The hierarchy for the glory days of southern rock bands is pretty clear cut. Up top you had the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Charlie Daniels Band, and The Outlaws (yeah I know, many people might not place The Outlaws on this tier but, sorry, I’m always going to include my personal all-time favorite group in the upper-most echelon). Principal to each band’s popularity, even to their identity, was at least one gigantic, conspicuously epic jam. With Skynyrd that was, of course, ‘Freebird.’ My guys The Outlaws had ‘Green Grass and High Tides.’ For The Allmans it would most likely be ‘Whipping Post’ (with a close second to ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’), while Marshall Tucker could offer either of ‘Take The Highway’ or ‘Can’t You See’ (incredibly, tracks one and two off their very first album).
Sitting somewhere just below these shaggy, mutton-chopped, southern rock elite were another pack of bands that could kick up some serious dust too – at least a couple of whom also had a particularly bombastic jamming tune of their own. One would be Blackfoot whose anthemic ‘Highway Song’ was deemed worthy in a previous SMGM post of joining ‘Freebird,’ ‘Green Grass,’ and “Whipping Post’ on the Mount Rushmore of epic Southern Rock Jams. And the next, a triple guitar colossus out of Jacksonville, Florida just like their closest musical progenitors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was Molly Hatchet.
Having taken its name from a prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients (I kid you not), Hatchet arrived with an attention-demanding eponymous release in 1978 and followed it up just a year later with their biggest album, Flirtin’ with Disaster. The title track is easily Hatchet’s best known song ever, and it’s a true barnburner complete with gruff, greasy hooks and lead singer Danny Joe Brown’s trademark horse whistle to break-up two positively squealing guitar solos.
Yet for their signature epic tune, the long, slow-building, wave-after-wave jam, we’ve got to jump ahead a few more years to 1983’s No Guts…No Glory record, and the 8-minute leviathan named ‘Fall of the Peacemakers.’ Like ‘Freebird,’ ‘Green Grass,’ and other heady classics of its ilk, the opening half of ‘Peacemaker’ is a mostly easy-going preface to what’s to come – in this case a lyrical homage written by guitarist Dave Hlubek to John Lennon, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, the titular peacemakers all tragically fallen by the madness of an assassin’s bullet – until the song reaches a five-chord apparent conclusion at its midpoint. But then the pace immediately picks up, the guitar-harmonies kick in, and the thunder starts to roll. A relentless series of peace-shattering soloing ensues, moving into an escalating harmonic return, before the turbulent squall of notes eventually fades away some four exhilarating and exhausting minutes later. If the spots on southern rock’s Mount Rushmore of epic jams are already set in stone, it seems an additional carving for this number would be justified. Perhaps even one that could be chiseled with a hatchet.
And a bonus: a live version. A ferocious, sweaty, most definitely epic 11-minute workout.