A story that had always peaked my interest involved bits of some oral history I would hear now and then regarding some members of the Caldwell family (mothers side relatives, not extremely close relatives, but kin just the same). The story was that there had been in a well known Rock Band in the 70s and 80s involving some of them. A genealogy chart doesn’t include what rock bands people belonged to. Whenever I asked relatives I thought might know I was told, ask so and so he/she might know about that. I was persistent because it was a strong rumor that had to have some fact to it, or I wanted it to be factual. Also, the Caldwell’s are a very, large, old and well known Southern family, surely they could have rock stars in the family!
Interestingly and surprisingly enough, it was my father who knew the most about it. I had never thought of asking him because it wasn’t his side of the family but I learned from him that the Caldwell’s, had fought as officers, were taken prisoner, escaped, all kinds of things in the Revolutionary war and then served in all wars after. His interest was the military part of the family. In addition to The Revolutionary War they held prominent office in Lees army, led famous Civil War battels, and he really just stumbled on the rest of it.
Yes what about the ROCK Band I implored? Hold on little one, there is way more to this story than rock and roll he says. Toy and Tommy Caldwell, gifted musicians since younger years and knowing along with everyone else in their orbit that fame and fortune was indeed in the cards, walked away to first do their duty, and join the Marines together (following their father who signed up for WWII) serving in Vietnam. The Spartanburg SC Marine Corp detachment was named The Caldwell Detachment in their honor. Later re named to include a local Marine named Hutchings who served in Afghanistan.
That’s very cool but… The Rock band? When they came back they went back to playing music, and despite becoming relatively famous in the 70s and 80s would never discuss their military service publicly – oh brother, I’m impatiently waiting to hear who they were so I can look them up, actually I have enough to do that now but I’ll be respectful and hear him out. In as solemn a voice I’ve ever heard from him I’m told their desire to have their service remain between them and their brothers in arms needs to be as respected as their service itself, do you get that, do you understand that. I do and I actually kind of bow my head sheepishly apologizing about being inpatient. I think he’s glad to see I do in fact, get it. So who were they, They were 3 brothers - Toy, Tommy and Timmy Caldwell (didn’t join until later) , with others they formed the The Marshal Tucker Band. Ok, I never heard of em. The old man tells me, I said relatively famous, and it was classified in the genre of Southern Rock.
Are you kidding me, all that for hillbilly music? Don’t be ignorant he barks, listen to them. They were, as I told you, gifted in every way, song writing included. And indeed they were. I spent several days listening to just them and some very beautiful and sensitive songs. I call back few days later and admit how stupid I feel for my initial reaction. I tell him what I thought of the music and then I’m told the rest of the story.
Toy Caldwell, was considered the leader, people just assumed that because he was the lead guitar, singer and chief songwriter, but he did not have that type personality at all. Toy was very shy and sensitive. It was his brother Tommy (drummer I think) who ran the show. That was how their personalities were and they were perfect with each other doing what suited them. I was told this about the brothers – “I can’t stress this enough, I have been told by everyone who knew anything about them, the care and love the brothers had for each other, set them apart as people". Tommy especially looked after his brothers. They had been out on the road for many, many years, playing 250 shows a year sometimes and it was wearing them down.
Tommy Caldwell, on a famous radio show of the time (I read that) said, and I paraphrase, if you were lucky enough to catch us good on you, but we’re ending this. We’ve been on the road for years, and it’s time for us to go back home to the country, you won’t be seeing us coming back out, when it’s over it’s over. Apparently he was most concerned about his brother Toy and the pressures and excesses of the road. The stress of performing, writing hit songs, and having many peoples’ financial health in your hands was troubling. Toy was happy to go along with the decision, he didn’t need to play music for other people, I suppose most good musicians are like that – I was also told his first love was jazz, something he looked forward to getting back to.
Unfortunately a week after that interview Tommy Caldwell was killed in a freak car accident and a month after that their other brother Timmy was killed in another auto accident. Toy died in the early 90s, no one can really say what he died from, maybe it was a broken heart. Well, not a a great ending but interesting to me and if you have some time, I promise you would like some of their music, I was very surprised – if you only have time for one song I would say Heard it in a Love Song or Abs song maybe.