Interview with David Hazlett
by Torsten Mörke, November 2000
Do you remember the lyrics of "Spirit in the Night" ? There is this mystirious part: "Well Hazy Davy, he got really hurt, crawling into the lake with just his socks and a shirt..." Did you ever ask yourself "who is Hazy Davy" ? His real name is David Hazlett, he played along with "Mercy Flight" in 1970 as he was asked if he'll join Bruce's band "Steel Mill" to replace Vini Lopez, who left the band for about a month. This is his story:
In the early seventies you have been the drummer of a band called "Mercy Flight" which played different clubs along the jersey shore just like Bruce did with his early bands. What was life like in those days for a young musician like you?
Times were different then in many ways, it was a time of peace, love and Vietnam, for most people music was a way of gathering. Man if a band was setting up people were getting the word out quick, remember this was pre cellphone and computers were the size of a large room, so there were all of these little underground networks of friends, people were radical and trying to change the wrongs of the goverment and the world,we weren't out to hurt people just to have a hell of a good time and blow your mind with new music. Brucey was about the best at bringing the crowds from a roar to a wisper in seconds, he always had the ability to do this, it was a great time and there were lots of places to play, then when disco came in all of a sudden club owners were installing large stereo systems and lights and slowly but surly the band job market started to dry up.
When and where did you meet Bruce first?
I first met Brucey June 1,1969 when he came to Richmond, VA in The Steel Mill band and they played in Monrow Park trying to get known in the area. They were a very hard hitting band and had a guy named Tinker West managing them and doing the sound, he was mixing all of the instruments and vocals through the PA which at this time wasn't really heard of in local clubs and small jobs. Now I had been in bands since I was eleven years old in and having just moved back to Richmond, I new a good thing when I saw it, so I moved in on the action to find out how he could make the band sound so big and bad. They had this long haired guitar player that at the time looked a whole lot like myself beating the hell out of a Les Paul, not really knowing where these guys were from, and me looking for a band to play with, this would be a great place to start!
Did you ever play together with Bruce?
Yes, there was a time that Vinni had left the band, Mercy Flight had opened up for Steel Mill several times and we had gotten to know all of the guy's pretty well. Brucey asked me to come to New Jersey and fill in, so I packed up and left for the N.J. shore, beach, girls, fun, surfing! The great thing about this was that Tinker owned Challenger Surfboard Co. so I just knew that I would be playing in a great rock & roll band at night and riding the waves during the day.(Wrong!!!), the next job was in about two weeks at Clearwater Swim club, I was sleeping in a sleeping bag and Brucey had a mattress in the office of the surfboard factory, we would get up in the mornings and go to the beach to check out the sights and then mid-afternoon everyone would start showing up, practice was held in the back room of the surfboard factory, this was where Tinker keep this old like 1948 woody stationwagon that he was restoring (it was so cool) it was also where you could see the surfboards that he was sanding and making (dust everywhere) and I loved every minute of it, we would get in there for hours running over the set's and songs until we had all of the stops and beginnings just right, Brucey was always spontanious on stage so things were subject to change at any minute, pay attention . Danny and I had started to hangout and and become better friends, I can remember this one night, Danny had this green stationwagon he had just put a CB radio in, he had this idea that we would go out behind the surfboard factory for a ride and try out the CB. There was a lot of sand dunes and just bacically nothing around for miles it seemed, he was all excited about this CB, telling me that I didn't have to worry, if anything happened he could reach help, so here we went into the dunes, we drove just far enough where it would have been quite a walk back, and as faite would have it we broke down or got stuck, i'm not sure but we couldn't get a soul on the CB, I can remember him over and over saying breaker/breaker and me thinking (were in the middle of no where Danny, HELP). Now after lot's of loving work to get ready for the Clearwater Swim Club job, we were set and ready to go, what I didn't know was that there was a curfew emposed from the audience in this town. I guess the clue for me was the police/national guard bus parked across the road behind the band full of people in riot suits it seemed, I kept on thinking, is this what this little town does for every job, knowing in my mind that if it wasn't, and if they started shooting my back was as big as anyone's. The band started playing and the people started grooving and dancing and screaming and all of a sudden I didn't give a damn about the cops, I was in that world that most musicians go into when everything is happening, like right now when i'm telling this story to you. The crowd was everywhere and Brucey was working them just like he does so well, we played the set's and everyone was going crazy like everytime Steel Mill and Mercy Flight played together and even though mercy flight wasn't opening up that night, it was something that you became accustom to, no one ever got hurt, just a hell of a good time, what is so good about playing music that everyone loves, is that you are subject to have people not really being themselves, as you would know them on a day to day basis, but rather stepping out of there element and letting loose, this is called being original, I don't know about your parents but mine always told me if I ever want to get anywhere in life, you had to be original. Now is when it gets good, the time for the band to quit playing came and so did the cops, they started getting out of the bus about fifteen minutes before it was time for the band to quit,(remember the curfew). We were rocking and so was the crowd, they kept on shouting BRUCE! BRUCE! BRUCE, now every musician in the world dies for this, there is no better complement to an artist than to have the crowd loving you, and the natural and proper thing to do is to play a few more songs, if you have ever owned a radio or any electronic product everyone knows that you've got to have (THE JUICE) and that's exactly what they did was to cut it off. Tinker was really good at hooking things up, so suddenly like magic the juice came back on and the band was in business, there were people on the stage and I can remember standing there with Brucey, this one girl kept on asking if I was Brucey's brother because of some resimbelence, now we were talking about what songs we both knew together because we had played everything that we had practiced, I'm not sure what song's we picked but as soon as we started the cops moved in, they were in front of the stage, on the sides of the stage and trying to get on the stage from behind, Danny and I jumped up, and the amps on the back of the stage fell over backwards, now I can't say how that happened if the cop's pulled them over trying to get on the stage, or maybe we bumped them, but all hell broke loose, I looked at Danny, and the next thing was to get out of there, so I took off under the stage and ran into other members of the band, I guess it was the path of least resistance, and also it would be hard for a cop to hit you on the head under there, we all started loading the equipment as fast as we could. I was told later that the cops were going to confiskate the equipment, so not knowing if they were going to come to the surfboard factory and take the equipment, we had a good friend take it over to his parents house, with out saying a word to anyone for fear of losing all that we owned, for safe keeping until things cooled down. I can remember riding back to the surfboard factory in that old truck that Tinker had, the same one that they had when I first met them, the back was covered with canvas and they won't think twice about loading it up and driving where ever they could to play music, riding back that night was very different, it was tinker, Brucey and myself on that bench seat of the old truck, I can remember just how much confussion there really was that night, and I remember tinker saying to Brucey that I was the guy for the job, and Bruce asking me what I wanted to do, and them not really knowing what was going to happen to them. I stayed for a few day's after that night and went back to Richmond still not sure what was going to happen to any of us, but always remembering the love that I've shared with those guy's from that day on, time's changed and so did situation's for everyone, but if you wanted to compare, heart to heart, I can honestly say that in those days, we didn't have a HUNGRY HEART, but more just a love for music and each other!
What feeling was it to play with Steel Mill. Did it mean something special for you?
Yes it was special because we knew each other and Mercy Flight had played with Steel Mill several times before, so it was like playing with the other band, we were all famous in those day's each doing our own thing and always doing original material, that's when the curtain drop's with a band, either you go for it and play originals or you do the club circuit and play other peoples material
What did you think about Tinker and the way he'd managed the band?
During those day's, we were all kid's and all kid's have dreams and our dreams were to become rock and roll stars, now just about three week's ago I was talking to an old friend of mine, that manages and bartend's a club in Richmond, he was also a good friend of the boy's in the band, I realized as the conversation went on that we started talked about Tinker mixing everything through the P.A., now even if Tinker wasn't the best manager, how could you take away that he was so into the band and went everywhere with them, and gave them a place to rehearse and for me a place to stay (sleeping bag or not) Tinker liked me and always treated me very fine, thank you!
Bruce did mention you in the lyrics of Spirit in the Night as Hazy Davy, how did you get that nickname?
I guess because my name was David Hazlett and he always called me Hazy, I've also been called Purple Haze, it's just a nickname depending on the era I guess.
In Spirit in the Night Bruce describes you crawling into Greasy lake with just your socks and a shirt. Is there a spoon of truth in that story?
I'm not sure, I must have drank to much rose and the night slip's me, I'm glad someone remembers, thanks Brucey.
Did you ever make any records after your time with Steel Mill?
Yes, I did a jazz / soul copy record with a sax player named Johnny Houston, I've also recorded sessions with MERCY FLIGHT/ LUCKY CAKES/ THE HIP MOVERS, SOUTHSIDE JOHHNEY AND THE ASHBURY JUKES, and have just finished a CD with a writer named Donnie Charlton, form Charlottesville, Donnie wrote the songs and I helped with the arranging and played all of the percussion. I'm very happy to say that I'm still kicking, and rocking on, I'll let you know my next project, and would love to play for all of ya!
Have you seen Bruce and the guys on their reunion tour?
Not yet, Brucey I'm coming to see ya !
Interview by Torsten Mörke, www.castiles.net
This site is a part of Castiles.net (The history of Bruce Springsteen)
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