Tuesday, March 01, 2011

70s Rock Influence on Today's Country Music

70s Rock Influence on Todays Country Music

By Jim Moulton, CSO Staff Journalist

Something missing today are the great jam bands of the seventies. I want to talk about a couple; The Marshall Tucker Band and The Grateful Dead. Both of these bands rocked yet had very country influences.

From Spartanburg, South Carolina came the very talented and together Marshall Tucker Band, started by Doug Gray and two brothers, Toy and Tommy Caldwell. Toy is probably the most underrated guitar player around, He could flat out pick (with his thumb, no pick). He also played pedal steel on some of their songs. His brother Tommy played a very improvisational bass, similar to Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead. The band had a very unique sound with a horn player (Jerry Eubanks) who played Flute and sax. Long Lost was a tape of a 1976 European Tour that was to be released in the seventies by Capricorn, but never was. Their current label Shout Factory recently released Stompin' Room Only with some other live songs to fill out the Disc. The sound quality is similar to a Dicks Pick by the Grateful Dead, but the music is historical, the MTB at their very best. "Long Hard Ride" starts out the CD, and plain jams out, it is a country instrumental with a very good melody, Toy is just off the meter with his guitar pickin'.

Toy Caldwell wrote most of their material. "This Ol' Cowboy", the second track has Toy singing also and really playing at his best, a song that has a swing quality to it, one of my favorite MTB tunes. "Fire On The Mountain" (George McCorkle) has Toy on steel, is an outlaw country type song. The classic "Can't You See" was never done better. The last song on the disc "Hillbilly Band" is what the term Chickin' Pickin' is all about, once again, Toy Caldwell Shines. This disc is a must have to find out what this great band is all about.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, in California, The Grateful Dead were on the road constantly and they recorded every show. Their leader Jerry Garcia, started out as a bluegrass picker, banjo player and also a great pedal steel player. The Dead in my opinion were also at their peak in 1976-7, and I am going to talk a bit about one of their live Dick's Picks releases from 1976, Vol. 20, a four disc affair, with almost two full concerts on it. The sound quality is quite good for a Dicks Picks, since Rhino took over their releases and remastered it. The Dead had a much bigger following than did the MTB, though I saw the MTB open for them once. Garcia was an audiophile sound freak and loved to experiment with sound. He was playing a custom Travis Bean guitar at this time in his career. It was built on an aluminum frame, plus had a neat switch where he could knock out all of his effects loop. There was a new Mu-tron effect he was using at this time that was an envelope filter (auto-wah). For a lot more of this info, there is a great new book out called The Gear Of the Grateful Dead, excellent and thorough read.

The Dead were coming back from a tour in 1976 with probably the largest Sound System ever; the infamous "Wall Of Sound" , I saw it once in Philly at The Civic Center Hung from the center of the ceiling. One year of lugging this around and they had to give it up, sounded great though. They rented equipment and a sound guy for 1976, who used a system with lots of custom stuff that was like a mini "Wall Of Sound". Their sound board had parametric EQ before it was being used in studios.

Now to the music, I mean what can you say, two full shows, Songs that really stand out to me are "Ramble On Rose", Brown-Eyed Women" and "Peggy-O" from Disc one. "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo" and "Scarlet Begonias" on Disc two. "Cold Rain and Snow" and "Big River" on Disc three. "Playing In The Band" and "Comes a Time" on Disc four. You can't help but hear the country influences in these shows.

I encourage you to check out these historic recordings!!

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