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More Back Home Memories of Marshall Tucker

Posted: Mar 24, 2008

I woke up at three in the morning last night thinking about The Marshall Tucker Band. No, I don’t make it a habit of losing sleep reminiscing over the glory days of Southern Rock, but every once in a while, the memories come flooding in on me whether I like it or not, and I am up in a flash, splashing cold water on my face and jotting down notes I pray I will be able to discern the next day.

A while back I wrote about growing up in Spartanburg, SC during the hey day of the Tuckers, and while I hit on several happy and sad memories of the band, there are plenty more memories still lodged in my brain somewhere between Star Trek, The Gong Show, The Allman Brothers Band and Byrnes High School.

When I was working with The Silver Travis Band in the early 1980s we spent a lot of time at Creative Arts Recording Studio, where most often we hung out with engineer Randy Merryman. Randy used to play us tracks from the upcoming MTB records before all the overdubs and stuff. I remember once getting a cassette of the Tuckerized session before it was sent to New York for gloss and production. I remember liking the raw versions of the songs better than the final album. Except for a couple of songs, it was Tucker doing covers, which threw me off to start with. Obviously I was a fan of the band’s writing.

We spent many an hour at  Creative Arts Studio, including some late nights at  the studio, which was housed in an old, really old schoolhouse. Legend has it that some kids had been murdered in the school, and that their ghosts were still roaming free in the structure. We had heard of strange occurrences that went on while The Marshall Tucker Band was in there recording, and we witnessed for ourselves some of the apparent poltergeist activity. It was kind of spooky at times, but we would put up with it for a chance to see one of the “Tucker boys,” which we did, quite often.

I remember in the mid-seventies when 7-11 brought out their Rock Superstar cups for Icees. They were plastic cups bearing a drawing of the band with a brief bio on the other side. Well, they had a Marshall Tucker Band cup, and although I ended up with the Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper and several others, I never got a Tucker cup until thirty some odd years later thanks to eBay. Is there anything you can’t find on eBay?

One place I used to love to visit was Arthur’s, at Hillcrest Mall in Spartanburg. I can remember seeing Matt “Guitar” Murphy jamming his heart out there. One of my fondest memories is of a show featuring The Throbbers. At that time, the jazz-fusion-rock band consisted of Paul T. Riddle, Buddy Strong, Franklin Wilkie, and Ronnie Godfrey. On this particular night, Toy Caldwell showed up to jam out on a few pop and jazz standards, like “The Nightlife,” and “Stardust,” playing the guitar given to him by B.B. King, a beautiful hollow-body with B.B.’s name spelled out in mother-of-pearl inlays between the frets. Artimus Pyle was there that night as well, sporting a brand new haircut and beard trim. I can remember just sitting there savoring the music. Caldwell was playing some amazing jazz chords. Toy could play it all.

I was working at Waccamah Pottery Outlets in Spartanburg back in the early 1980’s, and one day I was outside on a break when I saw a Land Rover with a Marine Corp sticker on the back window and a very familiar character behind the steering wheel. I could spot Toy Caldwell a mile away, and while I had met him on occasion, I didn’t yet know him. But he was parked in the fire lane while his wife ran in to make a purchase. Some how, I managed to summon the courage to go over and speak.

“Hey Toy,” how’s it going?” I mustered.

“Goin’ good man,” how have you been?”

I knew this was the “MTB Safety move.” I have seen them do it a million times. Same with many other celebrities. Act as though you know everyone who speaks to you, whether you remember them or not. Wouldn’t want to disappoint a fan.

“Great,” I replied. “I love the new album.”

He smiled real big. “Thanks man. How’s the new job working out?”

I was caught off guard. “Uh- pretty good,” I muttered.

“We miss you over at the grocery store. Nobody gets it right. You always kept my cold stuff together in one bag and never smushed my bread.”

Of course I was blown away. Toy Caldwell knew who I was, even if it was only for my ability to correctly bag groceries.

And in that five minute conversation in the fire lane outside of Waccamah Pottery in Spartanburg, South Carolina on a breezy spring day, Toy took one fan from “casual fan” status to “die hard fan.” A smile and a few kind words changed my life that day. And that’s how I remember Toy Caldwell.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.


Toy Caldwell Band at Al's Pumphouse, Greenville, SC

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tuckerhead says...

awesome buffalo

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