On Stage: Marshall Tucker Band still going strong after more than 50 years

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Marshall Tucker Band

When a band has been recording and playing live shows for more than a half-century, it tends to slow down some – especially when it comes to doing concert tours.

Such is not the case with the Marshall Tucker Band.

The Southern Rock band, which dates back to the early 1970s, is still going strong.

“Last year, we did 140 shows and were 250 days gone from home,” said Doug Gray, during a phone interview Wednesday from his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The hard-rocking group is now on the road with its “Marshall Tucker Band Live on Cloud 9 Tour 2024.” The tour will touch down locally with a stop on January 28 at the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com).

Many legendary “Southern Rock” bands have defined the genre – the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, 38 Special, Atlanta Rhythm Section and Black Oak Arkansas.

One of the oldest and most durable is the Marshall Tucker Band. More than 50 years have passed, and, like the Energizer Bunny, the band just keeps going and going.

The Marshall Tucker Band is an American Southern rock/country rock band originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The band’s blend of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, country, and gospel helped establish the Southern rock genre in the early 1970s.

The original lineup of the Marshall Tucker Band, formed in 1972, included lead guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter Toy Caldwell; lead vocalist Doug Gray; keyboard player, saxophone player, and flautist Jerry Eubanks; rhythm guitarist George McCorkle; drummer Paul Riddle; and bassist Tommy Caldwell. They signed with Capricorn Records and in 1973 released their first LP, “The Marshall Tucker Band.”

“Back then, there was no way in the world any of us thought the Marshall Tucker Band would be around more than 50 years later,” said Gray. “Toy wrote some great songs. Now, younger bands are talking about being influenced by the Marshall Tucker Band.

“Toy and I went to Vietnam. Our intention was to come back from Vietnam and play music. We started making music together again in 1967. Back then, there weren’t many places to play.

“We worked during the day and rehearsed at night. He worked with his dad as a master plumber. I worked for a bank. Then, I got my own bank on the same day as an offer from Capricorn.

“A friend of ours took our tape to Phil Walden (co-founder of Capricorn Records) and he signed us a few days later. Our first single was ‘Can’t You See.’

“The first eight or nine years, MTB created a lot of memories. We were going out on the road with the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

Back then, the Marshall Tucker Band was also creating hits such as “Can’t You See,” “Heard It in A Love Song,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “24 Hours At A Time.”

The five-time-gold and three-time-platinum band has sold millions of albums worldwide and has had songs featured in major motion picture films and television shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “Half Nelson,” “My Name Is Earl,” and “Cold Case Files.”

CMT (Country Music Television) named the MTB’s “Can’t You See” as the Number 4 Greatest Southern Rock Song.

“We keep the band going and it’s just not about me,” said Gray. “It’s about the music. People love the music, and I can’t let them down. Our fans have kids and grandkids, and they love to come to our shows.

“When we first started the band, Toy and I had plans for when we got back from Vietnam. Toy wrote some songs that just wouldn’t go away on people – songs like ‘Can’t You See,’ and ‘Heard It in A Love Song.’ Now, it’s a band that is 51 years old.”

The Marshall Tucker Band has released more than 25 albums since its eponymous debut LP in 1973. The most recent was “The Next Adventure” in 2007 and there is no new album on the horizon.

“With regard to a new studio album, there is no reason in putting out something that doesn’t stand the test of time,” said Gray, who is 75 and the last original member in the band.

“When Toy left the band in 1983, he came up and shook my hand and said – run with it. I’m the last man.

“We’ve recorded most of our shows. We have over 3,000 shows on tape. That’s why every so often we put out a live album from years ago. Some are so good – they’re unbelievable. We never play the same show every night.”

We’re now in an era of recognizing musicians for their “streams” rather than their “records sold.” The Marshall Tucker Band is keeping pace.

“About a month ago, Pandora presented us with an award at the Grand Ole Opry – an award for one billion streams. With Spotify, we’ve gotten 66 million listens in January 2023.

“We’re not going to stop playing until I stop playing,” said Gray. “I put my heart into it every night. The band members are 20 years younger, but they respect the music.”

The current line-up is: B.B. Borden – drums; Tony Black – bass / vocals; Marcus James Henderson – keyboards / saxophone / flute / vocals; Chris Hicks – guitar / vocals; Rick Willis – guitar / vocals; and Doug Gray – lead vocals.

“I won’t sit by the wayside.” said Gray. “I want to get out there and play. How many people would I be letting down if I didn’t try to get out there and re-create all the memories.”

Video link for the Marshall Tucker Band – https://youtu.be/3M6Zgs1fv9I.

The show at the Keswick Theater will start at 7:30 p.m. on January 28.

Tickets range from $35-$90.

This region is always a great area for live blues music with many blues festivals and blues artists featured at venues all over the Delaware Valley.

Greg Sover

This weekend, blues fans are in for a double treat because two of America’s premier blues musicians are performing locally – Greg Sover in Sellersville and Popa Chubby in Delaware County.

On January 28, Sover will be headlining a show at the Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808, www.st94.com).

Sover, a singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire, released his newest album, “HIS-Story,” on July 21 on Grounded Soul Records.  The 10-song album features a combination of original tunes — eight bluesy rockers – and a pair of songs by Hendrix.

On the two Hendrix compositions, Sover was joined by Band of Gypsies bassist Billy Cox — on Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” and rarely heard album cut, “Remember,” which was originally on the U.K. version of Hendrix’s debut album, “Are You Experienced.”
“It was great working with Billy Cox,” said Sover, during a phone interview from his home in Abington. “It was an honor to play with him.

“I had wanted to do a version of ‘Manic Depression.’ My manager came up with a crazy idea — ‘I wonder if Billy would like to work on it.’

“We talked with Billy, and I told him that I wanted to record ‘Manic Depression’ and would he like to play on it.

“Billy agreed to play on the song. Then, he asked if I would record a little-known Hendrix song, “Remember” and include it on the album.”

The album was recorded with internationally acclaimed bass player Kenny Aaronson (Bob Dylan, Rick Derringer, the Yardbirds, Joan Jett) and drummer extraordinaire, The Hooters’ David Uosikkinen.

“I recorded the album at Cambridge Studio in South Philly,” said Sover, whose family is originally from Haiti. “I co-produced the album with Jim Salamone. It’s a nice studio – a lot of digital and some analog. I tried to stick with an authentic approach without relying on technology.

“Lyrically, it was the most personal album I’ve done. There were a lot of things I had — issues with what Greg Sover was going through.

“Also, I have a son now – Damian, who just turned one on Saturday. Having a son was an inspiration. I felt young. I felt motivated – more inspired.

“The album just came out in July. We’ve been getting a good reception. And the album is getting more radio play.”

Sover has another Hendrix connection. Last summer, he performed a show – “An Evening of Jimi Hendrix with Greg Sover” — at the Newton Theatre in Bucks County.

“It was a solo show – just me, no band,” said Sover. “I played two 50-minute sets of strictly Jimi Hendrix songs. I don’t think Jimi ever did two 50-minute sets in one night.

“I had a lot of fun, and the audience loved it. It was a full house. Now, they want me to come back again. I’m thinking about putting together a Hendrix show to have in addition to my own shows.”

Sover is a blues/rock musician from Philly who is well known to Chester County audiences from shows at area venues – especially the Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville where he recorded a live show.

Sover’s most recent release before “HIS-Story” was “The Parade” in 2020.

“The Parade” featured five originals and the band’s interpretation of the Cream classic, “Politician.”  I

With heavier guitars, blazing solos and impactful lyrics, “The Parade” explores themes of personal evolution, staying true to oneself and perseverance.

Sover, who grew up in Philly and attended William Penn High, became fascinated with the guitar at age 13. His father taught him the French song “La Maladie d’Amour” and Sover took it from there. He taught himself how to play guitar, how to write songs and, eventually, how to sing.

“I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. and my family moved to Philadelphia when I was 10,” said Sover, whose parent were from Haiti. “I was exposed to music when I was really young.  I had musicians on both sides of my family. My whole life I’ve had access to the guitar.

“With guitar, I started really knowing what I was doing when I was around 15. At the same time, I was playing electric bass at my church.”

Sover says his music doesn’t fit into one particular genre. It includes elements of “blues and rock with a dash of everything else.”

The Philly musician first attracted serious attention when he won the 2015 Hard Rock Rising competition at Philadelphia’s Hard Rock Cafe.

Over the last few years, the Greg Sover Band has opened for many renowned blues-rock artists including the Yardbirds, Jeffrey Gaines, Jimmy Vivino, Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers, Johnny A, Ana Popovic, Walter Trout, Sonny Landreth, Popa Chubby, Marcus King Band and Davy Knowles.

Now, it’s time for Sover to step into the spotlight and move forward as a headliner in his own right.

Video link for Greg Sover — https://youtu.be/4mWIXx9UbrU.

The show on January 28 at the Sellersville Theater, which also features Bobby Rush, will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $33 and $45.

Popa Chubby

On January 26, Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will host the legendary Popa Chubby.

Popa Chubby made his Gulf Coast Records label debut with a new album, “Live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint NYC,” which came out in September.

“I just put out a double live album,” said Popa Chubby, during a recent phone interview. “It came out in September. We’ve been touring the double album ever since.

“It’s been in the Billboard Top 10 for the last six weeks. It really is a good record – one of the best I’ve done. There’s two hours and 20 minutes of music and all were songs requested by fans.”

Popa Chubby’s most recent previous albums were “Prime Cuts: The Very Best of the Beast from the East,” “It’s a Mighty Hard Road,” “Tinfoil Hat,” and “Emotional Gangster.”

“I toured ‘Emotional Gangster’ for a year and got great responses,” said Popa Chubby. “It was suggested to me to do a ‘Best of’ so I decided to play a live ‘best of’ to a studio audience.

“This is something different – something not done before. I don’t think that anyone did a ‘Best of’ fan requested.

“I had two nights of playing for a studio audience. It wasn’t recorded at a theater or a club. It was two nights live at G. Bluey’s Juke Joint.”

GB’s Juke Joint is a full-service recording studio and event space in Long Island City, Queens located by the East River just across midtown Manhattan. It features analog and digital capabilities, a vast collection of instruments, microphones, and vintage and modern gear.

“It was an invitation only event – friends and family,” said Popa Chubby. “I played songs from all my albums. Luckily, I have a really good band and it all came together pretty easily.”

Popa Chubby’s stellar “Beast Band” features Mike Merritt on bass (Conan O’Brien, Billy Gibbons); Mike Dimeo on keyboards (Johnny Winter, Tommy James); and Stefano Giudici on drums.

“It was remarkable,” said Popa Chubby. “We had two nights of shows to pick from when putting the album together. Everything was perfect. The band was an important part.

“The shows were in November in Long Island City at an amazing sound stage. We also shot a five-camera video for our YouTube website. I’m just giving the videos away.”

In 2019, the veteran rocker just released another ‘Best of’ album — “Prime Cuts – The Very Best of the Beast from the East.”

With a career spanning more than 30 years, Popa Chubby delivered a hand-picked anthology of 15 tracks from his prolific and ever-expanding catalogue. “Prime Cuts” reflects Popa’s choice of the best of his best — tracks that keep the Chubby legacy fresh and the fans happy.

“I went all the way back and picked the best stuff from my last 38 records,” said Popa Chubby. “There were two criteria. First, I had to really like the song. Second, it had to be music the fans request.

“A lot of it was easy. A a lot came down to the fans – ‘Sweet Goddess of Love and Beer,’ ‘Angel on My Shoulder,’ ‘Light of Day’ – give the people what they want.

“They were all original album tracks, but some were alternate mixes. I did a lot of re-mastering. There were also two new tracks – and a Christmas song. It took a couple months to put it all together. It just came out at the end of November.”

Popa Chubby’s two prior studio albums were “The Catfish” in 2016 and “Two Dogs” in 2017.

“I never stop recording,” said Popa Chubby. “I recorded ‘Two Dogs’ right after I finished making ‘The Catfish.’ I’m working on my next album now. I’m starting to come up with new ideas. I want to do something original.

“I have a studio in my home. For D.I.Y. stuff, I use ProTools. My studio is filled with vintage stuff – RCA mics, old compressors and vintage guitars and drums.

“I have a background in recording. I worked as an engineer, and I started out working with tape. It’s all digital now — but I have an analog way of getting in and an analog way of getting out.

“When I was working with Tom Dowd, a legendary engineer, he was so happy to go to digital instead of tape. He explained that each time the tape goes over the (recording) head, it loses particles.”

Finding time to get in the studio is a luxury for Popa Chubby.

“I’m never home,” said Popa Chubby. “It seems that I’m always touring a lot. The progression of my career has been slow and steady. I like to give people real music. The best music for me comes from not making music. It comes from me jamming with myself.

“On this tour, we’re playing the new double record in its entirety – and there are some surprises. From start-to-finish, it’s over two hours.”

Video link for Popa Chubby — https://youtu.be/axnycInQKGo.

The show on January 26 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $40.

On January 27, the stage at Jamey’s will belong to Hurricane In Blues.

The show on January 27 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

Jamey’s features a popular “Jazz at Jamey’s” on Thursday featuring many of the best singers in the region performing a set from 7-8 p.m. with the backing of the Dave Reiter Trio and occasional guest musicians.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings.

Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) kicked off its 2024 season last weekend with “Hello Dolly!”, the musical adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker.” This comic and romantic story of the exploits of Dolly Gallagher-Levi, a matchmaker and “woman who arranges things,” will run now through February 25.

It seems that everybody is familiar with “Hello Dolly!” in one form or another – especially the Academy Award-winning film and the hit Broadway musical.

It’s hard not to be familiar with the song, “Hello Dolly!”– at least with the tune’s opening lines… “I said hello, Dolly; Well, hello, Dolly; It’s so nice to have you back where you belong.”

The cast at Candlelight features Rebecca Schall as Dolly Gallagher Levi, Johnny Fernandez as Horace Vandergelder, Jared Calhoun as Cornelius Hackl, Neena Boyle as Irene Molloy and Shawn Weaver as Barnaby Tucker.

“Hello Dolly!” tells the story of widow Dolly Gallagher Levi, a strongminded matchmaker who arrives in New York to “help” Horace Vandergelder, a curmudgeonly and very wealthy widowed shop owner, find a new wife — while secretly plotting to marry him herself.
Meanwhile, two of Vandergelder’s comedically enriched employees leave the shop abandoned and head out to the city in an effort to find adventure. Often referred to as “Broadway’s Greatest Musical”, “Hello, Dolly!” features sweeping dance numbers, hilarious missteps, endearing chaos and, of course, love.

Schall gives a spellbinding performance in the title role – exhibiting the vocal chops and acting skills to capture the spirit of Dolly. Weaver, a Lincoln University graduate, and Calhoun sparkle in their roles as Vandergelder’s store employees from Yonkers who experience the Big Apple for the first time.
“Hello Dolly!” became one of the most iconic Broadway shows of the latter half of the 1960s, running for 2,844 performances, and was the longest-running musical in Broadway history for a time.

Over the years, “Hello Dolly!” has featured many of Broadway’s top leading ladies, including Carol Channing, Mary Martin, Barbra Streisand, Pearl Bailey, Tovah Feldshuh, Bette Midler and Betty Buckley.

“If anything, we’re still focused on the stage version rather than the film version,” said Schall, whose television credits include “Boardwalk Empire,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “In Case of Emergency,” “Julie and Julia,” and “Petuna.”

“There definitely is a difference between stage and film.”

Audiences love the character Dolly, and Schall offers her take on why.

“Dolly is happy, exuberant and effusive,” said Schall. “She knows what she wants, and she goes for it. She’s a bundle of energy – and a good person.

“I bring a sense of quirkiness to the role. I agree one thousand per cent with her passion for helping others – for helping other people get better.

“One reason audiences love the show is the music. They know all the songs. The music is unbelievable – and the script is very well-written. This show is fun. It’s just a beautiful show.”

“Hello Dolly!” is running now through February 25 at the Candlelight Dinner Theatre.

Tickets, which include dinner, beverage and free parking, are $70.50 for adults and $35 for children (ages 4-12).

“SMALL,” which just opened at People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org), is a one-man show that look at this man’s life from playground to paddock, from playhouse to publishing…to People’s Light.

“SMALL” is written and performed by stage, film, and television star Robert Montano (“Cats” on Broadway, “Barcelona” at People’s Light).

Bullied for his size, a boy from Long Island finds purpose and respect atop a racehorse in this wild autobiographical ride,

As the young jockey starts to literally outgrow his childhood dream, he resorts to more and more extreme measures to remain “small” before ultimately finding freedom in a new path. From Belmont Park to Broadway stages, Montano’s vivid and highly entertaining coming-of-age story explores the complex realities of pursuing a dream at all costs.

Montano tells his coming-of-age story about Bobby, a teen from Long Island who enjoys musical theatre but becomes fascinated by the world of horse racing and aspires to be a jockey.

“It’s a one-man play – and a very physical play,” said Montano, during a phone interview from the theater in Malvern.

“As a jockey, there is movement with me riding — along with an amazing sound design that Brian Ronan and I brought together.

Ronan, the show’s sound engineer, supplies the nearby racehorse whinnying. I’m portraying 24 different characters – all with different voices.”

The story starts with a young Montano.

When only entering his teenage years, Montano, known to his family as Bobby, fell in love with “West Side Story” and, in particular, with the character of Bernardo. He was stopped in his youthful ambition by his size. Just over five feet, he had retreated into timidity as a response to being regularly picked on at school.

Behind his father’s back, his mother took him to Belmont Park.

“We went to church together one Sunday and then went over to Belmont Park,” said Montano, who was born in Bayside, Queens, and raised in Hempstead, LI. “I fell in love with the place and the horses.”

Montano started regularly going to Belmont Raceway with his neighbors who work there.

“I had a newspaper delivery route with the L.I. Press,” said Montaro. “At one of the houses, I talked to the people about the mulch they were using. They said it wasn’t mulch – that I was probably smelling the horse manure from the car’s tires.”

His newspaper customers were Bob and Sue Duncan, who were major figures at Belmont Park.

“I begged them to take me with them to the track,” said Montano.

At Belmont Park, Montano was confronted by jockeys, especially by Robert A. Pineda. Impressed at the powerful Pineda presence, Montano switched from wanting to grow to wanting to remain small so he could pursue a career as a jockey.

Montano became determined to become a jockey. Eventually, Pineda became his mentor.

Unfortunately, his dreams of remaining a jockey blew up. Montano continued to grow physically – from 5-foot, 4-inches to 5-8 and 110 pounds.

The day before riding Sow & Reap in a major race, Montano weighed in at 116 pounds. He had to shed 12 pounds overnight. What he had to do to accomplish is a main part of the plot.

“I did all kinds of things to keep my weight down – black beauties, coke, flipping food on daily basis,” said Montano.

By the time he was 18, Montano had outgrown his silks.

“When I couldn’t make it as a jockey, it was ‘small’ because I’m not,” said Montano. “When I couldn’t ride anymore, I didn’t have anything to do with my life.

“I had to transfer disciples from jockey to dance. I knew I had to work – and I had to work hard.”

Montano had dancing skills he developed when he was young, so he decided to delve further into dance. He applied to Adelphi University’s dance department at age 20 without any prior training. He was accepted and offered a full scholarship.

“One week before graduating, I got a role in ‘Cats’ on Broadway,” said Montano. “I had the role of Pouncival and was the understudy for Mr. Mistofelees. I did that for four-and-one-half years.”

His career was successful from the start, and he worked with great directors and choreographers such as Hal Prince, Rob Marshall, and Jerome Robbins. He has also worked with Chita Rivera in “Kiss of The Spiderwoman, sang and danced with Peter Allen in “Legs Diamond,” and starred as Ozzie in “On The Town” (directed by the legendary George C. Wolfe).

Montano’s creativity now spans genres. The multitasker ventured into plays, film, and television.
In television, he guest starred in Showtime’s “City On A Hill,” “Bull,” “Prodigal Son,” “Blue Bloods,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Elementary,” “Search Party,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Sex In The City,” “CSI: Miami, Law & Order,” and HBO’s film “Undefeated” (directed by John Leguizamo).

His film credits include “Shame” with Michael Fassbender, playing opposite Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix in “The Yards” and partnering with Catherine Zeta-Jones in “Chicago.” Other notable works include “Hustling,” “The Strike,” “Center Stage,” “It Runs in The Family,” and “Passionada.”

“SMALL,” which is directed by Jessi D. Hill, is celebrating its area debut with the run at People’s Light’s Steinbright Stage – and the first date of its 2024 national tour.

“This will be my third show at People’s Light,” said Montano. “The first was ‘Fallow’ in 2012 followed by ‘Barcelona’ in 2012. I really enjoy working here at People’s Light.”

Video link for “SMALL” – https://youtu.be/DlzN88yAn8o.

“SMALL’ will run now through February 4. Tickets are $47.

On January 25, “The Laugh Lounge @ Uptown! Stand Up Comedy Night” will be staged at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center (226 North High Street, West Chester, www.uptownwestchester.org).

The headliner will be Missy Hall with Bill Chiang as the feature and Jeremy Hall as emcee.

Hall is a comedian, actress, motivational speaker, avid napper, and dog lover with a witty relatable style that has captivated audiences around the country. Her freshman comedy CD, “Miss Representation” made the Grammy entry list in 2012 for funniest comedy album and her second album, “Fifty Shades of Fifty”, has more than a quarter million streams. Her newest recording, “Scoot Up”, can be heard on Sirius XM.

She has worked as a warm-up comic at CBS Television, was a finalist in the 2018 Ladies of Laughter competition, a finalist at the 2018 Big Sky Comedy Festival, a performer at HBO’s Women in Comedy Festival, a headliner at the 2019 San Diego Comedy Festival, made Best of the Fest in the 2019 Burbank Comedy Festival and has performed for the Women of a Certain Age Comedy tour.

Chiang, an immigrant with a traditional Asian background, tried standup one night and since then, he has quickly become regular in clubs across the East Coast. His source for comedy comes from the absurdity and silliness of everyday life.  His unique views on sex, TV and stories about growing up as an Asian immigrant in NYC makes him a favorite in clubs and benefits.

Chiang is a comedy competition winner in NYC, has been featured on Comcast On-Demand and has played in historic comedy venues such as the New York Comedy Club, The Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star and the Comedy Cabaret in Philadelphia.

Hall has been performing comedy since 2012.  He studied acting in New York City and upon returning home to Washington, D.C., began performing live stand-up comedy on stage. He has performed at numerous comedy clubs, competitions and private events all over the country including The Comedy Store in San Diego and the Friars Club in New York.

Video link for Missy Hall — https://youtu.be/fksjVG9BMD4.

The show at Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center on January 25 will start at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $25 — $30 at the door.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Cubizm with special guest Lisa Jeannette on January 26, Dan May on January 27 and Jazz Jam featuring Dave Mattock in January 28.

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