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|AN INTERVIEW WITH JIMMY
CLASSIC ROCK REVISITED - 2004
It was about 1:00AM Saturday, the last night of Bike Week in Myrtle Beach, SC during the summer of 2000. After a week long binge of over-indulging in several shows a night, I was cruising the highways on my Harley, hoping to run across that killer show that would be the perfect ending to an exciting week. I didnít have to go any further than Cecilís, a popular local bikerís bar, who had booked the Southern Rock Allstars to close out their week-long entertainment schedule to find what I was looking for. With former members of Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, the Rossington Band and Radio Tokyo in their midst, I knew this show would be the Bell of the Ball for the week. I enjoyed the boys of SRA so much, their Saturday night show was also my Bike Week Grand Finale in 2001 and 2002. Since that time, the solid southern four-piece has now become five, adding yet another ex-Hatchet member, lead vocalist Jimmy Farrar who replaced Danny Joe Brown in the early 80's, to the SRA fold. Hereís what Jimmy had to say about SRA, Molly Hatchet and his life in-between.
Clyde: The last time I saw SRA they were still a four-piece and all the guys shared the lead vocals duty. What do you think made them decide to bring in a frontman on vocals?
Jimmy: I have no idea but Iím glad they did.
Clyde: How did you end up in the band?
Jimmy: In 1999 I did this benefit for Danny Joe Brown down in Orlando. Jax [Jackson Spires] and SRA were there. That was when Dave [Hlubek] was in the band. So we did that show then they started calling me asking if I would do special guest spots. And, of course, I always said yes. It got to the point where they were calling me almost every weekend so finally Jax just said, Ďhey, why donít you just join the band.í And I said ĎI thought youíd never ask.í Thatís the way it happened. It was just kind of a gradual thing. I think they just wanted to add something else to the band. Everybody else in the band sings and plays their instrument but I just sing. I donít play anything. I concentrate on my vocals and try and make it as good as it can be. Evidently I must have done something right and tickled them in the right place because they hired me.
Clyde: Do the other guys still do any lead vocals?
Jimmy: Jay [Johnson] still does. Charlie[Hart] sings harmony and Jax sings harmony.
Clyde: How would you say youíve changed the band?
Jimmy: Well, any time you put a vocalist with a band that has his own sound... because I donít sound like anybody. And I worked on that as I was coming up because I wanted to be original. Any time you put somebody in that position with a distinctive vocal, itís going to add another dimension to the band.
Clyde: You were with Molly Hatchet for two albums, correct?
Jimmy: Yes, ďBeatiní the OddsĒ and ďTake No PrisonersĒ from 1980 to 82.
Clyde: What were you doing between Molly Hatchet and SRA?
Jimmy: I was raising a family and working my ass off.
Clyde: So you put the music down for awhile?
Jimmy: No, not really. I played on the weekends with local bands. But as far as going out and doing another real serious vocal thing, I never did. The main reason I left Molly Hatchet was because of my kids. I saw my son the day he was born and took him to his mother to be fed for the first time. Then I picked up my bag, walked out of the hospital and I didnít see him again until he was three months old. If you have kids, you know what Iím talking about. Thatís three months of his life that I can never recall. And Iíll never be able to replace that. Thatís three months out of his life that I missed. So I decided my children were more important than my music and I came home.
Clyde: Well youíre back on the road with SRA now. But I would imagine thatís a lighter schedule than Molly Hatchet.
Jimmy: Yes, it is. Itís not that much lighter, but it is a little lighter. The first year I was out on tour with Hatchet we did almost 300 shows. At the end of the tour we figured it out and we averaged 6.5 shows a week.
Clyde: Thatís a lot of shows in a seven-day week.
Jimmy: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. We did one stretch through the Midwest where we did 26 straight one-nighters. We played 26 nights in a row before we had a day off.
Clyde: How did you end up in Molly Hatchet?
Jimmy: I went down to play in Daytona Beach, FL with a band called Raw Energy. We met this guy down there that wanted to run lights for us who had been a roadie for Hatchet. We were trying to get more work and he took us to Macon to see Pat Armstrong, Molly Hatchetís manager, to see if he wanted to book us. They made me wait about three hours in the waiting room. Then he called me in and put the tape on. He listened to one song. Then he fast forwarded the tape and listened to another song, then another song. And he asked me if Iíd like to be signed to a personal management contract. I thought he was talking about the whole band, and I said sure, thatís what we came here for. But he wasnít talking about the whole band. He was talking about me. So I signed the contract that day. About a month later he called me up at about two oíclock in the morning. And asked how I would feel about auditioning for another band. I told him I had a bar band and I didnít need another one because I had a damn good one now. So I said Ďwho is it?í And he said Ď I canít tell you.í So I said Ďwell then, Iím as sorry as I can be but I canít come to Macon then.í Then he said Ďwell, itís Molly Hatchet.í And I saidí Iíll be there.í So I went over there and they had rented a club called the Warehouse. They set the entire concert stage up in there. They cranked up, I sang three songs and they hired me on the spot.
Clyde: Molly Hatchet is your typical bigger arena type band complete with all the backstage security while SRA is more of a free and easy kind of walk in the front door of the bar and talk to everyone on your way in bunch. Was it a big adjustment to go from one to the other?
Jimmy: It was not a big adjustment because the stroll through the bar you talked about is the way I always was anyway. I always went out and walked through the crowd. Every night I made it my business because if youíre going to entertain people, first theyíve got to get a little insight on you before they can enjoy what you do. And thatís the quickest way for them to get it is to go out there among them. Youíve got to get out there and talk to people, make friends and make yourself accessible to the public because thatís what they want. Besides all that, itís fun. I love to talk to people. Iím not standoffish with the people that come to see me. I want for them to know me. And thatís the quickest way I know how to do it, is to get out there and mix with them, because Iím no different then them. You know, itís like a big lottery. God says, okay, I want this one to sing, this one to play the piano, I want this one to be a guitarist. Itís a luck thing. And you have to be thankful for that. Thatís one way to give thanks, go out and meet the people and tell them that youíre glad to see them. And donít be bullshitting them. Thatís just ugly. Youíve got to be honest and sincere with people because if youíre not, theyíll pick it up. They know a bullshit artist when they see one.
Clyde: You mentioned Dave Hlubek earlier. From what Iíve seen Iíd say he was the class clown of SRA. Has anybody picked up that role since heís left?
Jimmy: I donít know. Itís hard to designate whoís the class clown when youíre living with five clowns. Everybody has a wonderful sense of humor in the whole organization. We love interacting with one another and joking with one another. And thatís a big part of SRA. We can joke with one another and enjoy one anotherís company. And thatís a big thing.
Clyde: Speaking still of Dave, when he left SRA he was replaced with another original Molly Hatchet guitarist, Duane Roland. Would you say thereís much difference between the Dave versus Duane versions of SRA?
Jimmy: Did you ever hear SRA before Duane came out?
Clyde: Actually, every time I heard SRA was when Dave was still with band.
Jimmy: Well, Iíll tell you what, I think the band sounds a lot better but Iíll reserve that statement. You just let us come close to you, and you come out and see us and you tell me if it sounds better or worse. Is that fair enough?
Clyde: Fair enough. I canít wait.
Jimmy: I think itís stronger than bad breath right now, buddy. I guarantee it. And I think itís a better band. But thatís just me and Iím right in here. Iím up to my eyeballs in it so naturally thatís what Iím going to think. So Iíll just leave the judgment to you.
Clyde: I interviewed Duane a few months back and he talked about the possibility of seeing a live SRA album released soon. Is that still in the works?
Jimmy: Yeah, weíre working on it. Sometime after the first of the year it should be ready, I think. Plus weíre working on a new studio album. But thatís always, anytime day or night the inspiration for a new song can hit.
Clyde: How does the song writing process work for SRA? Do you guys collaborate or does everyone write their own music?
Jimmy: Itís a lot of collaboration- a lot. Itís much, much better to draw on the experience of five than the experience of one.
Clyde: I interviewed Jackson a few years back for a local magazine. It was right after Danger Road came out and among other things we talked about record companies and recording contracts. He said, at least at that point in time, the guys had all been down that road before with big recording contracts and there were a few good offers the band actually turned down because SRA was more interested in keeping their own control as opposed to turning over too much control to a record company. Is that still the general philosophy of the band?
Jimmy: That is the consensus between the five, I mean of the six. If we can do it ourselves then I think we ought to go ahead and do it ourselves instead of letting someone else in to cut out a piece of the pie and like Jax said, get control. When you play what you want to play, itís always better than when you play what someone else tells you to play.
Clyde: So can we assume itís safe to say we wonít see a commercialized version of SRA anytime in the near future?
Jimmy: Well, you never know what might happen. Someone might just tickle us in the right spot. If that happens, whoís to say. But for right now at the present time I would say weíre pretty much going to be independent.
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