Tuesday, August 7, 2012

40 Year Itch: A Little Chicken Pickin'


 40 years ago this summer Spartanburg, South Carolina's favorite sons, the Marshall Tucker Band entered the studio and recorded their self titled debut over a two month period, working 16 hours a day. Probably because the Capricorn studio in Macon, GA had air conditioning. The studio certainly had Paul Hornsby who helped develop the" South's Gonna Rise Again" sound with Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels and Wet Willie.

 Hornsby tells Swampland.Com the Marshall Tucker debut was his third and probably last chance to produce an album.

I had very little producing experience to draw from. What we had going for us was some great songs that Toy Caldwell had written and a band who were the easiest to work with I had ever met. They brought their enthusiasm with them and played their asses off like they had been doing for the last few years. Not much thought was given for an "image." We took each song individually, and added whatever we thought fit that particular cut. On "Hillbilly Band" there was a fiddle added. Toy played steel guitar on several cuts. If you read the musician's credits, you'll see that Jaimoe played "gitongas" on "Can't You See." Actually, that was just him beating on the back of an acoustic guitar instead of using congas! Wherever there was a "crack" left, I filled it with a keyboard. Everyone got to explore their ideas and try what they wanted. I don't think we left one spot open for anything. 

 Well, we spent eight weeks in the studio, there were many 15-hour days. At the end we came out not knowing what we had. I had been so close to the project and spent so much time on it, that I didn't know if it was great or terrible. I don't have any idea of what the band thought. When we handed the tape over to Capricorn, it wasn't clear what they really thought either at first. The label was brand new, and with the success of the Allman Bros, maybe they thought this project would be cut from the same mold. Well, it wasn't. It had more country influences- steel guitars, fiddles, etc. The term "Southern Rock" was yet to be coined. By the time those two words were used in conjunction, it was perfectly normal to use all of the above ingredients within one band.

 Anyhow, Capricorn was somehow convinced to release the LP. It was simply entitled "The Marshall Tucker Band". One of my favorite definitions of "luck" is "being good at the right time." The Marshall Tucker Band was that! At the time of the release of that LP, they were opening act on tour with the Allman Brothers. Band. What a perfect audience to showcase a band like that. It allowed thousands of people to get a taste of what the band had to offer on that record. It was practically a hit right out of the shoot!

The Marshall Tucker Band ( named after a blind piano turner who rented their rehearsal hall before them) toured relentlessly, had five gold records and 1977's  Carolina Dreams which went platinum. You'll have a hard time finding a guitarist who plays as smoothly and seemingly effortlessly as Toy Caldwell.
(And all without a pick!) His brother Tommy, who played bass, was killed in an car crash in 1980. The Wretched Killer Curse of Southern Rock.

I think the only time I went to Spartanburg was to shake my head at a Ku Klux Klan Rally in the early 1990's. But if you ever go, stop at Ike's Korner Grille. Ike can't spell too good but his hamburgers are the best in the Upstate. And you'll notice,  even today , there are a lot of guys who look exactly like someone in the Marshall Tucker Band.

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