MANCHESTER >> The Marshall Tucker Band is still active, maybe even more so, in its 45th year of touring.
"We won't slow down," said Doug Gray, lead vocalist. "We're now embarking on a whole new group of dates for the next few years. We're still working at it and we're pleasing up to 30,000 people a night. It's a lot of fun."
The founding member is 68 years old. But that's no excuse for not getting out and performing. Last year, the band played 114 shows. This year, more are planned — some will be alongside other big names like the Zac Brown Band, Kid Rock and the Doobie Brothers.
Friday's show at the Northshire Civic Center at Riley Rink in Hunter Park in Manchester will feature the band on its own as part of the Southern Vermont Rockin' Concert Series. The opening act, Medrock, takes the stage at 5 p.m. All tickets are $25 and include free parking. To purchase ahead of time, visit eventbrite.com.
Proceeds will benefit the Law Enforcement Against Drugs initiative in Vermont. The non-profit organization is looking to expand after launching its curriculum in New Jersey two years ago. More information can be found at leadrugs.org.
"There's a good thing," said Gray, who says he did drugs until 1989 then quit. "There's always a time to have fun and a time to stop."
In recent tours, the Marshall Tucker Band has started shows with the original tunes that made the band what it is today. Newer songs are introduced later.
The non-stop touring is one aspect of the surge in its activity. The band also has a lot of songs going into television series and movies, according to Gray. The music is finding a new audience.
"It seems to be getting bigger now than it was in its original form," Gray said.
Starting out in South Carolina, the band had hits such as "Can't You See," "Take the Highway" and "Fire on the Mountain." Two of the original members, including Gray, were in the Vietnam War.
Arriving home, they got down to business.
"We just decided we didn't want to do a day job. That was kind of it," Gray said. "A lot of us had day jobs for a couple of months. We had been playing in junior high and high school and we decided we'd give it one more shot."
Each member had a different taste in music. Gray enjoyed rhythm and blues the most. Country, rock and jazz were also part of the band's combination that he called "a melting pot" of music.
Rehearsing a couple of hours a night, members of the band soon found themselves on a stage opening for the Allman Brothers. This was in 1972, said Gray, and the Allmans were one of many musicians Gray's band looked up to
Envious was not the word Gray would use when describing the other groups that were getting regular gigs.
"We just wanted to be doing the same thing they were doing," he said.
After recording the first album, success was slow. Albums started selling modestly after a year. Sales took off a year after that, Gray said.
Fast forward, and the band's been doing the same thing for 45 years now.
On enduring the long haul, Gray said, "I think it had something to do with the ability of the songwriting in the beginning because people can remember those songs touching them at a certain time."
The biggest market for his music is 18- to 37-year-olds, he said, although some of the younger fans "don't know we had 33 albums out there." He counted the band's several live records in the catalog.
About 15 songs are ready to be completed for a new album, said Gray. He expects a release sometime next year.
An age-old question was answered in the interview: Is the Marshall Tucker Band a country rock or southern rock band?
Gray said the band could not be defined because even Rolling Stone and Billboard magazines "don't know what kind of style we play because there are so many styles."
"They call us more southern and if you hear us talk, it is a little southern," he said.
Call Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.