Toy Caldwell

Ride in Peace
November 13, 1947 - February 25, 1993

 

    At MTB's 1995 South Carolina Hall of Fame Induction lead vocalist Doug Gray said "Toy was the backbone of the original Marshall Tucker Band and still, as far as I'm concerned, is the backbone of this Marshall Tucker Band today, even though he's in heaven."  Anyone who knows the music of MTB would have to agree.  While each of the original members brought something special to the band, it was Toy's incredible lyrics and music that laid the foundation.  He wrote 65 songs on the band's first 13 albums.  While the other members made their songwriting contributions, including classics such as Fire On the Mountain by George McCorkle, it was Toy's songs that established the Tucker sound.   In addition to his songwriting skills, his stage presence as a guitar player is unparalleled.  He is not the household name that Eric Clapton is, but he should be.  He was as amazing to watch as Jimi Hendrix.  Anyone who watched him flail away his lead guitar licks WITH HIS THUMB walked away awestruck, dumbfounded and mesmerized all at once.  Hopefully, someday, he will get his due... but until then Tuckerheads everywhere know what a true genius he was on the fret board.  Very few musicians can match both Toy's writing and playing ability... and when he sang Can't You See it was as if God was singning the blues!

    Toy would have been 55 this year and it's been a decade since we lost him... but fortunately for his fans he will always be with us through his music.  Every true Marshall Tucker fan feels as if they knew Toy because of the nature of his lyrics.  Like his singing and his playing, they came from deep down in his soul.  They were thoughtful, but straightforward.  Subtle, but to the point.  He always seemed to write what I felt - and his music has been the soundtrack for my life.  There was just something about his lyrics and the music of MTB.  Skynyrd was great... but MTB's music stayed with you.  It became a part of you.  Not just for a moment, but forever.  Skynyrd was a mistress.  Tucker was the gal you wanted to take home for good.

    It's amazing how someone you never met can have such a long and lasting impact on your life.  Few people have that ability.  Toy did.  Whenever I play a Marshall Tucker CD around someone new, I feel like I need to introduce them; "These are my good buddies from Spartanburg."  And, indeed, through the years, they have become a part of who I am, just like a good friend who's been with me through thick and thin.  

        

    What Toy created is timeless... and it's hard to conceive of a time when people wouldn't be moved by those magical notes drifting through the air.  I know that when I'm an "old man sitting in a rockin' chair" his music will be what I listen to.  And after I'm gone, it will be his notes that carry me home.

Ride in Peace, Brother.

                                                                                        - Craig Cumberland

 


There have been several songs that pay homage to Toy.  George McCorkle has a one that'll put a lump in your throat called The Journey Home on his solo CD titled "American Street."  Another one of my favorites is Songwriter by Nasty Nedd, a group from Toy's hometown of Spartanburg, SC.  It was released on their only CD, 1996's "It's Tough To Be Me" and the song features Jerry Eubanks and his trade mark sax riffs.

Comin' home is where I was
When I heard the news
There'd never be another Can't You See
Or Bob Away My Blues

It broke my heart, it hurt my soul
Just to hear those words
He's was gone never comin' home
He left this world for good

Ridin' down the road I heard an old familiar tune
About promises made at night under a Carolina moon
Then it started sinkin' in and I felt the winter's pain
I knew I had to write a song to make us think again

I want to hear songwriter
Let that guitar sing out load
And now his stage is made of silver and gold
And when he sings there's only angels in the crowd

I had a picture on my wall of the boys of MTB
I used to think how much alike their smiles seemed to be
I knew it was a happy time in each one of their lives
And now I listen to Miss Kacie cry because songwriter died

I want to hear songwriter
Let that guitar sing out load
And now his stage is made of silver and gold
And when he sings there's only angels in the crowd

I saw the mist in CD's eyes
When he spoke his name
And the rest of the band took their place
Inside the hall of fame

And all through the night
They played the songs of yesterday
But when two spokes of a wheel are gone
It never was the same

I want to hear songwriter
Let that guitar sing out load
And now his stage is made of silver and gold
And when he sings there's only angels in the crowd
And when he sings there's only angels in the crowd

Tommy Holt, lead guitarist for Nasty Nedd, authored the song.  He was a big fan of Toy's and it showed in his playing.  The band even dedicated their CD to Toy.  Sadly, Tommy died in a car accident before Nasty Nedd had a chance to fulfill it's potential.


Ode To a Friend

There was a whole lot of cowboy in this Son of the South. He had the greatest respect for the West. He liked horses and saddles and rifles and such. But he loved that old guitar the best. He played different from anyone I'd ever known. Cause he did it all with his thumb. He could play it as tender as a virgin's first kiss.  Or blast it to all kingdom come.

He wrote strong lusty songs in his own special way.  About whiskey and women and love.  About big trucks and ramblers and hillbilly bands.  And that blue ridge mountain sky up above.  He wrote about rainbows and highways and eagles.  And good men who stood brave and tall.  He wrote about ld men and heroes and outlaws.  And jukeboxes, bar rooms and brawls.  

He wrote about you and he wrote about me.  A message to all common men.  And if he really liked you - and you could tell that he did.  You had a shore enough friend.  He went through the hell they called Vietnam.  Knew the frustration that war could bring.  But he served his country and did it proud. Old Toy was a damn good Marine.

He buried two brothers back in seventy-nine.  It would have destroyed lesser man.  But he shed a few tears and picked up his guitar.  And took tot he highway again.  I was out on the road way up in New York.  When I first got the word you'd gone on.  And though that guitar has been silenced forever.  It's still hard to believe you're gone.  

But some nights when me and the boys feel like jamming.  We'll burn into old "Can't You See."  And if I'm picking hot it ain't hard to imagine.  That you're standing there next to me.

I miss you old friend.  There's a piece of my heart.  That will never belong to anybody but you.  

                                                                                       

                                                                                                Charlie Daniels, 1993

 


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