If you like your rock southern, then chances are you've heard of Molly Hatchet guitarist Dave Hlubek. The band he founded in 1971, Molly Hatchet, went on to become a platinum act in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
I was lucky enough to see the band a good few times over the years, though the best time I ever clocked them was at the massive Day On The Green annual event in Oakland, California. Day On The Green had been started by famous west coast promoter Bill Graham back in 1973, and by the time Hatchet appeared, on 4 July, 1980, the event was established as one of the finest rock shows anywhere on the planet. The 1980 vintage featured headliners Journey, with the undercard including Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Hatchet and Shakin’ Street.
Hatchet had just released their third album, ‘Beatin The Odds’, the first to feature new singer Jimmy Farrar. It marked a definite departure from the style the band had developed over the course of the first two releases with Danny Joe Brown on vocals, ‘Molly Hatchet’ and ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’. Farrar’s vocals were gruffer, the music more straight-ahead and hard-hitting, making for a raw sound that was just perfect for this raucous festival crowd. I'll never forget the sight of a seemingly never-ending sea of confederate flags waving in the California sun. Hatchet went down so well that they felt fully justified to return for a fully 20 minute version of their classic ‘Boogie No More’ as an encore. Dave Hlubek's chicken scratch guitar solos during that monstrous workout were simply joyous.
I next caught up with Hatchet in 1984 when I was dispatched to New York to do a cover story for Kerrang! Magazine. Hatchet's line-up had changed once again and original singer Danny Joe Brown was back in the fold. The Mollys were in New York promoting their sixth album, ‘The Deed Is Done’. From the poppy ‘Satisfied Man’ to the hard-hitting ‘Straight Shooter’, this was the one album the band’s record label Epic really should have got behind. Sadly they didn't. I remember sitting backstage with Hlubek, nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels and asking him why he felt that the band’s last few studio albums hadn't done so well. Dave had his favourite drink, Crown Royal Bourbon, just out of shot. He was an honest and humble man who told he me he was very proud of his Southern roots and was happy with ‘The Deed Is Done’, but that musical styles and tastes change and that Hatchet's music had become unfashionable. I felt rather sad leaving the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum that night. Hlubek looked a Troubled Man, not a Satisfied Man!
Dave’s had some significant health problems over the last few years. He’s a diabetic, has suffered from congestive heart failure and has serious problems with his knees. This has contributed to him not being able to take the stage regularly with the latest incarnation of Molly Hatchet. But there’s a website dedicated to getting Dave healthy again at https://www.gofundme.com/eta3s0 if you’d like to help. I for one will drink to that – and make it a Crown Royal!
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