Danny Joe Brown, of the Southern rock band Molly Hatchet, died Thursday at his home in Davie, Florida. Brown, diagnosed with diabetes when he was 19 and in poor health since suffering a stroke in 1998, succumbed to renal failure and pneumonia. He was 53.
Molly Hatchet was formed in 1974 by Brown, and lead guitarists David Hlubek and Steve Holland. Their name was taken from a 17th century prostitute known for chopping off her clients’ heads. Guitarist Duane Roland, bassist Banner Thomas and drummer Bruce Camp joined the following year to complete the six-member lineup, based in Jacksonville FL.
After a few years of extensive work on the road, playing in clubs and small venues, the band released its debut album Molly Hatchet in 1978. The debut was a success, going platinum, and the followup, Flirtin’ With Disaster sold two million copies, the title song becoming the groups biggest hit, reaching #42 on the Billboard charts.
Brown was known for his very distintive raspy voice, so when he left the band in 1980, claiming exhaustion from touring and struggling with his diabetes, the group’s fortunes declined. Brown released a self-titled solo album, while the band cut two albums without him, with Jimmy Farrar on vocals, Beatin’ the Odds and Take No Prisoners. Neither had the impact of the first two, and Brown rejoined the group in 1982, recording No Guts…No Glory in 1983 and Deed Is Done in 1984. A live set, Double Trouble Live followed in 1985, but by then the band was barely scraping the charts, and were dropped from its label.
While the band kept a fairly consistent Southern-fried metal sound throughout their career, reminiscent somewhat of the Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd crossed with Mountain, they never came close to approaching the work of their influences. A small but faithful cult of fans has sustained the band to this day, despite numerous lineup changes in later years (following Brown’s stroke, he ceased performing), but none of their sporadic 90’s releases have left much impression. The band’s latest release (without Brown) was Kingdom of XII in 2001.
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