There was a time, 40 years ago or so, when Jacksonville was the epicenter of the rock music scene.
Southern rockers ruled the airwaves in the mid to late-’70s. I lived a thousand miles away, but I couldn’t turn on my favorite rock station without hearing a song from the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Blackfoot or Molly Hatchet, all of which formed in Jacksonville.
But the years have taken their toll on my old radio heroes, either through death or attrition. Just this week, we learned of the passing of Dave Hlubek, Molly Hatchet’s founding guitarist and the second original member of that band to die this year — bassist Banner Thomas died in April, leaving guitarist Steve Holland as the only survivor from the original six-piece band. Gregg Allman passed away earlier this year, and nearly all of those high-flying bands that once dominated rock radio have lost founding members.
I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise — it’s been four decades, and rock bands tend to live fast lives. Still, it’s sobering to put on “Whipping Post,” “Train Train,” “Gator Country” or “Wild Eyed Southern Boys” and think of all those wild-eyed Southern boys who are no longer around. You can still see most of them live — the Allman Brothers played their last show in 2014, but Skynyrd, .38 Special, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet continue to tour (although, among the four bands, just two original members remain).
During a 2003 interview, Hlubek talked about the scene in Jacksonville in the early to mid-’70s, when the Allmans and Skynyrd had already made it big and dozens of bands were trying to break out.
“It was a period of time the likes of which will never come back again,” he said at the time “The talent pool in Jacksonville alone was just amazing. I’m proud to be from Jacksonville. I know all the bands that came out of there at that time. We were all intertwined. It was an amazing, amazing time. There’s like a dozen major bands that came out of Duval County.”
The clubs were packed with bands, he said. Some made it, some didn’t.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that the bands that really stuck it out made it as big as they did,” Hlubek said in ‘03. “Nothing came easy. We worked our [behinds] off. Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special, Grinderswitch, all of us. Most of the bars we played, you had to fight your way in and out of. It was so competitive, but it made us strong. There were great bands that, for whatever reason, didn’t make it. There were so many great bands in Jacksonville between 1970 and ‘78, you just couldn’t believe the talent pool. There are guitar players who blew me away, and now they’re working for UPS or something. For whatever reason, God didn’t smile on them.”
Tom Szaroleta: (904) 359-4548