by Michael Buffalo Smith
Molly Hatchet is a band that has kept it rocking for over thirty years now with no signs of slowing up. Through all the personel changes, the good times and the not so good times, the band has kept the music alive. Now, they have found a whole new sense of purpose as they deliver their first real time concept album, Justice, dedicated to the memory of Somer Thompson, the little girl from their community who was abducted by a stranger and killed last October. That tragedy sparked their entire album and a beautiful new song, as well as a whole movement, a foundation to help other families who have gone through similar tragedy.
GRITZ spoke with Molly Hatchet guitar slinger Bobby Ingram about the band, the album, and Somer.
Bobby, there have been a lot of changes since out last interview seven years ago, What has it been like having our buddy Dave Hlubek back in the band?
Oh great. He came aboard in 2005. It’s been a great thing for the veteran fans because it adds to the nostalgia of the band. Of course Dave was one of the founders of the group. I don’t like to speak for Dave, but I believe it’s been really great for him to get back out and play under the Molly Hatchet banner again. It’s great for him to be able to express himself in a different way now, you know. It’s like a homecoming. Dave and I knew each other way back before the band got their first record deal in 1978. I think we’ve known each other since about ‘73. So it’s like looking over and seeing a brother in a lot of ways, a family member.
And Timmy Lindsey is with the group now. He was the original bass player even before Banner Thomas. And John Galvin and I go back over 30 years playing together now. Thirty years, wow. (Laughs) There were a lot of changes prior to Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge, but now this is the longest standing lineup in the history of Molly Hatchet. There have been no changes since 2005. Things have settled in. I mean, things are gonna change as you move along, it’s generational. But this combination of musicians seems to work really well to carry on the legacy and tradition of the band. I am really happy with all the band members. Dave, Timmy, John and I are hanging in there, and Phil (McCorkack) is hanging in there, and Shawn Beamer is still on the drums. He is something else. A monster. He sparks the guitar lineup because he’s on the cutting edge, and that helps me and Dave because we don’t ever want to fall back into an easy Holiday Inn-ish kind of feel. (Laughs) Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I still like to turn the amps up and get feedback, I’m still into that. I guess I’m a kid at heart that never grew up, but I don’t know if I want to.
The new album Justice is one of your best. I love it. Tell me about how the song for Somer Thompson came about.
We were playing at The Hard Rock in Orlando, this was October of 2009, and we had seen in the newspaper and on Headline News that there had been a seven year old schoolgirl who was abducted while walking home from school. That was right in our community. And we were going, what? This doesn’t sound right. But then we started hearing more and more about it. That happened on Monday, the 19th of October, and I think I got the call that Friday to come in on Saturday and do a benefit for the Somer Thompson family. They had just found her body in a Georgia landfill. It really upset our nice little community here that everybody loved and still loves. It was such a horriffic thing to happen in our community. So we said sure, we are there. Whatever you need us to do.
So then it came the middle of the night, Michael, and I found myself up in my attic of all places, going through things. There was a box up there my wife Stephanie had put together before she died and it had a sweet letter on top that said “To my husband Bobby - open on a rainy day.” In all the times I had been up there I had never seen this box. And I opened it up and it had all these things she had collected, all wrapped in newspaper like family heirlooms, different Molly Hatchet things that had come from the record company or things people had given me on the road. All sorts of memorabilia. I had something from Ronnie James Dio,all sorts of stuff like pictures from my first rehearsal..
(Laughs) I know! I didn’t even recognize myself. She’d been putting this stuff up for me for years. So I took 40 of those items down to the first fundraiser, and there were hundreds of them. And that was to help bury little Somer. The FBI took us over to meet Deana, her mother. There were people there from CNN, investigative reporters and FBI agents all over the place. She had already been briefed on my situation and I had been briefed on her situation on the way over. So I held her and I told her, I know how it is to suffer and I know how it is to lose somebody. You wake up one morning and they are gone. And I know what it’s like to have everybody tell you ‘Oh, we’ll be right beside you, whatever you need. Call us anytime.’ Well, six months down the road, you can’t find anybody at all. And me being with no family, I was totally alone.
I gave up after Stephanie died. I didn’t want to do anything, Then when this happened, I was able to help someone else. Different circumstances, but the end result was still a death. But I was just so happy to help someone else. You know, John Lennon had his “Imagine.” His was for peace. This was my “Imagine.” I believe everybody has there own “Imagine,” the way they see the world. My “Imagine” came to light. It’s just one person helping someone else. If you just help someone, and that person helps another person and so on - the end result is everybody helping each other. We’re in a bad economic time right now. It’s bad all over the world. But that’s all I had to offer, music. That’s what I could offer, and I did.
We had already been in the studio and done pre-production for a new album. I had another album written and we shelved that and started from scratch after writing “Fly On Wings of Angels.” We wrote that song in 20 minutes. It was one of the easiest we have ever written and one of the hardest to record. We went to Europe right after that and started recording and tracking it. I had John Bonham’s engineer come in to do the engineering. And I went both analog and digital on the recording. It was a hybrid record. We had the analog transformers and the digital of Pro Tools. To me that was just wonderful. That’s why it’s got so much imaging in the album, and so much depth and warmth. So all of this inspired the Justice album.
There’s a lot of injustice throughout the world - in countries, religions, politics, civilizations, individuals, families, you name it. On the positive side there has also been a lot of justice served. So I think that in the history of the group this is the first real time concept album we have done. And what I mean by real time is there is a trial going on right now. They have arrested someone and charged him with the crime. I don’t even want to mention his name, because I don’t wanna glorify him any. And I don’t know anything else to do besides stand by somebody when they are suffering and try to help. Maybe through the new Somers Law we will be able to help some other families. The best thing that can come out of this tragedy is the foundation at somerthompsonfoundation.com. It’s a newly established resource. And there’s a very high tech law that’s getting ready to be put into place. That’s pretty much the real time concept of the record.
Well all I have to say Bobby is I am so very proud of you for doing such a wonderful thing. I mean, what better thing is there for us as residents of planet earth to do than to help others. So bravo, and thank you for lending your talents and heart to such a noble cause.
Well Michael, I want to thank you. You talk to some of the greatest entertainers, and people that can help other people. People that are in the position to help. Coming from you man I take that as an honor.
Well, some of them help, but sadly there are those who could but don’t.
And that brings me to the next thing that I wanted to say. During this recovery time after losing g Stephanie, I didn’t want to record anymore. All I wanted to do was play live, keep the group going, I didn’t care about writing music anymore. I had lost my way, literally. Now I have found a purpose in life again. But this is a totally different purpose than what it was seven years ago. I know now that I am able to help people and I know that there is a purpose in that. You actually help yourself, you help your own heart when you help other people. I felt I had a purpose again. I felt like recording again. I felt like putting out the Justice album, and giving a message now. Not just putting out a bunch of songs.
It’s so great because he foundation is gonna help so many other families that are in a similar situation.
Exactly, Michael. So it’s the start of the Justice Tour, and we have seen a lot of people come forth now to help, not only in the music industry, but a lot of Hollywood celebrities that wanna stand behind what we’re doing. A lot of politicians as well. I’m getting calls from some pretty heavy weight Florida politicians who want to help us find a way to help people nationally and hopefully internationally.
Are you guys doing the Lynyrd Skynyrd Simple Man Cruise again this year?
I’m not sure yet, but that cruise is a great thing. We have so much fun, and it gets you to where you can really talk to people. They tell you things and you can have dinner with them and all. There’s bands playing around the clock and it’s just a good thing. And the guys in Skynyrd man, what can I say, they’re top notch every one of ‘em. I hope we are on it again this year but I am not sure yet.
What else is happening with the band? Did I hear something about a new music video?
We’ve got a VH1 video that’s in the works and we’ve also got a CMT video we are doing for Somer’s song. So we are gonna be doing a lot of things that we haven’t done in a very long time. (Laughs) But with the Somer Thompson video we want everyone to participate that helped with the search for her, the media, friends, the churches, family, law enforcement. Little Abby, Somer’s sister appears on the front part of that song singing, and she’ll be in the video. So we are really looking forward to that.
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