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Blue Ridge Mountain Jams
The Marshall Tucker Band Open a Time Capsule from 1976

     What you are holding in your hands is nothing short of a minor miracle, an amazing album that was shelved way back in 1976. Stompin’ Room Only has become the stuff of legend among Southern rock fans, an album rumored to exist but never heard, until now, 27 years later.
     This is the virtual “holy grail” of jam band music, an audience with the grand daddies of the entire scene. When the guys from Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident and Moe were hanging out under the bleachers at their respective high schools, listening to A New Life on 8-track tape and indulging in the various pleasures of teenage defiance, the original jam band was treating audiences around the world to marathon concerts, stretching the boundaries of the four-minute FM rock song into all out extended exercises in space and time. The Marshall Tucker Band were exploring the limitless possibilities of a six-piece band that fused the elements of rock, jazz, country,  rhythm and blues, and gospel into a sound uniquely their own, and writing Southern rock and jam band history as they went.
   “Stompin’ Room Only was planned to be released in 1977,” recalls Paul Hornsby, the producer of the album. “We did it at the end of 1976. We got in the studio in the early part of ‘77 to do the mixes and it was going to be their next release. Marshall Tucker’s contract was about to be up with Capricorn, and they were having growing pains and wanted to sign with Warner Brothers. For some reason, the record company just held up the release of the album. I thought it was a big mistake because here they were coming off of their biggest album ever, Carolina Dreams,  and here they had a record already made. All the record company had to do was put the thing out, you know.”
     At long last, it has been made available, and it was wortth the wait.
   “Paul Hornsby was kind of thrust into the lion’s den with us,” recalls Paul Riddle, MTB’s original drummer. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be that producer. It was hard enough just playing the drums. Hornsby was a Godsend. He did a great job, as he did on all of the  Tucker albums he produced.”
    When The Marshall Tucker Band made their pilgrimage to Europe in 1976, along with Bonnie Bramlett and Grinderswitch, it was the first time abroad form many of them, including Tucker Band road crew manager, Arthur “Moon” Mullins.
   “We’d gotten to the point where we had gotten a little spoiled here in the United States,” recalls Mullins. “Going over to Europe kind of dropped it back down to a family level. We were traveling in close quarters. It all went well, as far as I remember. Johnny Lawson and I went over first. We were there for about ten days before the band came. I did a lot of advance work. Over there, we set up the rehearsal hall, and set up transportation, got truck drivers and stuff.”
   Stompin’ Room Only draws it’s music from those adventurous concerts. The excitement of the European audiences can be heard on these live tracks, and the energy feeding back to the stage is obvious in the fire and passion coming from the band.
   “It was a whole series of concerts,” says Hornsby. “We started in Birmingham, England, and then we went up to Glasgow, Scotland. Then we came back down to Manchester, England and finished up in London. I think there were a few cuts done in Milwaukee to round it out, and “The Thrill is Gone” came from a Charlie Daniels hosted Volunteer Jam.”
   According to the band’s main truck driver Johnny Lawson, Marshall Tucker was welcomed with open arms in Europe.
    “I was in Europe for 47 days,” says Lawson. “Myself, J.B. and Moon went ahead of everyone else with the equipment. We went to London, and set up for rehearsal at the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer Theatre. The band rehearsed for about a week and then went out on tour. The whole thing was great. It was a good experience. They got real good reviews. There’s one place over in London called Hammersmith, and the critics really watch whoever plays there. The band got a top rating there.”
   The Marshall Tucker Band, hailing from the small textile town of Spartanburg, South Carolina, had hit the road running from the time they formed in 1972, often playing as many as 300 shows a year, and always dishing out two and a half to three hours of non-stop Southern rock. The original lineup of The Marshall Tucker Band featured Tommy Caldwell on bass, Paul T. Riddle on drums, George McCorkle on guitar, Jerry Eubanks on flute and sax, Doug Gray on lead vocals, and the irrepressible Toy Caldwell on lead guitar. 
   “Sometimes Toy was so musically intense that he would blow me away to the point of breaking my concentration,” recalls Paul T. Riddle.  “Tommy and the others would sometimes do that to me, but Toy was especially prone to giving me that reaction. Toy would come to a climax three times in a song and he would take it to another step. He always had a magic.”                           
   MTB is a part of the elite “old school” of Southern rock that always believed in a good jam session, often inviting fellow road dogs like Hughie Thomasson of The Outlaws, Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band, or  Charlie Daniels onstage to jam. One fine example of the magic is included in Stompin’ Room Only, with Charlie Daniels sawing his red hot fiddle on “24 Hours at a Time,” a Tucker concert staple for thirty years now. 
  “When you went out there to play “24 Hours at a Time,” you just planted your foot in one place and rode it out, until you got there,” recalls guitarist George McCorkle. “I don’t think you could run ten miles and get that kind of workout. You should have been up there when Tommy was playing bass. You’d go, ‘My God, I’ve got to keep up with that?’ As the song wore on, it kept getting stronger. It never let up. I get out of breath every time I think about that song.”
   The jams on Stompin Room Only are some of the best ever recorded by the band, and the mix is such that you can easily pick out George’s rhythm, Tommy’s bass, Paul’s drums, Jerry’s flute, and of course, it would be almost impossible to miss the screaming guitar of  Toy Caldwell on “Ramblin’,” or the maximum overdrive vocals of Doug Gray on that same song.
   “They were totally at the peak of their career at that time,” recalls Hornsby. “Carolina Dreams was out and they were riding high. I think the band was the best they ever were at that time. I was just floating between the recording truck and the stage, and just taking notes on a big pad as we went about what needed to be changed if anything. And the best cuts from each night.”
   As The Marshall Tucker Band continues into their fourth decade of entertaintaining audiences with good Southern style music, both vintage and new, Stompin’ Room Only stands as a lasting tribute to to the original lineup of the band that proudly proclaimed at the beginning of every concert - be it in Long Island or Los Angeles, to Manchester, England- “Please welcome, from Spartanburg, South Carolina, The Marshall Tucker Band.”

- Michael Buffalo Smith

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