The band filled three trucks with supplies for storm survivors in New Jersey and New York during a recent break in the touring schedule.
“A lot of people turned out” for the event, Gray says. “It was overwhelmingly successful.”
He'll be giving thanks for many successes at a traditional family Thanksgiving gathering the week before the band's concert at Penn State York.
“It's always good to come home for Thanksgiving,” he says. “I'll be spending time with my family down here in Spartanburg, S.C., and then we'll come right out and head your way.”
Balancing time for family and a personal life with the Marshall Tucker Band's success has long been a priority for the members. Aside from being with his family, Gray spends his offstage time in the driver's seat of his 2002 Harley-Davidson Road King — making the pilgrimage to Sturgis, S.D., for the annual motorcycle rally 37 times.
The band: The band's lineup has changed numerous times in the four decades since its founding, with Gray the sole remaining member who has been there from the beginning.
“The original band was only together nine years, but every time somebody left, they usually were going home to take care of something for their family or getting out of the music business,” he says. “And that's OK. We were honest with each other.”
When new members came aboard, they respected what had come before and contributed their own sound to an enduring legacy that fans pass down from generation to generation.
“Each person in this band loved Marshall Tucker Band and what we were doing, and the memory of what we were leaving in some of those people's minds,” Gray says, recounting stories from fans who played the band's music at weddings, burials and other meaningful events. “These songs are monumental in their lives, and they continue to be so.”
Though the band's music is generally categorized as Southern rock, it's an umbrella term for the wide range of interests among the members. The current lineup features Gray on lead vocals, Chris Hicks and Rick Willis on lead guitars and vocals, Pat Elwood on bass guitar, B.B. Borden on drums and Marcus Henderson on keyboards.
“The beauty of the Marshall Tucker Band is that we've all been in different styles of music,” Gray says. “I talk country, I can sing country, but I love rhythm and blues.”
The feeling: For Gray, it's not just the musical style that matters; it's the sound itself, too. That's why the band's recent greatest hits album is available on vinyl.
“In November, we're coming back out with the first and the second LP because vinyl records are very dear to us,” he says. “You'll hear and start feeling things that you don't hear on digital.”
Connecting with that feeling is what brings Gray back on tour time and time again.
“To step on that stage, it's an honest and true feeling that comes from your heart,” he says. “You just walk on, and if the crowd really wants you there, then you can play your heart out.”
The band plays its hit songs at every stop, but the set list is never decided upon in advance, and occasionally Gray will sing a verse or two of a more obscure piece — sometimes one the band has never performed live, he says.
“We do it by people screaming the songs they wanna hear,” Gray says. “We never plan it; it's all about the physical and mental emotion that you feel coming from the audience.”
Sharing the music and the emotions since 1973 has given the band and its fans plenty of memories to be thankful for — and the chance to make more Nov. 29 at the Pullo Center.
See the show
The Marshall Tucker Band will give a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center, 1031 Edgecomb Ave. on the Penn State York campus in Spring Garden Township. Driving Vegas will open the show.
Tickets are $35-$50.
For more information on the concert, call (717) 505-8900 or visit pullocenter.yk.psu.edu.
For more information on the band, visit marshalltucker.com.
— Reach Mel Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.