RIP George McCorkle

Southern rock guitarist McCorkle dies at 60
He co-founded, wrote anthem for the Marshall Tucker Band

Staff Writer

George McCorkle, a founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band who  wrote the Southern rock anthem “Fire on the Mountain,” died Friday  morning at University Medical Center in Lebanon. He was 60 and had  recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Mr. McCorkle leaves behind a substantial musical legacy. The Tucker  Band’s songs and sound have influenced scores of performers —  including Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock — and Mr.  McCorkle’s guitar work was an integral element in the group.

“George was such a big, big part of the sound of that original  Marshall Tucker Band,” said Charlie Daniels, a longtime friend of Mr.  McCorkle. “If you took him out of it, the Tuckers would not sound  like the same band. He played that electric guitar wide open.”

Mr. McCorkle and the Tuckers’ other guitarist, Toy Caldwell, wove  their instruments together like a twangier version of the Rolling  Stones’ guitar duo of Ron Wood and Keith Richards. In the mid-1970s,  the Tucker Band was a bridge between musical styles, helping bring  rock fans to country and to bring country fans to rock and blues.

“Kids aren’t ashamed of country anymore, and they’re not ashamed of  blues,” Mr. McCorkle told interviewer Frye Gaillard in an interview  that was included in Gaillard’s 1978 book, Watermelon Wine: The  Spirit of Country Music. “And when you mix it all together and the  music gets to cooking, it’s a pretty … exciting thing to be around.”

Knowing that Daniels was working on an album called Fire on the  Mountain, Mr. McCorkle quickly wrote a song by that name in hopes  that it would be included on Daniels’ album. Daniels didn’t use it,  but in 1975 the Tucker Band put it on the Searching For A Rainbow  album. “Fire on the Mountain” became the Tuckers’ first Top 40 hit  single, and it remains one of the best-known songs in the Southern  rock lexicon.

In 1984, Mr. McCorkle, Caldwell and drummer Paul Riddle quit the  Marshall Tucker Band. Mr. McCorkle moved to Middle Tennessee in the  1990s, and began working full time as a songwriter. His co-written  “Cowboy Blues” was recorded by Gary Allan for Allan’s Smoke Rings in  the Dark album, and his songs had recently been recorded by John  Corbett and Beverley Mitchell. He also played with The Renegades of  Southern Rock, a band made up of original members of Wet Willie, the  Outlaws and other groups.

Tuckers have died young

Mr. McCorkle is the third member of the Tucker Band to die relatively  young. Bass man Tommy Caldwell was killed in a 1980 car wreck, and  Toy Caldwell died of a heart attack in 1993. The current, touring  version of the Marshall Tucker Band contains only one original  member, singer Doug Gray, though the band still records some of Mr.  McCorkle’s compositions.

While his music often contained plenty of swagger, Mr. McCorkle’s  friends knew him as kindhearted and reflective.

“He was a very gentle soul, and sweet sort of person,” Daniels said.  “Always so even-keeled. I don’t know hardly what else to say about  George. He was one of the good guys.”

Mr. McCorkle, who resided in Carthage, is survived by his wife,  Vivienne, and son, Justin McCorkle, of Pauline, S.C.

UPDATE: Incorrect information was reported previously for some  aspects of the visitation and burial. Below is the correct information.

Visitation will be held Sunday from 4-8 p.m. at Carthage United  Methodist Church, 608 N. Main St., Carthage, where Mr. McCorkle  attended. He will be buried in South Carolina. Visitation will be  from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Floyd’s Green Lawn Chapel, 2075 E.  Main St., Spartanburg, S.C. Burial will follow at 11 a.m. at Green  Lawn Memorial Gardens, Spartanburg.

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