Mountain Heart, Marshall Tucker rock the house

July 4 was a big day for Mountain Heart lead vocalist Josh Shilling. The band was booked to open for southern rockers Marshall Tucker Band in Josh’s hometown of Martinsville, VA, at the fabled Martinsville Speedway.

For several years before he was tapped by Mountain Heart, Josh was a popular musician and vocalist in southwest Virginia. He worked in a variety of settings, from acoustic duos to full-scale rock and blues bands. Living now in Nashville, his many fans from the Roanoke/Martinsville area miss getting to see and hear him on stage, and the local folks made a big deal of his return on Monday.

Area businesses took part in a contest to see who could show the most support for their favorite son. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Walgreens, and dozens of other businesses printed and hung banners, or changed their marquees to say “Welcome Home Josh Shilling” or “You Make Us Proud Mountain Heart.”

Josh said it was quite an experience…

“It was a huge homecoming for me because I was born and raised in Martinsville. I literally scanned the stands and knew thousands of faces! It was really overwhelming how much support we got from the folks back home.

The show was awesome. We played about an hour of Mountain Heart music, and after a brief intermission, we were invited up to sing our version of The Star Spangled Banner. We performed the same arrangement that landed the band a spot on ESPN before the NASCAR race in Martinsville a few years ago.

I honestly believe the performance Monday night of our National Anthem was even better this time. That’s a big deal considering Nascar officials called our race appearance in 2008 ‘one of the top 3 Anthems of our season that year.’

After the anthem, we watched part of Marshall Tucker’s show, which was killer. Jason Moore and me literally knew every single word to each song.

Towards the end of their set, founding member Doug Grey invited us up to perform Can’t You See with them. We jumped on stage and I asked Doug ‘when do I sing?’ He grabbed the center vocal mic and said ‘you’re leading this thing Shilling.’

As crazy as it sounds, we kicked into the tune with the signature flute intro, I started the first verse, and we sang harmonies around one mic. Jimmy, Aaron, and Barry traded solos throughout the tune and then at the end, I jumped on piano and Jake Stargel grabbed a Les Paul and started ripping it apart! Starge led Mountain Heart and Marshall Tucker in a guitar battle in what I would call ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ fashion for nearly 10 minutes!

Tens of thousands of people were standing up screaming the words and jamming out with us the entire time. After that, the team at Martinsville put on an amazing fireworks show that went on for what felt like a half hour!

We all want to  thank Martinsville Speedway, Marshall Tucker, and everyone back home for supporting the band the way they do, and for leaving me with a night I’ll never forget.”

So…  I guess you can go home again. Well earned, Mr. Shilling.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.