by Michael Buffalo Smith
The Legends of Southern Rock Series
For our third installment of Legends of Southern Rock, (our first being The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band) we return to Florida for a visit with the bad boys of the South, Molly Hatchet, as promised in my earlier blog. My own history with Molly Hatchet goes all the way back to 1980, and my first Hatchet concert in Greenville, SC at the old Greenville memorial Auditorium.
Formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1975, Molly Hatchet took their name from a legendary Southern prostitute who supposedly mutilated and decapitated her clients. While this legend may or may not be true, there is little doubt that millions have had their heads taken off by the sonic bombast of the Hatchet guitar army over the past thirty something years.
The band was originally formed by guitar slingers Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland, who brought in vocalist Danny Joe Brown, third guitarist Duane Roland, bassist Banner Thomas, and drummer Bruce Crump. Early on, Lynyrd Skynyrd icon Ronnie Van Zant had agreed to produce their first album. Unfortunately, the 1977 crash of the Freebird changed that part of Southern Rock history.
Hatchet became known world wide for their solid, three-guitar attack, and their touring alongside Skynyrd and 38 Special led to their introduction to manager Pat Armstrong, who helped the band get a deal with Epic Records and producer Tom Werman. Werman was already well known in the industry for his excellent work with other popular acts of the time, including Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent.
Molly Hatchet's sound was differentiated from more country influenced acts such as The Outlaws and Marshall Tucker.In fact, many agree that they had an even harder edge than Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In 1978 the band recorded and released its first album - Molly Hatchet. Then in 1979, Flirtin' with Disaster was released. This record’s title track served to push the act into virtually competing with Skynyrd in popularity.
Molly Hatchet proceeded to tour behind the record and gained an ever increasing fan base. This led to the common "success syndrome" problems that saw lead singer Danny Joe Brown, whose voice and persona had defined the act to that point, leaving the band at the end of the '70s to form The Danny Joe Brown Band (with future Molly Hatchet guitarist Bobby Ingram). At this point, Brown was replaced by vocalist Jimmy Farrar, a powerhouse, whose version of "Mississippi Queen" became one of the band's most requested songs.
With the success of a more harder rocking 1980 Beatin The Odds release, the band ventured away from their original Southern rocking sound. By 1981, Molly Hatchet had almost completely abandoned their original style for a straight ahead rock style exhibited on the Take No Prisoners release of the same year. Farrar left the band in 1981, and would work a regular day job for many years prior to joining The Southern Rock Allstars, and later Gator Country in the early 21st century.
Brown rejoined the band in 1982 and Banner Thomas left, replaced by Riff West of Foghat. In 1983, a new album was released titled No Guts... No Glory. Then Steve Holland left and was replaced by keyboardist John Galvin. The record went largely unnoticed compared to the glory years of 1978's "Flirtin With Disaster."
In 1984 Hatchet released The Deed Is Done, and in 1985 Dave Hlubek left and he was replaced by Bobby Ingram. Then in 1985, the double live album Double Trouble Live was released.
In 1991, the greatest hits collection Greatest Hits was released. The band continued to play selected shows and tours but pulled back from recording more new albums for a time. However, by the mid 1990's they were again working on a new studio album.–
In 1996 Danny Joe Brown had to leave the band due to a stroke and complications brought on by diabetes, bringing in lead singer Phil McCormack to finish the album Devils Canyon in 1996.
In 1998 Silent Reign Of Heroes was released. And in 1999 the band traveled coast to coast with Charlie Daniels and the Volunteer Jam.
In 2000, the album Kingdom Of XII was released in Europe. The band went on tour to promote this album. It was released in the United States in 2001. Locked and Loaded (2003) and Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge (2005) followed. In January of 2005, Ingram invited Dave Hlubek to rejoin Molly Hatchet, bringing it all full circle.
In 2001, Gritz teamed up with the band for an "I Love Molly Hatchet" contest that found one lucky winner and a guest flying to Las Vegas.
Danny Joe Brown died on Thursday, March 10, 2005, after being hospitalized for four weeks.Brown had last appeared onstage at the Jammin' for DJB benefit concert in 1998 where with the help of his friends he ended the show with "Flirtin' with Disaster."
On Monday, June 19, 2006, founding guitarist Duane Roland died at his home in St. Augustine, Florida at the age of 53. He had been playing with the band Gator Country as late as May of 2006.
The Molly Hatchet band of today consists of Bobby Ingram on guitars; Phil McCormack on vocals; Dave Hlubek on guitars; Tim Lindsey on bass; John Galvin on keyboards; and Shawn Beamer on drums. The band is preparing for a huge Summer tour and the release of a new concert DVD.