In September of 1973, a young band from Spartanburg, SC found themselves on the stage of the famous Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California opening for The Allman Brothers Band. This is their show from that evening, a one hour show packed with the Southern fried grit and passion that would soon become their trademark and endear them to the entire world.
Following an introduction by the late Bill Graham, the band kicks off the set with the rockin; “Hillbilly Band,” one of a handful of songs over the years to feature lead guitarist Toy Caldwell on lead vocals. Besides singing, Toy dishes up his trademark chicken pickin” to full effect.
“Another Cruel Love” is next, featuring Doug Gray’s power soaked lead vocals. The band is tight as can be, with the rhythm section of Paul T. Riddle on drums and Tommy Caldwell on bass putting it right in the pocket. But it is on the next song that the whole band shines like new money. The now classic “Take The Highway” not only rocks with some of Toy’s finest lead work backed by the solid rhythm guitar of George McCorkle, it also features an excellent flute break from Jerry Eubanks, amazing lead vocals from Doug, and more of those jazz based drums from Paul. The remastering here is awesome, and Tommy’s bass is enhanced and brought up in the mix to great effect, Damn I miss Tommy.
The set continues with one of MTB’s all time favorites, “Can't You See,” again with Toy on lead vocals, followed by the country fried “See You LAter, I’m Gone” with Toy playing some great pedal steel.
Doug Gray steals the show on this live version of Toy’s “Ramblin.” I still maintain that this is one of Gray’s, and Southern Rock’s most powerful vocals ever. And let’s not miss the opportunity to comment on Toy’s lead guitar work. Damn.
The band turns in a simply stellar cover of the B.B. King tune “Everyday I Have The Blues,” clocking in at fourteen minutes. Typical for these guys. They were a jam band before jam bands became chic. And they close it all out with nine more minutes of solid Southern squall on “24 Hours at a Time.”
It sure is hard to believe that three of these six fellas have gone on to Southern Rock Heaven, but one thing is for sure - with records like this around, Toy and Tommy and George will live on forever. And that my friends, is a good thing.
- Michael Buffalo Smith