Interviews

Rickey Medlocke Talks Lynyrd Skynyrd's Farewell Tour, Family Dynamic

Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)

Chances are, Lynyrd Skynyrd passed through your area quite a few times since the band's 1987 reforming. Those tour stops might've become so frequent that seeing an incredible live act perform cuts from one of classic rock's deepest catalogs might've felt skippable. After all, they'll play the same amphitheater in eight months, when going out won't interfere with watching college football.

That assumption carries no weight now as the band continues its Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour: An ambitious victory lap before one of Southern rock's hardest-working bands drastically slows down its live itinerary.

Rickey Medlocke played drums for an early version of Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1971 to 1972. After blazing his own path with the band Blackfoot, Medlocke returned to Skynyrd in 1996 as a guitarist. Both stints allowed Medlocke to work with and befriend many of the men and women involved with the band who've since passed away.

"Looking back on it as an original drummer with being able to work with Ronnie (Van Zant) and Allen (Collins) back then, and when I joined the band again, I was able to work along with Leon (Wilkeson) and Billy (Powell). I can tell you it really is a family," Medlocke says. "Whatever affects one person affects everybody. You go down the highway and up in the air together and spend six or seven months out of the year together. That forms a huge family."

To celebrate an extended family, including a devoted army of fans, the band avoids the hits-only set list some might expect for a farewell tour and sprinkles in live favorites and deep cuts.

"The set list might be one way one weekend and then the following weekend be another way because people follow the band around to a certain point," Medlocke adds. "We want to change it up so that people when they come out they go, 'Wow, they didn't play that last week or the week before.' With a catalog as big as Lynyrd Skynyrd has, it's real easy to change up and say 'let's pull these two tunes out and put these two tunes in.' Then you get to sound check that day and work them up and rehearse them and you're off and running."

At this point in Skynyrd history, such ever-present songs as "Simple Man" and "Freebird" connect with fans ranging from baby boomers to millennials.

"When you look out at night from the stage and you see people with their kids and maybe their grand-kids and they're singing every lyric to every song, you have to look at that and go, 'My God. What an impact the songs themselves had on peoples' lives," Medlocke says. "It's too bad that Ronnie and Allen didn't really get to see what an impact their talent is having on four generations of people. It's amazing to me, and it's one of those things that you can't believe. It gives me the chills every night."

Without getting too detailed and ruining any surprises, Medlocke offered hope that a farewell tour does not equate a breakup.

"The number one thing, no matter what I explore, is always going to be Skynyrd," he says. "If there's an opportunity after this is all over with to play a charity event... I know that Gary (Rossington), Johnny (Van Zant) and I formed a little production team, and we've already produced some music that we're going to end up putting out at some point."

The Last of the Street Survivors Tour is currently scheduled through Oct. 19. It includes a stop this weekend at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Ga., featuring support from Cody Jinks.

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Rickey Medlocke Talks Lynyrd Skynyrd's Farewell Tour, Family Dynamic