by Michael Buffalo Smith
Spartanburg, South Carolina has given us some great music over the years, from jazz great Hank Garland to The Sparkletones and of course The Marshall Tucker Band. Now, a band that began in the early '80's, broke up, and reformed in 2005 is making some of the finest music ever to come out of that cotton mill town. We spoke with Silver Travis lead singer Rick Cash about his band, past, present and future.
Rick Cash, lead singer of the Silver Travis band, grew up in a musical family in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His parents sang in the church choir, and his brothers were heavily into music as well.
“My brother Mike grew up learning everything from drums to banjo to guitar, to just about any instrument you could name. My other brother was a vocalist at the time. I have a younger sister as well, but she was never musical.”
Cash says that his early musical influences vary, but he recalls being a huge fan of Ray Charles.
“I was also a Jim Croce fan, and James Taylor. B.J. Thomas, and of course Doug Gray of Marshall Tucker.”
The first band Rick was ever in was The Silver Travis Band. He joined in December of 1980 at the age of 18.
“My brother Mike saw an ad in the paper looking for a vocalist. He had previously played with Steve Harvey in both Deep South and Liberty. He called and spoke to Steve about it and got me the audition.”
Cash beat out all the competition. From the time he opened his mouth to sing, it was clear that he would be the new lead vocalist.
“He had us at hello,” says bassist Joey Parrish. “We had never heard a clearer, more unique and powerful voice. There was a band meeting at Hardees that night, and it was decided then and there. Auditions were officially over.”
The band rehearsed several times a week.
“The very first gig I did was a private party and somebody’s house way out in the country. I had only been in the band a week or two. That was the night I met Deborah. (Rick’s wife.)”
I asked Cash what some of his happiest memories of the first round with Silver Travis was, back in the ‘80’s.
“That week at The Bowery at Myrtle Beach for sure. That was a week we will all remember until we go to the grave. I remember the night we threatened to play “Free Bird” and the owner said if we did he would shut off all the electricity to the joint. (Laughs) And then there was Bouncing Betty. (The 300 pound stripper). She was great.”
Soon the band had made friends with Randy Merryman, an engineer at Creative Arts Studio in Moore, SC, which was owned by members of The Marshall Tucker Band.
“I was scared to death,” says Cash. “I had never been in a studio before, especially one where Doug and Toy and all of them recorded. And Randy was good with us. He knew how to get the best out of all of us. I’d like to work with Randy again.”
The band recorded a 45 called “Baby It’s True,” that received air play on radio stations in Myrtle Beach and around the Carolinas. The song was written by Steve Harvey and Cash.
“I remember riding down Union Street there in Spartanburg, just myself and Deborah, and we had the radio on WKDY. The song came on and it didn’t register. I said, man, that’s a pretty song. Then it hit me, and I said, that’s “Baby It’s True!” It hit home. I could not believe we were on the radio. I almost wrecked. It was an amazing feeling.”
Besides Marshall Tucker, there were a handful of other bands in Spartanburg that helped to influence the sound of Silver Travis.
One band we all looked up to was The Lightnin; West Band, Ace Allen, Stuart Swanlund and all those guys. In my mind they were the top dog around there. They were the band I wanted to emulate. I wanted to be like Lightnin’ West. I wanted to follow in their shoes because I really felt like they were going to me the next Tucker from Spartanburg. Another band we looked up to was Garfeel Ruff.”
At one point, Randall Calvert quit the band, and another set of auditions were held. The group ended up with Stuart Swanlund, an old band mate of Steve Harvey in Dallas Alice, who would go on to join The Marshall Tucker Band.
“It was a good time for the band, but with Stuart we went in a bit of a different direction than we wanted to go. We were more main stream rock rather than being true to our Southern Rock roots."
After an ill-fated trip through winter snow to West Virginia, the bus broke down, the money went away, and the band broke up.
“That was December of ‘83. It was a rough time.”
The players played in various bands in the coming years, and at one point, Rick Cash appeared on The Nashville Network’s Nashville Star, making it to the semi finals.
“We sang my brother’s song “Watch Her as She Sleeps,” and we also did “If You’ve Got Troubles,” which we recorded on our reunion CD. That was in 1992.”
Then in 2005, fate drew the guys back together.
“I remember seeing Mike Satterfield at the drug store. I had not seen him in ten years. We started talking about the old band. I didn’t think anything about it, Then a couple of weeks later I saw Mike again and we spoke briefly. Next thing i know, Satterfield is on the phone with Randall. Before you know it, we all met at Randall’s restaurant in Columbus, NC just to sit around and talk on a Sunday afternoon. We brought our instruments. First time in 25 years we had all sat in the same room.”
Rick wastes no time when asked to describe his band mates.
“When I talk about Randall Calvert, the only way I can explain that guy’s talent is to say you need to see him live. Because he always leaves you wanting more. Every lead he plays you just don’t want it to end. His lead guitar mesmerizes me. i go back to the side of the stage and just close my eyes. He’s amazing. As for Joey Parrish, he’s the one guy from the original Silver Travis that I stayed in touch with through the years. We were best friends all this time and played in a few groups together. He’s one of the family. When he gets in the groove, it is on. He ain’t fancy. He don’t want to be fancy. There’s a reason why they call him ‘Cool.’ He’s smooth and he holds the rhythm down. Mike Satterfield is one of a kind. First of all, you won’t find a better person that Satterfield anywhere. That’s the thing about us now is we are a family. We have as much fun sitting around and talking like we’re doing now as we do playing. But Mike, he can beat those skins. To me, he’s the backbone of the band. He really is. And John Gillie, when he joined the band we didn’t skip a beat. He fit right in with us. He’s a good rhythm guitar player, and an even better songwriter. Gillie is one of the best songwriters I have ever known personally. He writes from his heart, and that makes a song special.”
Rick says a lot of credit is to be given to the band's road crew, Greg and Chris.
“They do everything. They are there for the fun of it. They just want to be a part of it. They bust their butts every night, setting up. If somebody needs a rag to wipe their forehead or a drink, they go for it. They are the best.”
The new album, Take The High Road,was recorded in Inman, SC at Mill Street Studio with long time Marshall Tucker bassist turned producer Tim Lawter.
“Tim makes you feel at home. It’s like sitting around in your living room picking guitars. And he’s a genius too, Tim is an absolute genius. Musically, Tim thinks a lot like us. He hears the same things we do. Tim and the band produced the album and Rusty Milner, another long time MTB member, mastered the project.”
Speaking of Tucker, original MTB members Paul Riddle and Jerry Eubanks both appear on the album.
“It was a dream come true for us. Not many people can say Paul and Jerry played on their album. And growing up idolizing those guys and listening to their music, it was a dream come true for all of us.”