The Marshall Tucker Band have been showing the world of southern rock how it's done for over 40 years now. (Remember who earned the No. 1 spot on our Top 10 Southern Rock Songs list?) Earlier this year, the band released their latest 'Greatest Hits' collection, and this week, that same album has been pressed on vinyl in a limited collector's edition.  

The new record includes three previously unreleased live bonus tracks -- 'Hillbilly Band,' 'Every Day I Sing The Blues' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' -- which were recorded during one of the band's recent overseas tours. The new 'Greatest Hits' LP (which can be purchased through the band's official website) also contains a digital download card to ensure fans can take the music with them away from their record players.

Ultimate Classic Rock sat down once again with Marshall Tucker Band frontman Doug Gray to discuss the new collection, future projects and group's recent debut on the prestigious stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville when they appeared at the Grand Ole Opry.

How did the idea come about to re-release the new Greatest Hits package on vinyl?

Well a year or so ago, I thought that it would be really nice. I knew we had the 'Greatest Hits' coming out, and I said, let’s add to it. I called my manager, and he said, "Man, that’s a great idea!" I said the only way we will do it is to put it on really good sounding vinyl. There’s such a thing as 100 vinyl and there’s 180 … 180’s the best, so that’s what that is. All of us agreed that it sounded pleasurable, so they printed up some copies. There’s a lot of information in there for people who want to get it. We may be putting another one out in September or October of next year of the original first record, which would be cool! I’m excited. This is for collectors, instead of people who just want to take it and throw it in their CD collection.

Do you have any plans of heading back into the studio in 2012 to work on a new project?

We have three of four songs tracked right now with this band, but there are a lot of other projects that we will be doing. We recently did a show at the South Carolina Hall of Fame. It was kind of a dedication to [former MTB members] Tommy and Toy [Caldwell]. When we did it, it was cool. Recently we pulled those tracks out and listened to them, and there’s a lot there. It’s foot stompin’ type of stuff. “Jaimoe,” Dickey Betts and Chuck Leavell from the Allman Brothers are playing on it. Everybody wanted to pay tribute to Tommy and Toy, and we'll put it out as the South Carolina Hall of Fame. It will be good. It will be positive.

Who are some of your favorite classic rock bands?

To me, classic rock really started with the Allman Brothers. The only people that’s out there right now that could be considered “classic rock” is the Zac Brown Band. To me and from what I’ve seen, they are more classic rock than they are anything. I think SwampDaWamp is a good new classic rock band. I’ve got a new guy who’s coming out with us … his name is Shane Pruitt. He’s cut some blues records. He is Stevie Ray Vaughan material when it comes to his guitar playing. He’s just unbelievable. Jimmy, Jack and Donna (Hall of Wet Willie) … they were so good. They could go out there and wow the crowd. I was always impressed with them.

There are just as many good southern rock bands playing in clubs right now that didn’t get a break. I really feel bad for them, there’s no where else for them to go because all of those spots have been filled. We were a little bit more jazzy or country, and [Molly] Hatchet’s got the really rockin’, boomy stuff down … I really feel that there are a bunch of southern rock bands out there, it’s just they can’t get a deal or a break. Zac was fortunately able to get a break. They will be talked about for a long time. They really will. Alan Jackson singing with Zac [on their song 'As She's Walking Away'] was a brilliant move. With Greg Allman singing with them [on the CMA Awards], that turned them into a southern rock band. That sounded really good.

As far as southern rock goes, there will always be room for it. There is on the radio, because they are playing more now on the radio than there ever was, as far as getting talked about. I have to tell you … I was truly amazed at every article that came in that talked about us having something that kept southern rock alive, and I guess we do. Those first nine years, we went out and played our a---- off. We were out just busting loose. I just don’t know where that next major band is going to come from in the south. There are probably 15 or 20 out of Jacksonville right now.

This past weekend (Nov. 19), the Marshall Tucker Band made its debut on the Grand Ole Opry. Talk about that experience and what was going on in your head leading up to that night.

Quite honestly, I was a little surprised … we’ve been doing (this) for 40 years and had never been invited. The good part is that somebody must have taken notes somewhere or they wouldn’t have invited us [laughs]! When I first heard about it, I thought about one of our original guys, which was Toy. If you were talking to him, he wouldn’t have been able to speak! Toy Caldwell would have really appreciated that honor. He was the first one I thought about when they asked us, because it ain’t just about me; it’s about those guys, too. He knew all those songs from those earlier acts that were on [the lineup] with us. I was just glad to stand there and let it all come in. That’s the only thing you can do.

Next month you will head back out on the annual Rock Legends Cruise, are you ready for that?

Yes! We are so excited. We do three shows on the cruise. Our first show is the first night, but the third night, we get a three and a half hour slot. Last time we did it with (Lynyrd) Skynyrd. This year, I’ve already invited almost every band on [the cruise] to come and jam at some point in time during that three and a half hours. I’ve got an overwhelming response because everybody knows what I did with Skynyrd. It was pretty cool! By the end of the night [last time], the crew was going, “Hey man, we’ve got to get up at 4:30 in the morning…” and it was 3:15! Nobody really told me – or they were afraid to come up and tell me [laughs]! We had some great musicians up there. This time, they’re going to let me do another one.

Do you have any tour plans in the works as of yet for next year?

We do … we already have 38 dates on the books. We’re glad to work. It will probably be about 94 shows, and that will be about it. Next year, I’m pretty sure we’re also going to go back and play for the troops again ... I just don’t know when. I’ve got to tell you, I’m grateful for all the publicity that everybody’s been giving us. It has done nothing but let us sell out every one of our shows … every one of them. It's been amazing!

Where do you see the Marshall Tucker Band in the years to come?

I plan to keep on going. I am 63 years old. I find that hard to believe every day. I really do, especially after getting up and doing a show. Some of those other guys out there are chasing me to catch up … I like that (laughs)! I am very fortunate. I blame it on everybody because everybody’s out there participating.