Fans of The Marshall Tucker Band -- sometimes known as Tuckerheads -- don't come to concerts carrying bottles of Jack Daniels and Crown Royal like they did back in the band's 1970s heyday.
But the fans still come. Lots of them. The multiplatinum-selling, Southern rock band sells out 95 percent of its 150 to 200 shows each year, said original band member and lead singer Doug Gray.
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The Marshall Tucker BandWhen: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 1 (doors open at 7 p.m.)
Where: Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill, 431 W. Boughton Road, Bolingbrook, tailgatersgrill.com
Tickets: $25-$55; prices lower for tickets purchased in advance. Meet & Greet tickets an additional $50.
"We're not a one-night stand," jokes Gray, who turns 66 next month.
Tuckerheads will no doubt pack Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook Thursday, May 1, a stop on The Marshall Tucker Band's 2014 "Take the Highway" tour.
A recent review of the show in New York gushed about the band's infectious energy, urging anyone who hasn't seen The Marshall Tucker Band live to put it on their bucket list.
"(At the Bolingbrook show), they will hear stuff they're going to remember, and bring back the memories," Gray said. "There will be an enthusiastic feeling coming off of the stage that they felt years ago. Plus a couple of new songs. I'm the last (original band member) left. These guys are carrying on for what those original guys stood for. They put their heart into it every night."
The Marshall Tucker Band has seen its share of lineup changes since forming in Spartanburg, S.C., in 1972. Twenty-five musicians have rotated in and out over the years, but the current group -- vocalist Gray, drummer B.B. Borden, bassist Pat Elwood, guitarists Chris Hicks and Rick Willis, and Marcus James Henderson on keyboard, saxophone and flute -- have been together for more than 15 years.
Of all the songs on The Marshall Tucker Band's 42 CDs, the most recognized are the 1977 hit "Heard It in a Love Song," 1978's "Fire on the Mountain," and 1973's "Can't You See," which is regularly covered by artists like Zac Brown Band (Gray's nephew, Clay Cook, is in the band), Waylon Jennings and Kid Rock.
The songs also will pop up on TV shows, including "Breaking Bad" and "Cold Case Files."
Those hits are played at every concert, but the band always adds something different to the set list.
"We've never played the same show, ever, for the last 15 years," Gray said. "Whenever you've got this energy going, and you hear someone in the audience say, 'Hey, can you play this song?' And it's some obscure song? We'll play it."
Part of the band's long-lasting appeal is its down-home approach to fans. Gray said he's always willing to shake hands or pose for photos, and makes a point of writing at least a few words to every fan who friends him on Facebook. Being a Vietnam veteran, he likes to help out the U.S. troops, and he performed for soldiers in Iraq.
"When you're walking to the bus, and someone shouts, 'Doug!' I look and see there's one man standing there, so I'll go over there," Gray said. "They're doing this because they want to be part of our huge, huge, huge family. We're out working to create not just good music, but to make friends."
The band briefly dissolved in the mid-1980s, but then quickly reformed, put out new music and kept touring.
While Gray's the only original member, he said he never considered changing the band's name, to, say, the Doug Gray Band. Marshall Tucker is a name the original band members saw hanging from a key in 1972, and liked the way it sounded. They later learned Marshall Tucker was a real person, a blind piano tuner who had been renting an apartment in that South Carolina building. Tucker was flattered the band picked his name, Gray said. He is now in his 90s, and he and Gray still keep in touch.
Buzz about The Marshall Tucker Band being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame doesn't faze Gray. If it happens, that's just icing on the cake. It's the music Gray wants to persevere.
"The rule is, what goes up comes down. And there have been ups and downs," Gray said. "But, to be able to stay in the middle, where everyone likes you for 44 years? I'm happy being right here."