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The 1970s Workhorses: Phoenix Gems and the music of Molly Hatchet, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes and the Atlanta Rhythm Section

By Brian L. Knight

The term “jam band” may be a new word from linguistic point of view, but the term’s connotation is no stranger to rock and roll.  Once again, Phoenix Media is proving that jam bands have been around for a long time with the release of live recordings of Molly Hatchet, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes and the Atlanta Rhythm Section.  These three CDs were recorded during the late 1970s and early 1980s.  It was an uncertain in rock and roll – disco was dead, punk was dying and new wave had yet to arrive.  Once the dust had settled after the disco/punk revolution, it was hard touring bands like the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Marshall Tucker Band and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes that kept on playing their hard driving rock and roll.  While CDGBs and Studio 54 were all the rage, these bands continued playing everything from large stadiums to small clubs.  These rockers pleasantly reminded the music world that disco and punk were simply fads and that classic rock & roll was the only musical form with the real integrity.


The Atlanta Rhythm Section – Live at the Savoy, New York October 27, 1981

The Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS) came together in 1970-1971 in Doraville, Georgia.  Most of the forming members were experienced session players while Dean Daughtry used to play in the 1960’s band, the Candymen, Roy Orbison’s backing band.  Before joining the ARS, Cobb was in the Jacksonville group, the Classics IV and he also played on albums by Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson.  Lead vocalist Ronnie Hammond was also the engineer for The Hampton Grease Band’s 1971 album, Music to Eat.  For fans of modern day bands such as The Aquarium Rescue Unit and the Fiji Mariners, they would be interested to know that the Hampton Grease Band was one of Colonel Bruce Hampton’s first musical endeavors. 

                    At the time of this recording, the band consisted of Cobb, Hammond, Daughtry, Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard and Roy Yeager.  The songs “’I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”, “Large Time”, “Imaginary Lover” “Champagne Jam” were from the band’s 1978 album, Champagne Jam.  “Homesick” was the hit of the day as it came from their 1981 album, Quinella.  “Spooky” was a remake of the song that Cobb originally made famous with his first band, the Classics IV.  “So Into You” is from their 1977 album Rock 'n' Roll Alternative.  This song sent the band from local favorites is national powerhouses.  They closed with the classic Little Richard rocker  “Long Tall Sally”



Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes – Live at the Paradise Theater, Boston.  MA 12.23.78

Often dubbed "The World's Greatest Bar Band", Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes has had over 100 players pass through its ranks.  This a phenomenon that would even make Art Blakey surprised.  Despite countless lineups, the core has always been held down singer/harmonica player John Lyon and the Jukes followed closely behind Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as the Garden State’s finest musical export.  Even more so, the Asbury Jukes felt the Boss’s presence with E Street Band member Miami Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen himself offering producing and songwriting skills to the band. 

            This live recording reflects the E Street Band influence with the Jukes performing Van Zandt penned songs like “This Time It is For Real”, “Got me Where She Wants”, “Next To You”, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” and “This Time Baby’s Gone For Good”.  The Springsteen offerings included “Fever,” “Talk To Me” and “Love on the Wrong Side of Town.”  “I Don’t Want To Go Home” and “Fever” were from their album I Don't Want to Go Home.  The Motown sound is felt with a version of Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party.”  Since this concert fell two before Christmas, the spirit of Noel was celebrated with “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Merry Christmas Baby.”

        This show arrived at the peak of the Juke’s run.  From the years 1975-1978, the Jukes recorded three albums for Epic Records which all attained popular success.  In an on line interview with, Southside Johnny explained how the album came about: “The company called me and said "Some guy has the rights to a concert you did in 1978 and they want to put it out as an album and give us money.”  I said "OKAY!" (laughs) I never even heard it. They asked me if I wanted to and I said "No. I already heard it. I was there, remember?" (laughs) But the Paradise Theater was great. It was a real fancy place with nice chairs and beautiful lighting. Of course, we went in and just trashed it. So, the next time we played there all the seats had been bolted to the floor (laughs). But I remember at that show the horns ended up in the audience and I was under a table somewhere. It was one of those real no-holds-barred shows.”


Molly Hatchet – Live at the Agora Ballroom, Atlanta, GA 04.20.79

Named after Hatchet Molly, who was a 17th Century mistress who beheaded her lovers (sort of a Medieval Praying Mantis), Molly Hatchet consisted of Danny Joe Brown (vocals), Dave Hlubek (lead guitar), Duane Roland (guitar), Steve Holland (guitar), Banner Thomas (bass) and Bruce Crump (drums).  With three guitarists and no horn or piano, you know this Jacksonville band is all about hard driving rock and roll. 

    This concert culls material from their first two Epic recordings albums – their 1978 eponymous debut recording and 1979’s Flirtin’ with Disaster.  Their first album produced classic Hatchet tunes like “Bounty Hunter,” “Creeper” and “Gator Country” which can all be found on this live recording.  With their version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” Molly Hatchet showed that the Mississippi Blues belong in the Southern USA and not in Eric Clapton’s London.  With “Dreams I’ll Never See”, the band paid tribute the southern band that paved the way for southern bands like Hatchet, Wet Willie and Lynard Skynard – The Allman Brothers Band.    Back before it was a popular thing to do, Molly Hatchet played this raucous concert on 4/20.  In the age of the Jam Bands, concerts on April 20 are a common occurrence for the date is revered as a day of celebration amongst the youth of today.  Twenty-one years ago, April 20 was just another day on the road for the hard rocking Molly Hatchet.  This is raw Molly Hatchet.  They were young, eager to play and road proven.  During this time in the band’s history, they were playing up to 250 live shows per year.  This recording does not reveal tired road hogs but rather seasoned players who were ready to shake the Agora Ballroom’s foundations.  


    Like the jam bands of today, these bands played by the same credo – extensive touring created loyal fan bases.  These three bands lived on the road and by doing so, they developed a stalwart appreciation.  The same applies for today – of course, a hit song like the ARS’s “So into You” will assist in record sales, but nothing is better than playing live.  These Phoenix Gems releases are testaments to that fact.   Check these albums out at