Posted on 06.21.2021

Volunteer Jam ’75: The Legend Continues - Soapbox Jr.

The original Volunteer Jam in 1974 was a success, as was the CDB’s ‘Fire on the Mountain’ album so a second VolJam was planned, but much bigger and better.

No more 2,200 seat venue, the second Jam, officially known as Volunteer Jam ’75 but would later be referred to as Volunteer Jam II moved to MTSU’s Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, TN. That venue would be the Jam’s largest home until 1987.

Jam ’75 was another sellout crowd, this time over 13,000 came to hear the CDB who had a breakout year, and there were big plans for this one.

For the second Jam, Dickey Betts from the Allman Brothers returned and brought along Chuck Leavell who was playing with the Allmans at the time, but this time instead of just two members of The MTB, as dad introduced them on stage, “What a better way to carry on a Volunteer Jam than with the whole damn Marshall Tucker Band?!” Yep, all of the Tucker boys were there, along with Jimmy Hall, one of the best blue-eyed soul singers around from the band Wet Willie, Dru Lombar from the underrated southern rock band, Grinderswitch, bluegrass banjo picker and cast member from “Hee Haw,” Roni Stoneman and a few others also rounded out the Jam 75 lineup.

Unlike the first Jam, I was there for this one. It was the largest crowd I had seen dad perform for at the time, and man, it was exciting.

I was ten years old when Jam ’75 rolled around on September 12 and around that time I tried to be as much like dad as possible, which included dressing like him. I had my own cowboy boots and cowboy hat which I proudly wore to the show. In later years, I added a vest and pocket watch, just like dad’s, I was his “Mini- me.”

The house was packed, the crowd was electric, and the CDB took the stage to kick off the evening’s festivities. The band played their set with a mixture of tunes from “Fire on the Mountain,” “Honey in the Rock,” “Way Down Yonder” and their newest album at the time, “Nightrider.”

I was hanging around backstage and went on stage with dad for a very special moment. Wade Conklin from the band’s label, Buddah/Kama Sutra Records, had a presentation to make. After working as a professional musician since 1958, dad was presented with his very first, and far from last, gold record for “Fire on the Mountain,” and I was on stage with dad for that historic moment, in my hat and boots, just like him. It was a milestone, the first of many to come, and I was extremely proud of him, as I continue to be to this day.

The Tucker boys then took the stage, and rocked the house, starting with “24 Hours at A Time.”

When Tucker finished their set, it was time for the jamming to begin. A mixture of CDB and MTB members played B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone,” along with “Jelly Blues,” “Sweet Mama,” and “Mountain Dew.”

Now I mentioned that there were some special things about this show, aside from the show itself. First of all, part of this Jam was recorded and released on Capricorn Records, although, the cover left a lot to be desired. In fact, dad went as far as to say that he hated that cover. And it was bizarre, to say the least. It’s a collage of the square in downtown Murfreesboro with an assortment of strange sights, a cow with its tongue sticking out, ad cowboy on horseback on a city street, an old-timey black taxi cab and a patched-together figure that looked like a biker Santa Claus with a red turban, gazelle antlers in what appeared to be a motorcycle sidecar smoking a cigar along with a closeup of a cowboy boot’s spur.

I imagine there might have been some smoking of other substances involved in the artwork for the album, but I can’t say for sure. But I do know that dad let Capricorn know how unhappy he was with the cover, and they listened and made a change on the second pressing. They put a cowboy head over the crazy biker Santa with antlers. Much better. Now it’s a masterpiece.

But the other special thing about Jam ’75 is that there was a camera crew there recording the show, and in 1976, “Volunteer Jam” was released to movie theaters as “The First Full Length Southern Rock Motion Picture.”

It was even among the first movies released on the VHS format when it was in its infancy, but many years later we were able to partner with another company to release Jam ’75 on DVD.

Our license with that partner has since expired, but one thing stuck in my mind over the years. Dad and I watched a VHS transfer of the Jam ’75 movie on his bus, and the one thing that stuck with me was it was clearly shot on video. You can pretty easily distinguish video from film unless video has been filtered to make it look like film, but that is a process that didn’t exist in 1975. Last year, in a meeting with David Corlew, dad’s manager and partner in Blue Hat Records, restoring the Jam movie came up. 

In what was just kind of an afterthought, I asked him if it had originally been shot on video, I think I stunned him. He said, “How did you know that?” I told him I didn’t for sure, but that I remembered seeing it on the bus with dad, and I was pretty sure what I saw was video. He told me that it was indeed shot on video, and then transferred to film for the theatrical release. In fact, the movie has a bit of a pinkish hue because of the transfer process.

We’re hoping to at some point get the video transferred where for the first time, fans will be able to see the Jam ’75 show in the highest quality since it was performed live at Murphy Center in almost fifty years.

Y’all stick around. We’ve got some great things coming your way.

“Ain’t it good to be alive and be in Tennessee!”

Let’s all make the day count!

What do you think?

Get Tickets to Volunteer Jam: A Musical Salute to Charlie Daniels HERE

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—  Charlie Daniels, Jr.

 

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