This article is cross-posted from PanhandlePunk.com.
Below is a trove of items related to Tallahassee first – and quite possibly North Florida’s earliest – punk band, Mad As Hell. Thanks to Mark Striffler and Thad Mickler for unearthing these materials and supplying the images, and Johnny O for facilitation. For more background, check out my earlier post “Who in the hell were Mad As Hell”.
Per Mark Striffler:
Mad As Hell formed on June 1, 1978 as a trio featuring John Olmstead (Johnny O) on guitar and vocals, Randy Hill on bass and vocals, and Ben Mickler on drums. About a year later, they added Bryan Pritchett on rhythm guitar and vocals and became a quartet.
At the time, most gigs required bands to play three or four sets a night of 45 minutes plus in length, so you either had to have a ton of originals or you had to learn covers to fill the gaps.
Mad As Hell had a solid 60 minutes of originals, but they added rock covers to the set list and they were covering songs that most rock bands in the south weren’t at the time (Clash, Vapors, Ramones, Lou Reed).
Several original “punk bands” in the area at the time were just doing original sets (with an occasional Iggy cover, perhaps) and pairing up with other bands so that three and four band bills could cover the full night of music required by the clubs. It made for a robust music scene for a period of time in Tallahassee, as several bands including Persian Gulf, The Know-It-Alls, the Slut Boys, Hated Youth and others formed, developed, and flourished. (Ed. note: Mad As Hell predated all these bands by more than a year.)
Mad As Hell lasted about 2 years, then they changed their name to The News, and then to Deraylers, as they became more of a straight-ahead rock band with punk roots. When the band broke up, Ben moved to Atlanta and played drums with several touring bands from that area, and now lives in Alabama and still plays.
Johnny O is a lawyer in Tampa now, and he plays several stringed instruments (mostly mandolin) in folk-based Americana groups.
Bryan moved back to the Midwest. Randy stayed in Tallahassee for a few years and was a member of Crew 22, a great band with great songs and great lead singer/songwriter named Greg Kelly. Chris Kissinger played drums and Jerry Gaskins played keyboards. Randy later moved to Orlando and he played bass with several working bands, namely Cactus Jack and The Cadillacs – a classic rock cover band with a big central Florida following. Sadly, Bryan and Randy passed away.
If you have old Mad As Hell recordings, photos, flyers, ephemera, or stories to share, especially their elusive demo recording, please contact email@example.com.
Per Know-It-Alls front man Burk Sauls: “I caught the tail end of it and saw them play maybe 3 or 4 shows when I was in high school... Got to be pals with Johnny O before he went off to law school. We talked a lot about music and bands, etc.. 🙂 I remember one night at Bullwinkle's during their set he ran out the front door and into the street with his guitar and played in the traffic for a while. Legendary band. Pretty much inspired me and gave me the nerve to start one, too.”
Click here to hear a live track "The Weak Survive?" recorded during Mad As Hell's set from October 28, 1978 at the Halloween Palm Court Party, New College, Sarasota, Florida. Huge thanks to Mark Striffler for preserving and sharing this recording.