June 19, 2006 – Duane Roland was born on December 3rd 1953 in Jeffersonville, Indiana and moved to Florida at the age of 7. Music was evident in the Roland home – Duane’s dad was an occasional guitarist, and his mom was a concert pianist. Duane originally played drums in his first band, at high school, before gravitating to the guitar.
On his decision to become a serious musician he said: “I was at the “West Palm Beach Music Festival” and the line up was Johnny Winter, Vanilla Fudge,Janis Joplin, King Krimson and the Rolling Stones. It had rained and I was laying on a piece of plastic. King Krimson was late so Johnny Winter, Janis Joplin and The Vanilla Fudge got up and jammed and I came straight up off that plastic and said, “That’s what I wanna do! I watched Johnny play and that was it for me.”
Duane originally tried to put a band together with Banner Thomas, and Bruce Crump but it didn’t really work. He made his name in Florida as a guitarist with The Ball Brothers Band. When The Ball Brothers split, Duane filled in for Dave Hlubek with Molly Hatchet when Dave was unable to make a gig. He was in!! The band had originally formed around Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 and taken their name from a 17th century prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients with a hatchet.
Molly Hatchet was formed in 1971 by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland. Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, Duane Roland, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump in 1975. When they finally got their recording contract with Epic they got some help and advice from Ronnie Van Zant, who was originally suppose to produce the album, but was unable to due to the tragic plane crash in ’77. Because of this the band’s debut was not released until late 1978. Fortunately for the band, this late delivery did little to deter their popularity. By the time their second record was released, the band had became enormously popular and stayed that way for many years despite the departure of vocalist/frontman Danny Joe Brown. Brown left the band in 1980 due to health problems stemming from diabetes. Others have stated that the band worked hard on the road, and drank just as hard, which was the reason that Brown had to go. Brown returned to the band in ’83 for a successful tour and the release of “No Guts No Glory”.
Duane began performing with Molly Hatchet fulltime in 1975, and he remained with the band through various personnel changes until he left in 1990. (the only exception being when he quit the band for ONE DAY during a summer tour in 1983!!)
They recorded and released their first album, “Molly Hatchet” in 1978, followed by “Flirtin’ with Disaster” in 1979. They toured behind the album building a larger fan base. He recorded seven albums with the band and is is credited with co-writing some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Bloody Reunion” and “Boogie No More”. During his stay, he was famous for his ability to nail his lead spots in just one take. He was actually the only member of the classic lineup to appear on all seven albums. The only song he didn’t perform on was “Cheatin’ Woman”. He also co-wrote a great deal of classic Molly Hatchet music. Duane appeared on the 1989 album “Junkyard” by the band of the same name.
At the time he left in 1990, he was the owner of the Molly Hatchet brand. The agreement in the band had always been that the last man standing got the name.
Duane then quit music for almost a decade and ran a company in the field of office machine repairs and later became a call centre supervisor with an Internet company.
Duane was the only Hatchet original to not play in the Dixie Jam Band during Jammin’ for DJB. Riff West (the shows organiser) sites “legal difficulties” as the reason Duane did not perform. He did however, lend his talents by added his guitar tracks in the studio.
In 2002, Duane’s employer was bought out, and unemployment beckoned. He was also suffering problems with his hip, which he had replaced in late 2002. During his recuperation, the news broke that Jimmy Farrar had joined the SRA, and it wasn’t long before Jimmy was trying to bring Duane out again. He was on leave from the the Southern Rock Allstars to recuperate from a hip operation when in November 2004, Riff West confirmed that the rumours of a reunion of sorts were true. Riff, Bruce Crump, Steve Holland, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Jimmy Farrar were rehearsing. Dave Hlubek dropped out of the project in January 2005 however…so the new band were the remaining five and Bruce’s bandmate from Daddy-Oh, guitarist Linne Disse. They named themselves after their classic song…”Gator Country Band” and kicked off their career in style opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd on March 12, 2005 in Orlando, FLA. Gator Country, included many of the founding members of Molly Hatchet
Duane Roland sadly passed away at his home in St. Augustine, Florida on Monday June 19, 2006. He was 53, and his death was apparently from “natural causes”.
“He had a heart as big as Texas and a talent twice that big,” said singer Jimmy Farrar, who performed with Roland in all three bands. “Not only was he a colleague but he was one of the best friends I ever had and he will be sorely missed.”
Drummer Bruce Crump said Roland was the anchor of Molly Hatchet during the 1980s, a time when the band’s lineup was constantly changing. “During all that time, Duane was the constant,” said Crump. “I can’t imagine playing Molly Hatchet music without Duane Roland. It just wouldn’t be the same.”
“…then the Allman Brothers came along and made the sound heavier and started churning out these 15-minute songs. Next, Lynyrd Skynyrd came along and refined that sound: made it more powerful and crunchier. Then you had Marshall Tucker and Grinderswitch and they added a country flavor to it and then came Molly Hatchet and we were the first to put a metal edge to it. That was the evolution of the things that were taking place then.”
– Dave Hlubek