The Guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd Speaks Out
May 9th, 2007
During a recent telephone interview, I caught up with Rickey Medlocke, one of the three lead guitarists in the current Lynyrd Skynyrd line up. Rickey was one of the original drummers for Lynyrd Skynyrd back in the early seventies who eventually went on to form the southern rock band Blackfoot, so named due to his American Indian heritage.
J.T.: Now, if I remember right, years ago you were in Skynyrd, but you were playing drums.
Rickey: Yeah, I was one of the original drummers, yeah.
J.T.: Do you ever miss being a little more in the background?
Rickey: No! No! No! No! Ha ha! Well, of course not! I was the lead singer and lead guitarist for Blackfoot. I mean, I love to play guitar, I love to entertain people. I just wasn’t…I guess I was a good enough drummer, but I wasn’t a great drummer.
Rickey: Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah! Everything is going real good, man. We’re just taking it one day at a time, and so far so good. The crowds have been great, it’s a good package. I mean, Hank (Williams Jr.) has a little bit older fans and our fans are a little bit older, but we also get Lynyrd Skynyrd girls from fifteen to fifty-five now, so I think it works out O.K. The deal is, it’s going good, the crowds are great, they’re all pumped, you know. Hank is Hank and Lynyrd Skynyrd, you know…(Laughs)…what can you say, what can you say!
J.T.: Now, with the younger audiences, do you think your bringing something new to them as well as the presenting the extensive history of Lynyrd Skynyrd?
Rickey: Well, I think so. Last year, we had Three Doors Down out there with us and that was phenomenal. Like I said, the audiences range from fifteen to fifty-five, so, uh, what can you say?
J.T.: With some of the collaborative stuff you guys have been doing with younger artists as well as some of the tour billings with, like you mentioned, Three Doors Down, does that change Skynyrd’s direction at all?
Rickey: Well, that’s really interesting. We’ve been writing for a new CD right now and we’ve been writing with a lot of different writers. We’re involved with a guy that’s been writing and been involved with Velvet Revolver and people like that. We’re writing with a guy that is the guitar player right now for Rob Zombie. On the other side of it, we’re writing with people that’s been, you know, that’s had hits with…country (artists). We’re involved with a bunch of writers and what I think it does is, whatever we put our hands on, it comes out as Lynyrd Skynyrd. Because I think Skynyrd music has a broad spectrum anyway.
J.T.: Yeah, it definitely crosses boundaries. From rock to blues to country…
Rickey: Oh yeah! Sure does, man.
J.T: I know there was some controversy among Skynyrd fans when you introduced the Travelin’ Man duet, where Johnny VanZant sings along with the vocals from the deceased Ronnie VanZant. Is that still part of the performance?
Rickey: Well, this year…I’m not going to let any secrets out, but we’re doing some really different stuff. You know, that came about back on the Thyrty record, and we introduced that and we’ve used it every once in a while, but we’ve got some other surprises in store for everybody on this thing. You know, they’re going to have to come out and check it out.
J.T.: Along those lines, with the song Red, White and Blue, is there more of a patriotic reaction to that song now then when it was released?
Rickey: Well, I think that it’s about the same, maybe a little bit more. I mean, the one thing that I do know that’s going on in this world today is everything is so polarized, you know? It’s a damn shame, you know? It seems like our country is being pulled completely apart, and for Lynyrd Skynyrd, we’ve been the American band for all these years…and it’s really sad for us to see how this country is being so polarized and pulled apart. When, in reality, a few short years ago, you couldn’t break this country apart… it’s interesting. Now, it’s like everybody’s losing their damn balls, man, and nobody wants to stand up and do anything. So, you know, that’s the whole thing about it; instead of getting stronger, instead of having some damn balls about ourselves, the country’s getting softer, being weaker. I, for myself don’t like to use the band as a platform to talk about politics, because I think that entertainers should definitely stay the hell out of politics, you know what I mean? Because, entertainers…we got our own kind of gig and a lot of Hollywood, those people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about when they get into politics. I mean, Ronald Reagan was a rare case, you know? Ha! That guy was a very rare case, you know? But the point of what I’m getting at is instead of pulling this nation apart, we should be pulling it together, you know? Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent or whatever, we’ve got one of the best countries in the damn world, and guess what? It seems like the damn thing’s being ripped in two.
Rickey: Yeah! Right! Also, its like, just think about it…guys have been cracking jokes for years and years and years and everybody kind of took it in stride. Now, you got to be real careful with what you say because you’re going to end up without a gig, your family is going to be broke, you’re going to be homeless, or whatever. It’s like, this country has become so politically correct, it’s sickening.
J.T.: Well, like what happened with the Dixie Chicks. A two-second comment cost them gigs and appearances.
Rickey: Yeah, I mean, I got my own opinions of the Dixie Chicks, man. You know what? We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, and that’s how they can become as wealthy as they’ve become. You know what I mean? By living in a place where they’ve had the opportunity to do that. But you know, man? At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, we live in a great nation and we should learn to appreciate what we’ve got. People…just take everything for granted, you know, and that’s a damn shame, man.
The prolific powerhouse that is Lynyrd Skynyrd rolls on, playing town after town with various acts such as Saliva, Hank Williams, Jr. and Kid Rock. The group has faithfully released new material, starting with the album Vicious Cycle in 2003 and the most recent edition to their eclectic repertoire, Gods And Guns, was released in September, 2009. While there are those fervent purists who believe that the real Lynyrd Skynyrd perished in a flash of flames in a swamp in Magnolia, Mississippi, the true tradition of Southern Rock has been loyally carried on, with still one more from the road just around the corner.