last year as a CD and then all of a sudden I decided, ‘let’s just put out an album with the highest grain you could find of material and put out a real LP.’ And so we put it out there and sure enough those sold like hot cakes so what we’re doing now is we’re going back and in November we’re putting the original first LP out and the original second LP out with no changes except updating them. Not updating them musically, but sound-wise. And they sound great on the turn-table and they also sound great when you plug em in with a turn-table to a computer.

JM: You know, I still have a phonograph and I pull out the old vinyl disc and I play them every once in a while. Now, the story of your name. Does it have anything to do with a guy who was a piano technician? Can you straighten me out on that?

DG: Well the truth is, you hit the nail on the head. He was a blind piano tuner that had trained here in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We have a great training for blind and under-privileged kids here. And so, that’s where he came from. He had had that place, he’s quite older than us, he just turned 95 I think, and we really didn’t know him but I met him a couple of years later and then we did the meeting thing and a big TV company came in and filmed the whole thing, but he was never able to do it. He just retired, 41 years or 42 years of being the conductor of the church choir, okay? So, I mean the man was proud of it and all he wanted to do was, he said, I made sure all the microphones and all the cameras were off, he leaned over to me and said ‘I just wanted to tell you I’m proud that ya’ll never messed my name up all them years.’ I said, ‘You just don’t know the half of it brother.’ (Laughs)

JM: Wow, Doug Gray from the Marshall Tucker Band. It has been a kick in the pants to talk to a fellow Southerner, and we look forward to welcoming you guys out here on August 4th. As I said, you guys are gonna love the meadow, you’re gonna love the crowd that’s gonna come up and be there as you guys perform all the big hits.

DG: Alright brother, listen. You take it easy and try to come home every so often. That’s what I do, and touch base.

JM: Hey, you’ve gotta keep a little touch of home man, most definitely.

DG: That’s right.

JM: Sir, we thank you for your time once again and we wish you safe travels and continued success doing what you love there.

DG: Alright man, well you be good. I look forward to seeing you there and saying hello.