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The road goes on forever

It’s been a long hard ride for this old cowboy since August of 1974. But it’s a path I would follow again for the simple reason of sharing my affection of a musical group with a person I love with all my heart and soul.

It was Friday, Aug. 9, 1974. After finishing up a men’s softball game for the Woodland A’s in the Conway League, I joined with two co-workers at the News-Herald, Deborah Vann (who five years later would become my wife) and Bonnie Morris, along with a few of my softball teammates as we made an overnight ride to Charlotte. After napping in a dirt parking lot located somewhere near the Charlotte Motor Speedway, our group made the trek on foot to become a part of North Carolina history.

On Saturday, Aug. 10, 1974, some 250,000 music lovers packed the speedway for the August Jam, representing the largest outdoor concert ever held in our state. I can’t speak for those in our little group or the others in the stands or on the track, but I was there for one main reason….to hear The Allman Brothers Band live for the first time. Brothers Duane and Gregg and the rest of that band were tearing up the FM airwaves at that time, cranking out one smash hit after another.

However, there was a relatively unknown group – one also featuring two brothers – who stole my heart that day: the Marshall Tucker Band. Led by Toy and Tommy Caldwell, and joined by the incomparable voice of Doug Gray along with other founding members George McCorkle, Jerry Eubanks, and Paul Riddle, their style of music – which can best be described as country rock heavily infused with R&B, jazz, and even a hint of gospel – spoke to me.

There are not enough digits on my hands or feet to count the number of times I’ve attended a Marshall Tucker concert since 1974. The majority came between 74-to-79 at either Norfolk Scope or Hampton Roads Coliseum. The last time MTB was in front of me was August of 2010 when my brother, Tommy, and I heard them at the Southampton County Fair.

Ditto on the same digits when it came to purchasing their music via LP’s, cassettes, CD’s and even – way back in the day – on 8-track tape.

This all brings me to this past Friday – Aug. 9, 2019 – one day shy of the 45th anniversary of seeing MTB live for the very first time. About a month prior I learned they would be in concert at the Roanoke Rapids Theatre. As an added bonus, R.T. Johnson – a rising star in country music who hails from Askewville – and his band would be the opening act.

I placed a call to Les Atkins, who handles PR for the theatre, and scored a press pass to the Aug. 9 event. As another, and perhaps more important, bonus, I got a press pass for my daughter, Danielle, as well. She knows of my love for MTB and this would serve as a way for me to not only snap a ton of photos, but allow her to experience the same thing I and her mom did 45 years earlier.

The concert was fantastic and I need to give a shout out to the RR Theatre owners and staff for their great hospitality on Friday. It was my first time at that entertainment venue and I left very impressed.

R.T. and his boys got the crowd of about 1,300 people fired up. And then MTB came on stage – introduced by my good friend and fellow “Tuckerhead” Jay Jenkins.

Doug Gray is the only original member of MTB still performing (both Caldwell brothers have passed away, as has McCorkle). While his legendary voice has faded with age, he continues to serve as the front man of this great band, which still features talented musicians. His performance of “Asking Too Much of You” on Friday caused my eyes to sweat.

Having the opportunity to share this night with my daughter – on a special 45th anniversary – and giving her a chance to hear MTB live for the first time was the icing on the cake. It made me associate the current event and anniversary with the title of a 1989 song written by Robert Earl Keen: The Road Goes On Forever (and The Party Never Ends).

 Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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