Monday, September 4, 2017

DAVE HLUBEK: A Personal Tribute to a Rock Legend

DAVE HLUBEK
A Personal Tribute
to a Rock Legend
_________________________

Sadly, Labor Day Weekend
2017 has marked the loss
of yet another rock legend.
_________________________

Located in Fern Park, near the old Jai-Alai Fronton, Record City was a mecca for Central Florida music enthusiasts during the late '70s and early '80s. Occupying what I recall as being a free-standing, 10,000 square-foot building, Record City always was brimming with wall-to-wall, bargain-priced records and tapes. As a rock-crazed teen, I kept a well-worn path from my parents' house near Cocoa Beach, to the supercenter-sized Orlando outlet — a destination that I considered, Heaven on Earth. However, there was one particular Record City run that remains truly memorable.

It was late spring, 1980. My younger brother and I had hitched a ride that Saturday morning with our high school buddy, Dave. And as we stood in the check-out line, waiting to pay for our vinyl bounty, Ridin' the Storm Out, Rocket to Russia, 2112, and others, I noticed the guy standing behind us. Sporting waist-length, reddish-brown hair and mirror shades, and wearing a black t-shirt, dark blue Levis and snakeskin boots, I knew darn well who this character was as soon as I got a good glimpse of his bearded mug. Heck, I'd just seen the man's band perform in concert with The Outlaws and .38 Special a couple of months earlier. He was founding Molly Hatchet guitarist, Dave Hlubek.

Riding the recent tsunami generated by TWO back-to-back platinum-selling LPs, the Jacksonville-based band members had reportedly been seen popping up all over the Central Florida area. Yet, we definitely did NOT see this encounter coming when we woke up that morning.

Upon paying for our goods, the three of us teenage punks waited anxiously outside for the newly-minted guitar god to also make his way out of the store. Despite totally playing up his newfound cock rock celebrity status, Hlubek proved to be quite a decent guy — actually spending a few quality minutes chatting with us before climbing into his brand new, jet black muscle car and popping his just-purchased Let There Be Rock 8-track into the car deck —  autographs for all!

Dave Hlubek (L) with Molly Hatchet - 1979
Fast-forward to spring 2001. Now nearly 40 years old, I was then the entertainment director for a popular nightclub in Palm Bay, Florida. And I was especially jazzed about having gotten a discounted performance rate on a band called, the Southern Rock Allstars. Led by one of my longtime heroes, former Blackfoot drummer, Jakson Spires, SRA also featured the one-and-only Dave Hlubek on lead guitar.

One of the things I remember most about the experience working with SRA, aside from the intra-band squabbling, was Hlubek peddling live Molly Hatchet CDs from a small dingy-looking knapsack during intermission. After having seen various SRA members performing at Enormo-Domes with their original bands back in the day, the sight of Hlubek glad-handing fans in a beer joint, and stuffing their $10 bills awkwardly into his pocket was a little heartbreaking. However, Hlubek and Spires both proved to be charming fellas who I would have worked with again gladly in the future.

By 2005, Hlubek had returned to Molly Hatchet. He would remain with the legendary band he founded back in 1971 until his death at age 66 on September 3, 2017.

Today, the music created by the original Molly Hatchet sounds as crisp and fresh as when it first was released decades ago. And although the Hlubek-penned anthems, "Gator Country," "Flirtin' with Disaster" and "Whiskey Man" will remain timeless classic rock radio staples, my personal favorite Hlubek songs include such latter album tracks as "Beatin' the Odds" and "Bloody Reunion."

He'll be remembered forever by fans around the world. But, I'll always remember Dave Hlubek as an incredibly talented man who always was nice to me. RIP, Dave! 

-Christopher Long
(September 2017)

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