"He said he came from down Texas way/ the cowboys were tough, the women the same way/ said he was a star back in 31/ Hollywood liked him for some songs that he had done." - The Last Of The Singing Cowboys - George McCorkle

When George McCorkle recently died at 60 he was the third member of Dixie rock pioneers Marshall Tucker Band to burn out prematurely.

Bassist Tommy Caldwell was killed in a 1980 car wreck and Toy Caldwell died of a heart attack in 1993.

McCorkle, legendary guitarist, singer and songwriter, was equally revered in country music as Dixie Rock.


Artists diverse as chart topping surfing Californian cowboy Gary Allan, the Oregon western country queen Joni Harms, singing actor John Corbett and 7th Heaven star Beverley Mitchell also cut his tunes in his post MTB era.

At the time of his death he had 210 of his songs listed on the BMI publishing site.

McCorkle also wrote a brace of country rooted songs for his solo disc and penned the more rustic tunes for MTB.

But Fire On The Mountain - a tune initially rejected by Charlie Daniels - was his best -known hit.

McCorkle learned Daniels was working on an album with that title and quickly wrote his song.

Daniels didn't use it so the Marshall Tucker Band cut it for their 1975 disc Searching For A Rainbow.

Fire on the Mountain became the first MTB Top 40 hit and one of the best-known songs in Dixie rock.

McCorkle wrote or co-wrote MTB tunes Silverado, Life in a Song, Last of the Singing Cowboys, Dream Lover, Sweet Elaine, I Should Never Have Started Loving You, Jimi, Windy City Blues, Disillusion, Paradise, Tonight's The Night For Making Love, My Best Friend and Foolish Dreaming.

Although he quit the band in 1984 and moved to Carthage near Nashville in the mid nineties to pursue a writing career and session work, he didn't sever his links.

George performed with Marshall Tucker Band before 17,000 fans in August, 2006, in Nashville.

He also wrote three songs on the band's newly released The Next Adventure CD and played on their Carolina Christmas CD (2005) for which he wrote the track Leave the Christmas Lights On.

But McCorkle was diagnosed with cancer early in June and died less than a month later on June 29 at the University Medical Centre in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Wife Vivienne and son, Justin McCorkle, of Pauline, South Carolina, survive the prolific writer and musician.


McCorkle was transported from the chapel to his graveside service in Spartanburg in a sleek black, gray and gold custom tour bus.

It was adorned with a graphic of an upward-pointing arrow and highway gracing the top rear showed the way to McCorkle's ultimate destination.

Surviving original Marshall Tucker Band members Paul Riddle, Doug Grey and Jerry Eubanks and several musicians who have played with the band since the mid-1980s, attended the services.

George McCorkle' Funeral

They included bassist Frank Wilkie, guitarist Rusty Milner, drummer David "Ace" Allan and bassist Tim Lawter.

The Allman Brothers Band sent a floral arrangement nearly six feet tall, shaped like a mushroom, invoking a symbol made famous on the inside of their fold-out LP cover for "Eat a Peach," an album dedicated to their own fallen band-mate, Duane Allman.

Many other famous peers sent flowers, including the Charlie Daniels Band.

McCorkle's road crew honoured him with a towering arrangement of white flowers made into the shape of a guitar.

Toy's Caldwell's daughter, Cassidy, sent an arrangement that featured a toy electric guitar among the many flowers.


McCorkle's music inspired a vast army of hard edge country rock artists such as Travis Tritt, Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock.

His 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.

"If you took him out of it, the Tuckers would not sound like the same band. He played that electric guitar wide open. He was a very gentle soul, and sweet sort of person, so even-keeled. I don't know hardly what else to say about George. He was one of the good guys."

McCorkle was equally proud of his country blues-rock nuptials.

"Kids aren't ashamed of country anymore, and they're not ashamed of blues," George 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."


"And after three hours of maybe more/ a lady grabbed him by his arm and showed him to the door/ the bartender said 'he's blind, you see'/ don't tell him the only audience he had was you and me/ causse he's the last of the singing cowboys/ singing songs of desperation and joy." - The Last Of The Singing Cowboys - George McCorkle

McCorkle was the third member of the Marshall Tucker Band to die far too young.

Although the current, touring version of MTB contains only one original member, singer Doug Gray, it still records McCorkle's compositions.

George recently played with The Renegades of Southern Rock - a band made up of original members of Wet Willie, the Outlaws and other groups.

He also released a solo album American Street, on October Street Records in 1999.

George produced the album himself at two studios in Nashville and Moore, South Carolina.

"That was a dream come true," McCorkle revealed at the time.

"It was a major thing for me to step out and do something like that."

The album featured The Journey Home - a tribute to Toy Caldwell.

"I guess playing with Toy was a blessing, that's the only way to put it," McCorkle said in an interview about the disc.

"He was always out of control but at the same time totally in control! Seemed to stay on the edge and defiantly one of the most talented people I've ever known. For some reason we had a thing together that required no communication to know what was going on all the time. I could always tell what he was going to do before he did it and that freed him up to go where he wanted to without any worry. The rhythm section of MTB had a very unique thing and that was the reason for a three-piece section! Then again I do love the groove and my ego is not so big that I need to be in the spotlight all the time! I do love playing rhythm! Toy's contribution to music can be heard all over! I feel very fortunate to have shared part of my life with that band, and I too, still today rely on Toy's influence!"

Another highlight was a revamp of Fire On The Mountain - a slower, more country, acoustic version than the original MTB hit.

There was a talk verse at the end of the song with country instrumentation.

McCorkle also wrote another peers' eulogy Ronnie, Duane And Troy but it's not clear if it was recorded.


"Every day over by the store/ there's an old guitar player/ playing music by the score/ he's singing about Jesus and praising the Lord/ telling stories about the old days/ back when he was in the war." - Gospel Singin' Man - George McCorkle.

McCorkle and drummer Paul Riddle quit the Marshall Tucker Band at its peak.

"Well, I left the band in 1984," McCorkle explained said in an interview.

"Actually, of the original band, I was the first one to want to leave. I personally made the decision to part from the band because I'd had enough. We were all musically headed in so many different directions. Everybody had ideas of what they wanted to do. And to be honest with you I was burnt out. I was dealing with some demons. I needed those demons dealt with. I made the decision I had to quit. So, I called and discussed it with everybody and everyone understood. Then I had a long conversation with Toy about it since we had been friends since we were seven or eight years old. So, we had a long discussion about it, and I told him that my decision was firm.

Toy said, "Well, I don't feel I would want to play guitar with the Tucker Band if your not there".

So he made his decision to leave too. Then Paul Riddle expressed to me personally, that since the two guitar players and all the main songwriters were gone, he was gonna leave also. I made it personally clear that in my decision to leave, I did not want to influence anyone else in the band. I told them I would work with anybody to make sure they would fit into the band. They had my blessing. Doug and Jerry decided to continue touring. They too had my blessings and I think the blessings of Toy and Paul too. To this day I stick firmly to it. I would love to play a Marshall Tucker reunion if Toy and Tommy could come back to life. That's the only way it could be done. That is the only way I would care to do it. I played at a volunteer jam here in Nashville, it was the only time I have ever seen or heard the new band. Rusty Milner was playing guitar with them at the time and I have know Rusty since he was a youngster. The other guys in the band I didn't know well. But, Rusty I have known since he was a child. I think I played two or three songs with them at that Volunteer Jam."


"I strap on my guitar just like a 45/ I pray each night my aim is true/ I'm shooting for the heart, a looking in your eyes/ singing the cowboy blues" - Cowboy Blues - Mike Geiger, Michael Huffman- George McCorkle.

McCorkle was born in Chester, South Carolina, but raised in nearby Spartanburg from the age of two.

As the youngest of three brothers he grew up aware of the long and hard hours mother Mildred worked at the cotton mill.

"We were a typical South Carolina mill family," George recalled in his web page bio. "Very poor."

So he developed a strong and active work ethic.

Although his greatest achievements were from music, he took gigs as a dental lab technician, race-car driver, and car salesman, owner of both a glass company and a car lot to supplement his professional music livelihood.

He believed his work ethic has its roots in his "meagre beginnings" and "growing up Southern".

He was drafted into the navy as an 18-year-old graduate of Spartanburg High School and during two years service was stationed on the USS Little Rock at Gaeta, Italy.

Music helped George survive while away from friends and family in Spartanburg.

It was a key of his life from his teens as he listened to his brothers Chuck and Tony play in bands in the Spartanburg/Greenville area.

He borrowed Chuck's guitar and learned to play it and listened to radio station WLAC out of Nashville and loved the blues he heard broadcast.

"The blues was like a magnet," remembers George. "I liked to listen to B.B. King, Albert King and guys like that. Then I would try improvising their songs with my own ideas." Other musicians such as the "funky playing" Jimmy Nolen, rhythm guitar player for James Brown, would greatly influence George's guitar evolution.

"I'd play what I felt they were playing but in my own style."

While working part-time in a drug store at the age of sixteen, George bought a Gretsch guitar paid for via "the instalment plan."


George's stage debut was playing with The Originals at an American Legion hut.

He then graduated to The Rants - a high school band that played English and Beach music at frat parties, teen clubs and high school events.

After his discharge from the Navy, George decided to return to what he loved most in life: making music.

George and long time friend Toy Caldwell formed The Toy Factory.

Although the Toy Factory was successful George temporarily teamed up with others to play in Pax Parachute.

His ascension to the Marshall Tucker Band was his career catalyst.

"Playing guitar with Toy Caldwell wasn't just playing guitar, it was sharing a mind," McCorkle revealed.

"With me at his side he had the freedom to do whatever came into his mind and I could instinctively interpret whatever that was and experiment with him. And Toy had a heart of gold."

George was a focal point of major MTB albums Carolina Dreams, Searchin' For A Rainbow, A New Life and Where We All Belong.


George also loved creating songs - he wrote his first song while still in high school.

Although he never wrote with Toy Caldwell, he collaborated with others to create many memorable songs.

"I love co-writing with others," George said.

"I like to see where their influences and personalities take us."

Although he would write many memorable songs with peers he experienced major success writing solo.

Fire on the Mountain - his first recorded solo songwriting effort generated recognition and fame.

The lyric sheet for this Marshall Tucker Band hit, which opens the album Searchin' For A Rainbow, is in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

And a label from that record is part of a display in the Aerospace Museum of the Smithsonian Institute.

Another highlight was his song Last of the Singing Cowboys - focus of MTB album Running Like the Wind.

McCorkle also enjoyed a successful career writing for country peers.

"Most of the time, I have a writing job," McCorkle said in a recent interview.

"I write for a publisher, Off The Green Publishing in Nashville and I own a small publishing company. Ninety percent of the time I write and I produce songs and I do some studio work."

Country star Gary Allan recently cut Cowboy Blues, a song George wrote with Mike Geiger and Michael Huffman for his album Smoke Rings In The Dark.

George also penned the offbeat new song Jesus Never Had No Motorcycle.

McCorkle wrote about six songs a week - other co-writers included Dean Dillon, Tim Krekel, Buddy Blackmon, Vip Vipperman, Noah Gordon and J B Rudd.


"The sun is rising in my rear view/ I've been driving all night long/ last run's still racing through my mind/ it was our bets time since San Antone." - A Little Bit Of Love - Joni Harms-George McCorkle-D Scott Miller.

McCorkle also wrote a brace of songs with Oregon country singer and quarter horse breeder Joni Harms.

The duo penned Swing on one of several sessions at Harms family ranch at Canby, homesteaded by her great, great grandfather in 1872.

Harms recorded Swing for her 1998 Warner Western album Cowgirl Dreams.

"George came out to the ranch and visited and we wrote several songs together," she added.

< Joni Harms

"I used to write by myself on the ranch and when I was signed by Jimmy Bowen to Capitol and he introduced me to some many writers and gave me opportunities I would not have had if I wasn't signed to Capitol."

Harms and McCorkle's co-writer on A Little Bit Of Love from her 2003 disc Let's Put The Western Back In Country is Virginia born Scott Miller who made three albums with the V-roys before recording with his band The Commonwealth.

The singer's character, towing her steed in a horse trailer with her dog Shotgun in the cabin, yearns for human romance in their rural love lament.

McCorkle also wrote Love Never Hurt Nobody with Harms and Buddy Blackmon for the same disc.

Other co-writers included fellow Spartanburg native Marshall Chapman, an outlaw country chanteuse whose family owned the local cotton mill where George's mother Mildred worked, and Mike Battle.

He also drew inspiration from Australia when he wrote Boomerang Heart with Buddy Brock and Michael Huffman.


Texas songwriter and musician Jay Boy Adams, a prolific touring artist in the 1970s and early 1980s, performed with Southern rock icons such as the MTB, ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers Band.

He also and maintained a songwriting relationship with McCorkle.

Adams said their most recent session happened early this year in Texas during an ice storm.

Two songs constructed during the session were One Wish and Count Your Friends.

Adams revealed that during the session McCorkle told him when he died, he wanted Adams to perform Count Your Friends at his funeral.

But Adams said he told McCorkle that he would be unable to, since he thought his death would precede McCorkle's.

Adams said at the time of their conversation he did not imagine he would be playing the song at McCorkle's funeral just four months later.
< Jay Boy Adams

But he did - singing as he strummed along on an acoustic guitar.

Ironically the song's lyrics say, in the end, one needs only six friends.

"Now my old man said you only need six friends to outlive you until the bitter end, to carry you to that hole in the ground," Adams sang.

"If you can count your friends on one hand, you only need one more on the other hand to take you home."

Adams also lead the attendees in a sing-along rendition of Fire on the Mountain.

As the final chords faded, Adams turned to McCorkle's casket and said softly, "Rest in peace."

A Navy Honour Guard placed the American flag above McCorkle's casket and a petty officer presented it to McCorkle's widow Vivienne.

Volleys of shots rang out into the early afternoon sky, and as they echoed into the oaks, a lone bugler blew Taps into the breeze.

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