Bobby Ingram Carries The Molly Hatchet Torch
Into The 21st Century
by Michael Buffalo Smith
Molly Hatchet has established quite a legacy for themselves as a hard-driving, take-no-prisoners, Southern Rockin,' ass kicking band over the past twenty-plus years. From their humble beginnings in Jacksonville, Florida, to their Danny Joe Brown years, the Jimmy Farrar years, and on into the current configuration lead by Bobby Ingram and Phil McCormack, Molly Hatchet has rocked the venues, large, medium-sized, small and huge with the same drive, intensity and dedication that the band was founded upon way back in the day.
With a brand new album, Kingdom of XII, with guest picker Charlie Daniels, and continuing tours of the planet, Molly Hatchet shows no signs of slowing down. We spoke with band-leader Bobby Ingram about the past, present and future of his band, internet rumors, and much more.
Tell us a little about your early days in Jax, early bands and stuff.
First off, Thank you Michael for developing GRITZ and keeping this site so in-tune with what's happening in music today.
In Jacksonville, Florida back in the early days, early seventies, there were many bands being formed that later would go on to achieve national acclaim. The bars in Jacksonville were a spawning ground for a lot of this talent. Everybody was jamming with everybody else at the bars and on the weekends the music stores would be packed. Paulus Music and Marvin Kay's Music Center were the hot spots. You would see guys from all the area bands there. Skynyrd, .38 Special, Grinderswitch and the list goes on. I actually acquired one of my first real guitars at Paulus Music. It was a 1969 Gibson Sunburst Les Paul that without me knowing, my mother was putting down a portion of her grocery money for six months for a Christmas present. I still have that same guitar today, although I have retired it from the road. One of my first bands was called the "Image" in Jr. High School.
We played at local parties and Jr. High dances and it was fun but we were really quite bad. I was in a few other bands that played around during the High School days with friends and we would play cover tunes and write our own songs, go into the studio and record. Those were the beginning years and I learned a lot and had fun. I started college when I was 17 and started on my bachelors degree in Accounting. Along with my classes I was still playing music at night and I started a band called "Rum Creek." That was the first serious band. We played the bars in Jacksonville -The Still, The Other Place, La Vidas- and surrounding areas in Florida and worked all the time.
Didn't you work with Danny Joe Brown early on?
Yes. Rum Creek was just getting started. We were looking for a frontman lead vocalist at the time. Our keyboard player Mel Powell said he knew of someone that would like to try out for the band. It was at that time I first met Danny. He worked as an insurance debit agent and was married to Lynn and had a son, Jake on the way. She has always been so nice and a good mother to both their sons, Jake and Matt. He came to rehearsal one afternoon and I handed Danny the microphone and said let's go. I believe the first song we played was "Gimme 3 Steps" or "Freebird," that was in October 1975. We became good friends and he was hired to sing for the band. We rehearsed quite a bit and the band was kickin.' Our first show was about a month later at a skating rink in Jacksonville. We got through about 35 minutes of the show and the owner pulled the electricity and said we were too loud and dangerous to people and he was throwing us out and never to come back. Well, the crowd loved the band and didn't want us to stop. It started a riot due to the owner stopping the show, the police were called in to tame things down. That was our first show and with a reaction like that we knew we were on to something big! We continued to play until spring of 1976 with Danny as our singer and the pressures of either going on the road or finishing college was at hand. My decision was to finish college and Danny joined up with a newly formed group called Molly Hatchet, replacing the first original singer Bobby Maddox. I still continued Rum Creek and he hit the road with Hatchet. We would join up again just a few years later in the Danny Joe Brown Band.
Who were some of your major influences at the time?
Allen Collins, Eric Clapton and Steve Howe. Allen Collins was the primary influence. No one has the fire and feel that Allen had. His mother, everyone calls her Mrs. Eva, is a dear friend of mine and she comes over to our house quite often and tells stories about Allen when he was first starting to play guitar and the early days of Lynyrd Skynyrd. She misses him very much. She wears a button of Allen all the time and she just smiles when she talks about him. I really enjoy being with her....both my parents are deceased and she reminds me of a lot of my mother when she was alive. I think it's good for both of us to spend time together. She has been our special guest at many concerts and we have even brought her on stage so everyone could say "hello" to her in memory of Allen. She's really a great lady and a great cook!
Did you work with Molly Hatchet in any capacity during the early days?
Being that the scene in Jacksonville was a lot of musicians knowing everybody else at the time - Hatchet and Rum Creek played the same places, and we shared off and on the same rehearsal studios in 1976 ‘till ‘78. We were like brother bands and being great friends with Danny it was hard not to know what both of the groups were doing at the time. When MH would get back into town they would set up in my rehearsal hall and write songs for the first album. If there was an opening in the lineup at the time I would have loved to join the band. We all knew each other and our styles in playing were the same. But the band already had three guitar players. MH went on to sign with Epic Records and released two albums.
Then in 1980, Danny had just quit MH and came to my house and talk to me about putting together another band. It was to be the Danny Joe Brown Band. This is where I meet John Galvin who was an up and coming keyboard player from Detroit and the best I have ever heard. We rehearsed for six months under the most difficult of situations. There was no money, no heat in the practice hall and we would rehearse 15 or 16 hours a day, seven days a week and then the break through happened. Don Dempsey, president of Epic records came down to Jacksonville and signed the band and we were off to Nassau, Bahamas at Compass Point studios to record the first album. Glen Johns was the producer (Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, The Eagles) on the project and we toured the album in 1981 in support of it. We recorded that album live in the studio. What I mean by that is there were no overdubs except for the vocals. Very old-school style of recording, which is sometimes the best. That band lasted until 1982 and disbanded due to personal reasons. Danny rejoined MH for the No Guts-No Glory album. During the live Double Trouble album I was called in by Pat Armstrong to do work on it at LEI Studios in Jacksonville. After that I joined the band full time. As well as touring, I recorded the Lightning Strikes Twice album in Orlando with Danny, Duane and Bruce of the original lineup for Capitol Records.
How did you come to join the band as guitarist?
Following the previous question this is how I became a member. In 1986, I got a call from Pat Armstrong the bands management and Danny and was asked if I would be interested in coming into the group. At that time, I was really busy with my own project,"China Sky," which had a major record deal with CBS/PARC Records. It was my solo project that I had been working on after the Danny Joe Brown Band. Anyway, I went down to Orlando where the management company headquarters were and found out that I was to step in for Duane Roland. I couldn't understand that. The story that was told to me by the band is he was not getting along with Dave and was going to resign if there were not any changes. At that time, I told the band about my prior obligations and I wouldn't be able to devote 100% of my time to MH due to the China Sky project. A few months later, I get another call from the band. So, I went the second time to Orlando and found out they were replacing Dave Hlubek. There were some strange things going on then but I agreed to do a tour and I loved it. Dave has mentioned in interviews that he gave me the job but that is not at all how it happened. I was being called by other members as well as management to come into the band. At that time, the members in the band were Danny Joe Brown, Duane Roland, Bruce Crump, John Galvin and Riff West. I was to take Dave Hlubek's place in the group. Danny was a great friend and I had been around the band from the beginning and it made a lot of sense, it felt like home. Danny was the main reason for my decision to join Molly Hatchet and he was the main reason for the opportunity- I thank him for that- but, it was up to me then. I played the guitar, did my share of the songwriting, carried my own weight and was paid the same as everyone else in the band. I worked hard and made many sacrifices and gave up my solo career, turned down a major deal with CBS Records to be able to devote all of my time to the band and had no regrets.
There's a lot of controversy on the web surrounding your using the MH name with no original band members in the group. Your thoughts?
Okay, now it's my turn. Let's back up a few years and I'll give you some insight on the evolution of this. Fifteen years ago when I joined MH, the band still had three original members -Danny, Duane and Bruce. Also, John Galvin who took Steve's place and Riff who took Banner's place. The spirit and tradition at that point was carried on from the original band less Dave, Banner and Steve.
On July 8, 1990 in Toledo, Ohio it was this bands last performance with this line up. Duane was going into locksmithing or computers, Bruce had a new wife and baby he went home to Virginia, and the other members were getting into other things and Molly Hatchet had it' s last show. It was advertised as the last show- management knew it, the agency knew it, and was even announced at the gig in Toledo. Danny and myself continued on and went out on the road putting together a new band to carry on the spirit and tradition. During that time Duane, Riff and the other members were asked to come back and let's get things started again. No one did. They were not interested in it at the time. Duane Roland who owned the name Molly Hatchet and Pat Armstrong with the management company offered a licensing deal to Danny and myself knowing that we were out playing. We accepted, and paid Pat and Duane a percentage for the use of the name. We wanted to continue the band and we did even under that situation. Everyone else left (except Danny and myself ) and did other things. The other members of the band left on there own standings. We continued on with a new band and toured for the next five years until Danny was not able due to health reasons. We were best of friends and loved what we did together... making music on stage. Over those five years, from 1990-1995, Danny's health was becoming a major issue with the touring. Steve Green of Artists International Management and myself and the entire band at that time, tried to help Danny with his diabetes and with his demons problem. We all loved Danny and didn't want to see anything bad happen to him on or off the road. We had Phil McCormack come out for three months to give Danny time off the road to go into treatment in 1992- to no avail- countless recommendations made to him over the next three years- to no avail- until 1995 when he entered the Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville. He stayed for approximately six weeks and when discharged, his mother took him to her Miami home and he never came back to the band due to his health.
At that point in time, Phil McCormack was brought in full time under Danny's recommendations to fulfill all of his studio and touring obligations. And for the record, Jimmy Farrar was the other singer mentioned during this time and was brought out on the road for a week of auditions and it was best decided to use Phil. So again, the spirit and tradition was carried on and the torch passed again. At that time, Pat Armstrong and Duane Roland both licensed the name to me exclusively knowing that Danny was unable to perform.
It was for fifteen years with a five year option. Let me state this again, the licensing was offered to me. There are some people out there that think I stole the name or obtained it illegally. Let's get this straight- I continued to work and make music and stay dedicated to the band. That is why I received the licensing. It's not brain surgery to figure this out. I stayed true to the band and Duane and Pat saw this. I'm out here to make music, carry on the legacy and continue the future of the band. I am not out here to hurt any of the past members. If people want to know all of the dirty laundry that is the business of the band sorry it's not public information. I personally believe that the focus should be on the music not the back and forth mud slinging that has been going on far too long. This is not politics, it's a rock band and what we make is music. If someone doesn't like the music- don't listen to it and please don't buy it- It's that simple! And for some people that think the band is just slapped together and there is no ties to the past I played with Danny gave him his first singing job, played with Duane who is a great guitarist and someone I deeply respect as a person and a player, played with Bruce who is one of the best drummers in the music industry and has a very unique style and I was hired to take Dave's position in the band.
Yes, there have been many member changes from 1980 and on... recording and non-recording members. The 1978 until 1980's original recording lineup passed the torch and legacy to the 80's recording lineup which I was in the band. The 80's lineup passed the torch and legacy to the 90's recording lineup. I was in the band. The 90's lineup passed the torch and legacy to the now recording and touring 2000 Molly Hatchet lineup. I'm still in the band and it will be passed long after I have retired. Molly Hatchet is a generational band. Some bands can succeed and others can't. There might be a time where some of the original members come back in and then leave again. Molly Hatchet is a legacy, spirit, tradition and future. It started a long time before I joined the band. It started when the first original member left the group and the band carried on with other members. I have said this before and I'll say it always- if it wasn't for the original six members, there would not be a legacy to continue. The current lineup will continue and we are very proud to be a part of the mix and look toward the future.
I was told that you wanted to address some of the comments made by Danny Joe Brown in his GRITZ interview. Your thoughts.
In the interview, Danny is quoted as saying:
"..... You know, since I've left the group, Bobby has never sent me a get well card or anything. Not a phone call or anything to say he hoped I would get better. Nothing."
After Danny left the band due to health reasons there were three years he was contacted by myself on a regular basis, calls on holidays, many conversations with his wife Crystal and his children, and we would tell him how his kids are doing and keep him updated on things at home. We met Danny for Christmas in Jacksonville one time and he even stopped by my house with his dog. There was contact with him after he left the band. Just not on a day to day basis like it was when we worked together. Danny was sent large sums of money on a monthly accounting that can be verified and backed up with countless receipts to him overnighted through Federal Express to help him and take care of his family for three years. Danny, you know this is the truth. I have proof! The last letter that I sent him was summer of 1999 asking him if he wanted to donate to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, gave him my new phone numbers and wished him well. I never hear a word back. Also, Phil has written Danny several times and he never heard back. Communication is a two way street. The truth is, and I'm sorry to say, when the money stopped, the friendship stopped. What's up with that?
. Danny is quoted as saying:
"....Well, Dave Hlubek is Molly Hatchet. Dave Hlubek started Molly Hatchet. He could be Molly Hatchet if he wants to be. But Bobby Ingram didn't start Molly Hatchet, so he can't be Molly Hatchet."
And yes, Danny is right. Dave along with Steve hold the honor of starting the legacy of the band, but, in all due fairness and respect, there are a lot of other members and people behind the scenes that have brought the band 23 years down the line. What about the rest of the original members, the 80's, 90's and 2000 member lineups, the management team, the agency, Epic Records, Capital Records, CMC Records, SPV/CBH Records, the promoters, the publicity personnel worldwide, the road crews that moved the band. I could go on all day. My point is, there are countless numbers of people involved that made Molly Hatchet what is was and is today and they all added their contribution to the Legacy.
We saw you guys on the Volunteer Jam Tour with Charlie Daniels. How did you enjoy that? Your thoughts on Charlie? Tell us about the recent Angelus golf tournament/concert with CDB?
In spring of 1999, we were asked to join Charlie Daniels in the history making Volunteer Jam Tour. It was history making because it was never taken out of the State of Tennessee. We went from coast to coast playing some of the largest venues in the United States. We were on the bill with Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker and Hank Williams Jr. The entire band had a blast. We saw many of our friends on the tour and covered a lot of different material in the set. The tour also corresponded with the tail end of the Silent Reign of Heroes release.
I must say that Charlie Daniels is a true gentleman and his southern hospitality is unequaled. For the second year Molly Hatchet has proudly participated in a most special event that takes place in Clearwater, Florida. It is the 11th annual Charlie Daniels / Angelus Concert and Celebrity Golf Tournament to help all of the handicapped children and adults that live at the Angelus home located in Hudson, Florida. It is very rewarding for us and we will continue as long as Charlie wants us to. We would want everyone who is able, to be a part of this experience. It is held in January in Clearwater, Florida and stay tuned to the website at mollyhatchet.com for any and all details on next years show.
What have been some of the highlights of your career in the past few years?
I would have to say that bringing the band back to a level of recording albums when the band had no record deal and having the music translate to fans all over the world is a major highlight. The veteran fans that have followed the band and stayed with us through the changes are very special to us and we thank them. Also, the new fans that have discovered MH for the first time here in the United States, Europe and Asia gives us a great feeling and the determination to continue. Other highlights include sharing the same stage with Journey, Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, Yes, Dio, Motorhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, and our dear friend Charlie Daniels and his band.
Would you ever reunite and play with some of the past band members? Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland, etc.?
Actually, on the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam we brought out Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland for a few shows in Florida and California. Any of the past members of the band are welcome to come out and jam at any time. As long as we set it up in advance. And as I have said we are carrying on the spirit of the group as well as looking toward the future and there is always a place on stage for any of the former members, contrary to popular belief....
Who is in the band now?
I'm really proud of the guys that are in the band and its great to work with friends that have the passion for the group as much as I do. Phil McCormack-lead Vocals, who as you know has been with me since 1996; John Galvin-Keyboards, we started twenty years ago on the professional circuit and still play together now and he is the main recording player; Andy McKinney-Bass, has been with the band seven years and a great player and has recorded four albums to his credit; Tim Donovan-Keyboards/Touring who does the majority of the touring over the past five years and a great backup to John; Sean Shannon - Drums, came into the group from the Pat Travers Band and recorded Kingdom of XII; Russ Maxwell-Guitar, whose Southern style is a great asset; and myself- lead guitar.
Tell us about your new album - writing and recording it, and when it will be out here in the States.
The new album is titled Kingdom of XII and it was recorded in Hamburg, Germany last April and May 2000. We called it Kingdom of XII because it's the twelfth Molly Hatchet album to be recorded under the official banner. We have seen a lot of product out on the streets that was either bootleg or re-releases of songs from many years ago. Some are meritorious some are not. Its kinda funny whenever we are releasing an album, here comes all this other product and they ride our promotion and we wanted to clarify that this is the twelfth Molly Hatchet album in sequence.
So, let's get to the recording. We have recorded three albums since 1996 in Germany due to the fact that our parent label SPV/CBH Records is based there and with recording out of the United States it's a real focused and concentrated effort. The distractions are kept to a minimum and it's a very regimented schedule. Up at 9:00 am and recording by 10:30 am we break for dinner and back to recording until 9 or 10pm. We get so much work done in one day its unreal. Everybody has a great time and the recording process is always moving. All of the basic tracks were recorded in three days and then on to the overdubs. And being that this is the third album I have produced, it has been more fun with every album. We always cut the lead breaks in the studio to keep them really fresh and they are recorded last after the lead vocals are finished. There is a lot of spontaneity with the album.
When all the songs are written we walk in to pre-production and do a very rough demo just for reference of arrangements and that's it. We have fun in the studio and we hope that will translate to the CD and on to the fans.
I use Peavey 5150 amplification in the studio and yes, they are set on 10. Rudy Leiren, who is Eddie Van Halen's guitar tech came out on the Devils Canyon tour and turned me on to the Peaveys. Live, I run seven complete stacks - fourteen cabs- but mic up three on stage. The center is always dry to track clean to the PA and the outside two cabs are slightly wet. We run the amps wide flat out open in the studio and use four microphones on the cabs. Two SM57's and a close mic straight on and at a 45-degree angle and two good room ambiance mics placed in a huge recording room. We don't use any effects on the rhythm guitars. They go straight to tape machine and then to the computer for editing. I'm from the old school of recording and I like simple things. No frills when we record. If you can't get it from your guitar, cord and amp you really ain't gettin' it at all. I use Paul Reed Smith Guitars in the studio and live. I think they are built the way Gibson guitars were made thirty years ago.Very solid with tons of sustain. I also use something called the Ed King rig designed by him. That's Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's not an effect! It's a special third pickup configuration that throws out of phase the neck and center pickup and keeps the treble pickup constant. I believe there are only four in the world today. Maybe more now. We use Dean Markley Strings and I believe they are the best all around string in the world. Live and in the studio- I've found nothing to beat them! So that's a quick view on the technical aspect we use for the recording of guitars in the studio.
The lyrics were written by Phil and I wrote the music, and we wrote some of the tracks with John Galvin or Andy McKinney. They are the best songwriters I have ever worked with. We have a chemistry that translates, but most of all we have fun. We are all friends and that is a great mix. I produced this album as mentioned before and I believe that is the way to go at this stage of a career. It is very important to have an outside producer in the beginning stages of a band when first starting to record and formulate the sound and direction. But, its becomes less influential to use outside producers the more albums you create. Let me explain, no one knows what the band is supposed to sound like more than the musicians that write and record it. To try and translate your feelings and emotions to someone else that doesn't live and breathe the music like we do...it is impossible. Outside producers will always make you sound like they want you to sound. I believe that consistency and direction could be lost.
So, we have taken this road when it comes to production. The album is already released in Europe and we have charted for the third record in a row! This is pretty incredible when N-Sync, The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears are topping the charts- YUCK. We are grateful for our fans overseas and they have made it a home away from home for us. And we were speaking of Charlie Daniels earlier and we are proud to say that he is featured on two of the songs, "Gypsy Trail" and "Angel in Dixie" on the new release. And I've gotta say he came in a laid down fiddle tracks that just blew us away! We loved what he did to the songs. Its like "Flirtin with Disaster" meets "The Devil went Down to Georgia."
The album release is scheduled for early spring in the United States. All of the necessary promotion with CMC International Records should be in place by then.
Aren't you guys working on a live one as well? Tell us about that.
Yes - When we were on the European tour November and December 2000 we recorded a double live CD and DVD video of various shows on the tour. There will be over twenty songs on it and it is assured that you will not be able to sit down when you listen to it. The band did a great job on it and along with the MH classic tunes there is a majority of the more current released songs. This album kicks major Southern ass and we are all proud of it. The release will be later this year.
Tell us about the huge European Tour you just completed.
We had a great time in Europe! The new album is really exceeding all of our expectations. The fans were awesome- very supportive and in-tune with the release. We did 27 shows with 3 days off and it started in London, England went to Norway and Sweden all through Holland and Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland. The press was at an elevated level and our Record company SPV/CBH did a fantastic job. We sold out nearly 85% of the shows. What a feeling going into Virgin Records Mega Store on the Champs Elysees in Paris and having the manager tell you that your record has sold out and it was on the fourth order in two weeks and they can't keep it in stock. We had a great production team, Stage Point, that has done all the major festivals in Europe. The Rolling Stones and AC/DC just to name a few. We went from city to city with the semi-trucks and our double Decker bus, tons of gear, onsite catering, great stage and when the lights went down Molly Hatchet rocked the house Southern Style!
We changed the set from night to night to cover as many songs as possible and of course played tracks from the new album. We saw many special friends and in some cases had them ride on the bus with us. I don't think they will ever be the same after that!
Lets talk about the fans.You guys are obviously devoted to your fans, one example being the big Molly Hatchet contest this month in GRITZ. Your feelings on MH fans?
Yes, and we are real excited about this. As you know the fans are the most important thing to Molly Hatchet and we wanted to give back to the fans a chance to experience what the band does on a nightly basis. We are having the winner of the contest join us on the road for an Evening with Molly Hatchet and the runner-up receives an autographed guitar from the band. We want to show our appreciation because if it wasn't for the fans we would not be able to continue. Yes, the music is our life and our love, and to see fans smile, raise hell in the audience and party with us is something that words cannot describe and we are seeing not only the veteran fans from the early days but their kids, and in some cases their kids. It's great and the fans has given Molly Hatchet the opportunity to keep doing this. And as long as the good Lord is willing and there are dedicated fans, there will be Molly Hatchet. Good Luck to all of the participants!
What's next for the band?
Touring, Touring and more Touring! Since the band has recently released the new album in Japan, we're are in negotiations for a tour of the pacific rim which would include Japan and Australian. Also, the band was successful in landing a multi-album recording deal with SPV/CBH Records in Europe and CMC International Records in the United States. So, it looks like Molly Hatchet will be recording and releasing new music for many, many years to come.
Any last comments or points of interest?
A special thanks to Duane Roland for his insight and belief in the band and giving us the opportunity to carry on. Finally, I would also like to add that Pat Armstrong who had the last remaining interest in the name, Molly Hatchet, contacted me last year about the purchase of the name and I'm proud to announce that all of the necessary requirements have been made, and that I am the sole owner of the name and trade/service mark. Let's all look to the future and long live southern rock and long live the spirit, tradition and legacy of Molly Hatchet!!!
Be sure to visit mollyhatchet.com