What made Molly Hatchet the top post-Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern boogie band wasn’t their Gainesville roots or their message (assuming they had one). It was the group’s ability to kick ass.
Molly Hatchet weren’t particularly inventive writers and relied lyrically on most of the Dixie-rock obsessions already recorded by every Confederate band from the Allman Brothers to ZZ Top. A strong beat and a trio of swinging lead guitars were Hatchet’s main assets, and that suited most folks just fine.
Thanks to almost constant touring – the band were playing as many as 275 shows a year – their self-titled 1978 debut album went platinum, and their follow-up Flirtin’ With Disaster (1979) earned them triple platinum.
Skynyrd comparisons were always going to dog Molly Hatchet as long as they had three guitarists, but by their third album Beatin’ The Odds (1980), at least Danny Joe Brown – a Ronnie Van Zant clone if there ever was one – was gone.
The new lead singer, Johnny Farrar, boasted considerably more emotional depth and managed to hold his won against Hatchet’s mangy mashing.
The more records Molly Hatchet sold, the more the band inflated their already bombastic image. Consequently, Take No Prisoners (1981) boasted horns, backing singers and a Boris Vallejo portrait of the band on the cover (pictured above). Frank Frazetta must have been busy that week.
Sadly the music didn’t live up to the packaging. Particularly loathsome lyrically was Respect Me in the Morning, a duet with Baby Jean from Mother’s Finest in which Jimmy Farrar threatened “and if you don’t straighten up your act I think I’m gonna blacken your eyes”. Surely there was a better rhyme for “you’re telling me lies”.
Original drummer Bruce Crump died of throat cancer on 16 March 2015 at the age of 57.
Danny Joe Brown