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Southern comfort

January 2, 2014 - 10:36am

For Marshall Tucker Band lead vocalist Doug Gray, taking the stage and rocking the band’s best-known hits is more of a thrill now than it was 40 years ago.

Gray relishes those moments when concertgoers are transported back to a specific time and place through music.

“There’s something to be said about remembering special times in your life,” Gray said. “We all have one goal and that’s to stand on that stage and make people happy and bring back those happy, sad and memorable moments.”

Fans can expect to hear the band’s southern country rock hits played just the way they remember them Jan. 10 at Kona Brewing Co.’s Brewhouse Oasis. Doors for the all-ages show open at 6 p.m., a warm-up band plays at 6:30 p.m. and Marshall Tucker Band performs at 8 p.m.

Kona Brewing Co. plans to host between two and four concerts per year, said company president Mattson Davis. The next show will be Jimmy Vaughn, and the Texas Guitar Slingers slated for April 24.

The brewery hosted 21 shows between 2000 and 2007, but when the building was remodeled and the entrance moved, access to the restaurant became impossible during a concert. The brewery now has a plan for a walkway between the restaurant and the outdoor concert venue so the restaurant will remain open during the show. Parking will be available in Big Island Honda’s gravel lot across Kuakini Highway.

Davis said ticket sales are looking strong and he is hoping for a sold-out show. The venue’s capacity is 2,000 guests. General admission tickets are $45 and seats at VIP tables are $65. Tickets are sold at The “Take to the Highway” tour represents the band’s first Hawaii performances and also includes gigs Wednesday on Oahu, Thursday on Kauai and Jan. 11 on Maui. The band has about 60 concerts lined up so far in 2014, and the band was on the road 200 days last year, Gray said.

“Most bands who have toured this long don’t get excited about going out,” Gray said. “We’re excited. The whole group is excited.”

Gray was one of six high school friends from Spartanburg, S.C., who started Marshall Tucker Band in 1972. He is the only original band member still touring. Current members include drummer B.B. Borden, bass player and vocalist Pat Elwood, Marcus James Henderson on flute, saxophone, keyboards and vocals, Chris Hicks on vocals and guitar and Rick Willis on lead guitar and vocals.

Marshall Tucker Band has earned seven gold albums and three platinum albums and is most remembered for favorites, “Heard it in a Love Song,” “Fire on the Mountain,” “Take the Highway” and “Can’t You See.”

“We run through them all pretty good,” said Gray, whose band prefers to ask the audience which songs they want to hear, and has not used a set list in 20 years. Occasionally, an unexpected request is shouted out and Gray sings one or two versus before forgetting the words.

“It’s scary,” admitted Gray. “Everyone’s got to have instant recall. I still don’t know how it works but it does.”

Gray credits fellow band members for carrying on the timeless essence of Marshall Tucker Band. His proudest moments include playing with Carlos Santana, B.B. King, and opening concerts for a variety of artists. Marshall Tucker Band has influenced Alabama, The Kentucky Headhunters and Confederate Railroad with its distinctive blend of rock, rhythm &blues, jazz, country and gospel. Gray said artists as diverse as Poison, Kid Rock, Waylon Jennings, Zac Brown and Florida Georgia Line have covered Marshall Tucker Band songs. The band has gained the respect of fans and critics through an extensive discography, years of rigorous touring and lasting success. Marshall Tucker Band scored four hit singles on Billboard’s country chart and one on Billboard’s gospel chart just during the 1990s.

Gray said one reason he is driven to tour so aggressively is that he wants to pass on a hard work ethic to his two grown daughters. He also appreciates having blocks of time off-the-road to spend with his two young grandchildren.

Rocking hard and pleasing fans is also a strong motivator.

“Most bands don’t have the opportunity to last forever,” Gray said. “Most of us that do last forever we care most about the people.”