Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

Lynyrd Skynyrd Interview - Rickey Medlocke

Friday, July 19, 2013
He strokes the strings of his Gibson Explorer with surgical precision, working the neck with blinding fury as he leads the guitar assault of rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd. With his chiseled features and long white hair blowing in the wind, Rickey Medlocke is an imposing figure on the stage of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip as he delivers the power chords of the band’s most famous songs. The crowd roars its approval with sonic blasts from the motorcycles parked right below the stage and throughout the Wolfman Jack Amphitheater, people singing along with every song, the words wringing out long lost memories while bringing out the flood of emotions that go along with them. Skynyrd plays into the night, filling the South Dakota plains with a fever of songs and melodies to the crowd afflicted with adulation. Bikers love Skynyrd, and Skynyrd loves them back.

Best part is, this scene we had the pleasure of being a part of last year will soon repeat itself. Lynyrd Skynyrd will rock the Sturgis Buffalo Chip once again on Thursday, Aug. 8, during this year’s Black Hills Rally. With a staple of anthems including “Sweet Home Alabama,””Simple Man” and of course “Freebird,” the band’s music is a long-standing favorite amongst motorcyclists. Hearing one of their tunes on the radio is like running across a long lost friend.



Thanks to our friends at The Chip, we recently had a chance to talk to Skynyrd’s lead guitarist, Rickey Medlocke. Medlocke has done two stints with the band. He grew up with the guys in the same musical arena of Jacksonville, Florida, and pounded drums for them when they first hit the scene in 1970. Medlocke can remember when “Simple Man” was written and played “Freebird” before it even made it to recording. He would strike out on his own to form Blackfoot the following year, but returned in 1996 at the request of founding member Gary Rossington and hasn’t looked back since.

Medlocke grew up in a musical background. His grandfather was Delta blues musician, Shorty Medlocke, who taught him how to play a miniature banjo by age three. No sooner had he learned to play than he started appearing on a local TV show called “The Toby Dowdy Show,” playing music with his grandpa Shorty. He would later honor his grandfather by recording a song Shorty wrote with his band Blackfoot, “Train Train” becoming a hit in its own right. Music is in Medlocke’s blood and watching him play you can see that his guitar is an extension of his soul. Here’s what he had to say about the band’s upcoming gig at the Buffalo Chip and about his illustrious career.

Motorcycle USA: Are you excited about Skynyrd’s upcoming gig at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip?

Medlocke:
Of course, man. You know what, we always enjoy that. Actually, we did it last year and here we are again. Usually we do it about every two to three years but it’s exciting to know we’re doing it a second year in a row. Just looking forward to it, I love coming here and looking at all
Lynyrd Skynyrd will rock the Legendary Buffalo Chip at the 2013 Sturgis Rally Aug. 8.
Lynyrd Skynyrd will rock the Legendary Buffalo Chip at the 2013 Sturgis Rally on Thursday, Aug. 8.
the motorcycles and hearing all the rhetoric going on and stuff, man it’s great.

Is there any place you play that is quite like The Chip? (the crowd, the motorcycles parked right next to the stage, people revving their engines in appreciation)

Medlocke: Well, it pretty well stands on its own, that’s for damn sure. You’re in with people who love the music that’s there to celebrate something in their life. You know what man, it’s an enjoyable time and we always look forward to being there. We’ve played it a bunch. Actually we’ve watched the Buffalo Chip develop from the early days right up to now. It’s been an amazing ride. We remember when the stage was an old wooden stage when they were first getting started up to right now. So it’s pretty amazing to think about it.

Why do you think the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd appeals so much to bikers?

Medlocke: Well, I think that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music reeks of freedom. I mean, we got a “Freebird” and I think the songs speak to everybody in a different way. If people get their own meaning out of the songs, the songs are timeless. They’re going to be here a lot longer after I’m gone, that’s for sure. We feel very blessed and fortunate that it touches people in so many different ways, especially on the biker side of fans. It’s like, hey, Lynyrd Skynyrd and motorcycles, it don’t get no better than that, you know what I mean? Pop a cold one man, sit back, listen to it, then sit on your bike and blast off.

When so many other bands come and go, what makes Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music so timeless?

Medlocke: I think it’s the music. Like I just said, I think the music has everything to do with it because all the songs touch people’s hearts in a certain way for themselves. I’ve heard stories about how the songs affect people and about what they mean to them, I mean, there’s tons of stories about that. It’s amazing, especially when you’re talking about songs like “Simple Man” and “Freebird” and stuff like that. People just, they freak out over it because it touches them in such an incredible way.

How did you choose the path of a musician as your profession?

Medlocke: It was pretty well laid out for me. I was raised in a big music family. My grandfather, Shorty Medlocke, wrote one of the hit songs in a band that I was in called Blackfoot, wrote a song called “Train Train,” and we redid it and it was a hit for us. But my grandfather Shorty played in and out of traveling bands out of Nashville, a lot of the old country music people. And my mother sang, my uncles all played, so I was around bands. I started playing banjo when I was three years old, so it was pretty well laid out for me what I was probably going to do in life, and I never questioned it. To supplement my living and try to make it in music I’ve been everything from clipping and pickin’
Johnny Van Zant belts out the vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd as it runs through the list of its popular hits.
Johnny Van Zant belts out the vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd as it runs through a long list of its popular hits.
watermelons and cotton and tobacco all the way to fueling fighter jets, until I was able to make it. Music has always been very, very, very good to me and I couldn’t have thought about doing anything else.

Do you have memories of playing with your Grandpa Shorty on The Toby Dowdy Show?

Medlocke: A lot of them. It’s funny man, everybody freaks at who I met, because on that show they would have different special guests. They had Roy Rogers and Trigger one time, they had Lassie on there, and they had the original Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore. Clayton Moore gave me one of his silver bullets and I’ve still got it to this day. It’s pretty cool. Anyways, I just remember being raised in that environment and in that kind of family, there was always music going on and hey, it just came naturally to me.

Before you rejoined the band, it seemed like Skynyrd was leaning toward a country & western direction. Do you think you helped steer them back onto the path of rock & roll?

Medlocke: Well, I think that I had something to do with it. I mean, Gary told me he wanted to put me back in the band because he didn’t have his Allen Collins and I was the closest thing to Allen you could probably get because our styles are similar. We ironically play the same kind of guitars and stuff like that, so it was kind of a natural progression for me to slot right in. I told him, you know, I said the band’s kind of been trying to do the country thing for a long time. “Naw,” he goes, “That’s not for us, I want to make it rock again.” And I said well, if you want that, then you got me. And that’s what I came in doing and I’ve been doing it ever since.

You’ve been able to play with one of the most iconic bands in Rock & Roll history. Twice. Do you think you’ve come full circle with the band?

Medlocke: It feels natural. It feels like family. I mean, I feel like I’ve been there all along. The Blackfoot thing was great, I had some great years in that and good times. But this feels like I actually have come full circle and more than likely, barring any unforeseen stuff, I’ll finish out my career in this band.

What would you like your legacy to be? What do you want to be remembered for most?

Medlocke: Oh, I don’t know man. I guess, that’s a hard thing, I guess that I brought some joy and some happiness to
Lynyrd Skynyrds Ricky Medlocke  right  jams with guitarist Mark Matejka during a concert at White River Amphitheater in Seattle.
Medlocke (right) and Mark Matejka lay down the licks hot and heavy during a concert in Seattle last year.
Gary Rossington has been with Lynyrd Skynyrd since Day 1 and continues to be a driving force behind the band.
Gary Rossington has been with Lynyrd Skynyrd since Day One and continues to be a driving force of the band.
people. As far as like music, I gave my life to this art and to this life and I gave my whole self to it and I have never questioned that and have never second-guessed it. And I love it. And I guess I’d like to be remembered for being a musician, a musician that brought a lot of happiness and joy to people.

Have you banged any drums recently?

Medlocke: No, man, I don’t. There’s a lot better drummers than me, that’s why I continued playing guitar. (Big laugh!)

If you could jam out with anybody, alive or dead, who would it be?

Medlocke: Well, it would either be, there’s a tie when it goes to that. Hendrix, Clapton or Beck. That’s it.

Do you ride?

Medlocke: You know what, I have, and all through these years I’ve been threatening to get another bike. But at this point and time, living down in Florida, it’s kind of a dangerous situation, so I’ve got to think about my band first, know what I mean? If anything ever happened to my hands, or legs or whatever, I’d be kind of screwed. But I love motorcycles. At some point probably in my life, at some point I want to get a custom Indian and at some point I will.
Lynyrd Skynyrd Photo Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Slideshow
Other Cruiser Feature Articles
Arizona Bike Week 2014: Where to Eat
Just because you're on the road doesn't mean you can't eat well, and MotoUSA has found some of the best spots to try at Arizona Bike Week.
Arizona Bike Week 2014 Review
MotoUSA heads to Arizona Bike Week 2014 to take in the sights and sounds of one of the nation's premiere rally events of the year.
Laughlin River Run 2014 Preview
Thousands of bikers will soon be rumbling across the Mojave Desert to get their party on at the 32nd annual Laughlin River Run. Here's what to expect at this year's rally.
Jever Beer Harley Blackline by Thunderbike
Jever Beer commissioned Thunderbike Customs to build a Harley Blackline for it, the bike the result of a Facebook design challenge that will be given away in a Jever promotion.
Big Pimpin Cycles Lizard King Tribute Bike
Brian Hubbs of Big Pimpin' Cycles pays homage to The Doors frontman Jim Morrison with his "Lizard King" a custom 1983 Honda CV650SC Nighthawk he picked up originally for $250.
Fairless Victory - Allstate Sweeps Vegas 8-Ball
Rick Fairless and the Strokers team put its custom spin on a Victory Vegas 8-Ball for this year's Allstate Motorcycle Sweepstakes grand prize, the package including a custom paint job and trip to Dallas to meet Rick.
Handbuilt Motorcycle Show at CoTA GP 14
Revival Cycles, Moto Guzzi and Circuit of the Americas have teamed to present the Handmade Motorcycle Show during the 2014 MotoGP round in Austin, Texas.
Venier Customs Moto Guzzi V35c: Diabola
Stefano Venier of Venier Customs turned heads with his first build three years ago, a reimagining of the 1987 Moto Guzzi V35c which he named "Diabola."
2014 Daytona Beach Bike Week Review
Bike shows, parties on Main Street, trips to the Speedway and Destination Daytona and plenty of riding highlighted our visit to Daytona Beach Bike Week 2014.
Chasin History on the 2014 Indian Chief Classic
We escaped the craziness of Bike Week with a day trip to St. Augustine, Florida, where we embarked on a quest to connect with family history in the oldest establishment in the US.
Sarah Lahalihs 2013 Triumph Scrambler
Sarah Lahalih has a wide and varied life in the motorcycling industry, but she recently took on the role of custom builder with a 2013 Triumph Scrambler project named "Lahalih-Wood."
Willies Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show 2014
Willie's Tropical Tattoo was the place to be during its annual Old School Chopper Show, the biker blowout enjoying one of its biggest turnouts in years in 2014.
Harley Bike Week Ride-In Bike Show 2014
Harley owners showed off their prized rides in the 2014 Bike Week Ride-In Custom Bike Show at the Speedway Wednesday, with entries ranging from Knuckles to Big Twins to big, bad baggers.
2014 Daytona Beach Bike Week First Report
We bring you our first report from Bike Week 2014 where we've ridden the 2014 Harley Low Rider and 2015 Gunner, partied with Indian Motorcycle, and rapped with Strokers Rick Fairless.
AMA Riding Unites With Daytona Bike Week
From March 7-16, AMA riding, racing converges on Daytona Beach Bike Week.

Login or sign up to comment.