Stuart Swanlund, guitarist for The Marshall Tucker Band, passed away on Saturday at his home of natural causes. He was only 54.
Swanlund has been a mainstay in the band since 1985, with only a brief hiatus to deal with a painful health issue that could have cost him his guitar playing.
"I developed dupuytrens contracture disease," Swanlund said. "It takes several years to develop. People with ancestors in Northern Europe are prone to get it. It’s a bunch of scar tissue that builds up in your palm and I had some in my ring finger. It gradually pulls your fingers down. There’s no medication they can give you all they can do is operate. There really wasn’t any other choice. If I didn’t have the surgery eventually I wouldn’t be able to play. My fingers were almost down into my palms. It had got to the point where I couldn’t really do a regular solo. I could still play chords, but I couldn’t stretch out and hit any kind of octaves at all. But by finding the best specialist to perform the surgery it was well worth the pain and healing."
Founding member and singer of the band Doug Gray praised Swanlund on his unwavering dedication to the band recently, expressing grief for the loss of his longtime friend.
"He recently took a hiatus from the road due to health problems and even with those issues, Stuart's enthusiasm onstage never waivered. Our thoughts and prayers are with Stuart's family and those who knew him. We have lost a great friend."
Swanlund grew up in South Carolina, which was perhaps an influence on his musical abilities. He certainly brought a one-of-a-kind sound to the Southern Rock band, which would go on to spawn many imitators and admirers. He picked up a guitar at the age of ten and never looked back, later preferring a Music Man Silhouette Special over the one he took over from his sister.
Swanlund leaves behind his wife, Stacey, and son Billy, as well as three grandchildren. But he also leaves a legacy rich with the roots of Southern Rock which inspired so many who came after, including Kentucky band Fifth On The Floor. It is a legacy which will be felt for quite some time.