Doug Gray may never retire the Marshall Tucker Band.
“It just feels too good,” Gray said while calling from his Spartanburg, S.C., home.
“When I get up there onstage, I turn into something I wish I was.”
The soft-spoken singer-songwriter isn’t referring to the version of himself that existed 30 years ago when Marshall Tucker was among the Southern rock giants. He is referring to an alter ego that comes alive when he’s under the lights.
Gray, 63, formed Marshall Tucker — which will perform Saturday at the Wichita River Festival — in 1971.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been at this, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” Gray said. “What I do doesn’t wear me out. It makes me feel so good when I get in front of a microphone.”
It also makes Gray feel good sitting in his study, which is a misnomer. (“My family calls it a study but I never studied,” Gray cracked.) He’s proud of the hardware and gleaming platters that adorn his man-cave.
“I’m surrounded here by gold and platinum records,” Gray said. “I have a lot to be proud of.”
Marshall Tucker, which is the name of a Spartanburg piano tuner, sold millions of albums and crafted a number of hits such as “Heard It in a Love Song” and “Fire on the Mountain.”
“We accomplished a lot,” Gray said. “I think we did really well. We built an audience and tended to it.”
Gray kept the band alive after it peaked during its late ’70s/early ’80s heyday. More than 20 musicians have been part of Marshall Tucker during the last 40 years.
It would be easy to become a nostalgia act, but Marshall Tucker continues to make music. Take for instance its “Beyond the Horizon” (2004) and “The Next Adventure” (2007).
“I feel as though we still have something to say,” Gray said. “I’ve always been creative, but why stop now?”
One fan recently lined up all of the Marshall Tucker Band albums for Gray and explained that there is common thread, which tells a story.
“I guess he’s right,” Gray said. “I never thought about it, but if you look at the titles and the artwork, there is some sort of story there. I obviously didn’t do it intentionally, but it’s there. I want to keep adding to that story.”
If you go: The Marshall Tucker Band
What: Riverfest Classic Rock Concert
Where: Kansas Star Music Park at West Bank
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday (Shyner plays from 4 to 5 p.m., and Street Survivor plays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.)
How much: $5 festival button
A GUIDE TO FESTIVAL TUNES
The Wichita River Festival will feature many musical performances this year, and all are free with a $5 button.
Here’s where to find all the festival tunes.
Kansas Star Music Park at West Bank
All the big-name concerts will take place on the stage at West Bank. Among them:
OPENING NIGHT (Friday)
8:30 p.m.: Koch Twilight Pops Concert
9:45 p.m.: Capitol Federal Fireworks
CLASSIC ROCK CONCERT
4 p.m.: Shyner
5:30 p.m.: Street Survivor
8:15 p.m.: The Marshall Tucker Band
COLEMAN COUNTRY CONCERT
4 p.m.: David Holland Band
5:30 p.m.: Kip Moore
8:15 p.m.: Little Big Town
6 p.m.: The Fabulous Shirtheads
7:15 p.m.: Fred James & Mary-Ann Brandon
8:30 p.m.: The Burritos
6 p.m.: Tin Cup Monkey
8:15 p.m.: The Buckinghams
6 p.m.: KBA Treblemakers
7 p.m.: Driven
8:15 p.m.: The Grascals
6 p.m.: Poultry ‘N Motion
8 p.m.: Tony! Toni! Tone!
6 p.m.: Annie Up
8:15 p.m.: Randy Rogers Band
SPIRIT AEROSYSTEMS ROCKIN ON THE RIVER
1 p.m.: Little Smoke
2:30 p.m.: Under Construction
3:30 p.m.: SML Band
5:30 p.m.: F5
8:15 p.m.: Eddie Money
9:45 p.m.: Fireworks over the river
The giant tent set up on the Hyatt Lawn will feature a different band and restaurant nightly starting Saturday.
Grateful Not to be Dead, 6 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Rachel Coba Band, 6 p.m. Sunday
Flatland String Band, 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Monday
Walnut River String Band, 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday
The Swing Daddies, 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. WednesdayMudbugs Cajun & Zydeco Band, 6 to 8:45 p.m., Thursday
Mumblin’ Jones, 6 to 9:30 p.m. June 10 Smugglin YoYo’s, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday
Ten Day Wish, 7 to 9:45 p.m. Saturday
Star Floating Stage
The festival has set up a stage that will float just off the A. Price Woodard food court on the Arkansas River and will feature the local acts that previously played on the east steps of Century II.
Bands will perform during the lunch and dinner hours daily. For a complete schedule, visit www.wichitariverfest.com.