Marshall Tucker, the man who gave the Marshall Tucker Band their name, died on Jan. 20 at the age of 99. No cause of death was revealed.
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“We are saddened to hear of the passing of someone very special to our hearts, for very obvious reasons,” read a post on the band’s Instagram page. “Our band’s namesake, Mr. Marshall Tucker, passed away peacefully yesterday morning at the age of 99. Though he was never a member of our band, we wouldn’t be here today without his historic name.”
Though Tucker, who was born Nov. 12, 1913, was never a musician nor a part of the band, the Southern rock pioneers chose to call themselves by his name soon after forming in 1972. At the time, original Marshall Tucker band members Toy Caldwell, Tommy Caldwell, Doug Gray, Jerry Eubanks, George McCorkle, and Paul Riddle rented an old warehouse as a rehearsal space where they came across his name.
“In the early days when we were rehearsing in an old warehouse in Spartanburg [South Carolina], we found a keychain inscribed with his name,” continued the band. “We needed a name asap, and the rest is history. Marshall was blind since birth but amazingly could play the heck out of the piano. He always said his talent was simply God-given. He tuned pianos in South Carolina for decades. We are thankful for Mr. Marshall Tucker and the life he lived. Sending blessings to his wife and family.”
In a 2020 interview, Tucker recounted how his path crossed with the band:
“I was renting warehouse space from a fellow named Abe Smith around 1967 or ’68. This warehouse was on Spring Street right behind Mr. Smith’s pawn shop on Magnolia Street. I would rebuild and tune pianos in this space. Unknown to me, there was a band that would come and practice there. The key that I used to get into this warehouse had a tag on it that had my name on it, Marshall Tucker. And how the story went that was told to me the band was going under the name The Toy Factory, which was named after founding member Toy Caldwell, and they said that name just wasn’t going over. So they had been seeing my name on that key tag, and one of them said, “let’s just name it the Marshall Tucker Band…I’m hungry…let’s go eat.” And that was it. Our paths crossed and we didn’t even know it.”
The Allman Brothers Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, and Marshall Tucker Band were among the seminal bands that defined southern rock. Founding member and late guitarist Caldwell was the Marshall Tucker Band’s main songwriter and penned the band’s biggest hit, “Can’t You See,” off their 1973 self-titled debut. The song was covered throughout the years and charted for Waylon Jennings in 1976, and the Zac Brown Band with Kid Rock in 2010.
Toy Caldwell continued playing with the band through their 1980 album, Tenth. Still traumatized after the death of his two brothers, founding bassist Tommy, who died a month after their brother Tim. Caldwell left the band in 1984. After forming the Toy Caldwell Band and releasing a self-titled CD in 1992, Caldwell died in 1993 at the age of 45 from cocaine abuse.
In 2023, the band now consisting of Marcus James Henderson, Chris Hicks, Rick Willis, Tony Black, and B.B. Borden, started commemorating their 50th anniversary with a tour that kicked off on Jan. 20 and will run through Feb. 25.
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