Rickey Medlocke

Lynyrd Skynyrd Lives On

In Concert with ZZ Top • Thompson-Boling Arena • March 15th

By Randy Patterson, Boomerocity.com

If one were to look up the definition of “southern rock,” you just might see a picture of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida, the very name of the band instantly brings to mind classic rock anthems, tragedies, and musical legacy.

The anthems? They would be songs like “Gimme Three Steps,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Saturday Night Special,” and (often yelled by drunken patrons around the country at bands of all genres) their classic hit, “Free Bird.”

Tragedies? It started with the 1977 plane crash that took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, band founder, backup singer, Cassie Gaines, and relatively new band vocalist and guitarist, her brother, Steve Gaines. More recently, the band’s guitarist and last surviving original member, Gary Rossington, passed away. In the current Lynyrd Skynyrd line up, Rossington was replaced by Damon Johnson, former guitarist for Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy.

As for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s musical legacy, that was solidified with the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. It’s been reported that as of last year, the band has sold an astonishing 28 million records in the United States alone.

The legendary band will be in concert at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center with that little band from Texas, ZZ Top, on Friday, March 15th. It was to chat about this show that I connected with Skynyrd’s long-time guitarist, Rickey Medlocke, who first played in the band in 1971-1972. He was also a guitarist for his legendary southern rock band Blackfoot, who is best known for its hit “Highway Song.” In 1996, Rossington asked Medlocke if he would rejoin Skynyrd. He accepted the invitation and has been with the band ever since. Though he was not inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Lynyrd Skynyrd, as a proud Lakota Sioux and Cherokee, he was inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

At the beginning of our conversation, Medlocke was asked about his guitar collection and guitar of choice.

“You know, I’ve got an original old Explorer that I play, and I’ve actually got a prototype reverse body Firebird that was one of about nine or 10 made and then the production models came out, so I got it on the road playing it. I’ve got another reverse Firebird – a Firebird V –  sorry, a Firebird III. It’s on the road. I’m playing it. I got Les Pauls up the ying yang.”

Shifting to this year’s Skynyrd tour, Medlocke talks about his friend and replacement for Rossington, guitarist Damon Johnson.

“It’s been a real honor and pleasure having him come in at a time when we were just really beside ourselves, you know? It’s been almost a year now since we lost Gary, and I’m still not real settled. I still have problems with it. And you know what? This is going to be something that’s going to take me quite a few years to ever really settle with, because I knew him when we were teenagers. I played with him in the band in the early years for two-and-a-half going on three years as a drummer and then, all of a sudden to come back in ’96. Now I’m going on 30 years I’ve been back with the band. He was a constant with me, he was there. And I was like, ‘God, he’s never gonna go nowhere. You know, he’ll be with me until the last.’ I promised him – I said, ‘Gary, I’ll be with you to the last note of ‘Free Bird’ is struck.’ And now it’s kind of surreal, you know that. But I know he’s there in spirit with us. I can’t say enough about Damon. I mean, he has come in at a time when it was really difficult. And he has just really put a shining light on it, you know, and he’s done an incredible job.”

Medlocke then shared what Knoxville fans can expect from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s and ZZ Top’s Knoxville show this month.

“We (Skynyrd and ZZ Top) hooked up last year together, and we did several months out – we did from July and October together. It’s always good to be with Billy and Frank and company. Our crew got along together with their crew, we got along together with each band. I mean, it was a camaraderie that was just absolutely beautiful. And it was so successful in terms of ticket sales and everything that we decided that we should just continue this, because you got two of the greatest classic bands of all time coming into an arena, and there shouldn’t be no problem in people getting to see this. So, here we come!”

There is much more to this fascinating interview, and you can watch it all on Boomerocity.com or listen to it on your favorite source for podcasts. Just search for “Boomerocity.”

Randy’s first interview was at the age of 13 with none other than Col. Tom Parker. Thirty-six years later, he founded Boomerocity.com and has since then launched its podcast and YouTube channel. He has conducted well over 400 interviews with some of the most interesting people in music.