The Marshall Tucker Band
Live From The Garden State 1981
During it’s very first year on television, MTV brought us real music, everything from punk to new wave, pop to Southern rock. It was during that year, 1981, that the pride of Spartanburg, South Carolina, The Marshall Tucker Band, took the stage for a blistering concert that rocked the entire state of New Jersey, one of the band’s favorite places to perform during those days.
It had been less than a year since a freak Jeep wreck on Church Street in their hometown took the life of bassist/bandleader Tommy Caldwell, and they were forging onward with family friend Franklin Wilkie filling the bass slot. The entire show is featured on this new DVD from Shout! Factory, with singer Doug Gray sporting his now classic blue MTV shirt.
The band starts the show with “Take The Highway,” the late Toy Caldwell (who died in the early 1990’s) whipping off the familiar opening riff. It is immediately obvious that the band is enjoying themselves, and all six men are playing their hearts out.
Only the Marshall Tucker Band would play their biggest radio hit, “Heard It In A Love Song” second in the set. Knowing them like I do, I have to imagine they’d just as soon get the 4- minute track out of the way in order to get into those all-inspired marathon Southern rock jams.
“Tell The Blues To Take Off The Night” from the Dedicated record is next, followed by “It Takes Time,” “Special Someone,” “Rumors Are Raging” and the country romp “Bob Away My Blues.”
Toy Caldwell sets down the 335 hollow body and takes a seat at the pedal steel to strike the familiar opening slide of George McCorkle’s “Fire On The Mountain,” before rocking into “Something’s Missing In My Life,” and the western beat of “The Time Has Come.”
“Ramblin” never ceases to amaze me, and in 1981, Doug Gray’s high-test vocals were equally matched by Toy’s blazing, thumb-driven leads. The crowd rises to a fever pitch as Caldwell picks the opening to the now immortal “Can’t You See,” which they follow with yet another hit, “This ol’ Cowboy,” originally on the singles chart in 1975. They close it all out with “Searchin For A Rainbow” and an all-time favorite of this writer, “Blue Ridge Mountain Sky.”
The excellent concert video is augmented by a very nice documentary called “Which One Is Marshall Tucker?”, a film by Daniel Meisner. Dan turns in an excellent mini-documentary, complete with interviews he conducted with band members and friends back in the 1980’s, as well as recently. Besides band interviews, Dan spoke with their friends Charlie Daniels and Travis Tritt. Unfortunately, due to some sort of red tape, he was unable to include some of the excellent footage he shot of Toy Caldwell in an interview at Toy’s home in 1988. Still, the film works well as a connector between the original MTB, the years with Frank Wilkie on bass, and the “new” MTB - which is not new at all, since they have continued under the leadership of Doug Gray for 20 more years following the breakup of the original members of 1984.
This is an essential release for Tuckerheads worldwide, as well as for any hotshot guitarists who want to see how the big boys used to do it. Live From The Garden State is an unearthed treasure-gold in them hills and it’s waiting for you here.
-Michael Buffalo Smith