IN MEMORIAM: Phil McCormack of Molly Hatchet
From Gene Sirokman on Fb, 4/28/19: So sad to hear of the passing of friend Phil McCormack. Condolences and prayers to his friends and family. RIP Phil, you will be missed….
Molly Hatchet is an American Southern hard rock band that formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1971. The band was founded by guitarist Dave Hlubek in 1971. The band is best known for their 1979 hit song “Flirtin’ with Disaster”. The band originated and was based in Jacksonville, Florida and shared influences and inspiration with what is perhaps the most well-known act in the Southern rock genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Bassist Banner Thomas and guitarist Steve Holland joined the band in 1974. Bruce Crump would become the drummer in early 1975, and guitarist Duane Roland and singer Danny Joe Brown joined in 1976.
Hlubek, along with Banner Thomas, also wrote/co-wrote and co-produced many of the band’s songs. Hlubek has stated that the demise of Lynyrd Skynyrd opened the door for Molly Hatchet. Members of 38 Special referred the band to manager Pat Armstrong who, with partner Alan Walden, had briefly been co-manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1970.
Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant was slated to produce Molly Hatchet’s first album, having helped in writing arrangements and directing rehearsals prior to his death. Molly Hatchet cut their first demos in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 8-track recording studio using their equipment. Other demos were cut in Jacksonville’s Warehouse Studios. Warner Bros. Records expressed interest in the resulting recordings from these sessions. However, the band ended up being turned down by Warner, who instead picked Van Halen over Molly Hatchet. After this setback, Hatchet toured the Florida roadhouse and bar circuit. About six months later, Epic Records signed the band to a recording contract in 1977 and brought Tom Werman in as producer.
Werman, known for working with straight hard rock acts such as Cheap Trick and Ted Nugent, combined boogie, blues and hard rock making Molly Hatchet’s sound different from more country-influenced acts, such as The Outlaws.
The band released their first album, Molly Hatchet in September 1978. Its song “Dreams I’ll Never See” (a cover of The Allman Brothers Band 1969 track “Dreams”) got AOR airplay.
Molly Hatchet was followed by Flirtin’ with Disaster in September 1979, with its title song another AOR hit, as was its first track, “Whiskey Man”, from the album.
Molly Hatchet proceeded to tour behind the records, building a larger fan base. Lead singer Danny Joe Brown left the band in May 1980 because of diabetes and other reasons, only to return two years later.
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In late 1990, a revised band led by Brown and Ingram featured new players Rik Blanz (guitar), Rob Scavetto (keyboards), Eddie Rio (bass) and David Feagle (drums). But the Hatchet’s lineup in the 90s was a bit of a revolving door. Rio was replaced in 1991 by Rob Sweat and then Kevin Rian. Feagle was succeeded the same year by drummer Kenny Holton. Blanz left in mid-1991, Phil McCormack stood in for Brown briefly in early 1992 and by 1993 the lineup was: Brown, Ingram, Erik Lundgren (guitar), Mac Crawford (drums) and a returning Banner Thomas (bass), with Mike Kach (keyboards), who was replaced in 1994 by Andy Orth. Bryan Bassett (ex-Wild Cherry) took over as second guitarist in 1994 and Buzzy Meekins (formerly of the Outlaws) was bassist from 1994 to 1995.
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In April 1995, after continuing health problems, Brown had to once again leave the band and Phil McCormack (formerly of The Roadducks and Brown’s 1992 stand-in) was brought back.
During the rest of the 1990s, the band’s line-up did not feature any of the members who had performed in Molly Hatchet prior to 1984. Bobby Ingram leased, then obtained in 2000, the trademark ownership to work with the name. At this point, the band consisted of vocalist Phil McCormack, guitarists Bobby Ingram and Bryan Bassett, returning keyboardist John Galvin, bassist Andy McKinney and drummer Mac Crawford. In 1998 this line-up recorded the album Silent Reign of Heroes (June 1998).
During the 2000s, the band, which then consisted of Shawn Beamer, John Galvin, Bobby Ingram, Tim Lindsey and Phil McCormack, was still touring full time and performing in the United States, Japan and the Middle East for United States Military personnel.
Phil McCormack died on April 26, 2019. The cause was not announced.
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Molly Hatchet took its name from a prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients. One iconic aspect of Molly Hatchet’s image is that many of the band’s album covers feature art inspired by heroic fantasy, several of which were painted by artists such as Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and Paul R. Gregory.