Photo | lynyrdskynyrd.com
Band: Lynyrd Skynyrd with special guest Cody Jinks
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m.
Venue: The Wharf Amphitheater, 23325 Wharf Lane, alwharf.com
Tickets: $34 to $341, available through Ticketmaster
One of rock history’s most iconic bands is coming to “Sweet Home Alabama” to say goodbye. For over half a century, Lynyrd Skynyrd has been writing, recording and touring. Along the way, this band has released some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most memorable songs, including “Freebird,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “What’s Your Name,” “That Smell” and of course, “Sweet Home Alabama.”
Now, the band is traveling the world on its Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour, which will mark the band’s departure from the road. While on a short break from the tour, guitarist Rickey Medlocke talked with Lagniappe’s Steve Centanni to discuss the tour and life with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Steve Centanni: You’ve had a couple of weeks off to reflect on the farewell tour. With each passing city, what’s the main thought that keeps passing through your mind about this being the last Skynyrd tour?
Rickey Medlocke: Well, you know, you have to take it into perspective when you first join a band. You go around and you play all these years with not only Skynyrd, but I also had a go-around with Blackfoot as well. I look at Skynyrd as my second go-around with them. I was with the original band as a drummer. Then I left the other band and came back in ’96 and started with the band again. So, all of a sudden, here I am 23, going into 24 years later with the group.
Now, it’s come all this way. I look at it, and I guess what I think is that I’ve been very blessed and very lucky and very fortunate to have been with the guys that I have been with in my life playing in bands. They are very talented individuals. A lot of people never get the chance to do that. I had the opportunity to do it not once but twice. Since this is being called the “Farewell Tour,” I look back on it, and I go, “OK, everybody’s asking what I’m going to do when I retire.”
There’s no such thing as retirement if you’re a real, honest to God musician and you truly love the art. I remember reading an interview with Merle Haggard. The girl said, “Merle, you’ve been out here every year touring and doing all these shows. You don’t have to do it. Why do you do it?” His answer was, “This is what I do. I play music. So, this is what I do, and that is what I’m gonna do.”
We’re far from being over yet on this tour. This tour is going to go into 2020, because here’s what we set out to do. Everybody thought that we were just going to play the United States and that was it. What our goal is to play every place that we have played in our career, in our lives and some places that we had not played. Well, when you take that into consideration, you just don’t go and play 60 shows in the United States and that’s it, because Lynyrd Skynyrd has played 600 places or more.
Now that we’re into this thing and halfway through it, I’m looking back at it and it’s overwhelming to see the amount of fan loyalty and people who just love the music. That’s the bottom line. The bottom line for this band has always been about the music. People love that music and love hearing it and love seeing the guys onstage who play it. When I look at this as a final farewell tour, it’s not like we’re saying goodbye, like Johnny [Van Zant] says. It’s like saying, “So long until the next time.”
Everybody knows the reason why we have done this. In the last 10 years, Gary [Rossington] has had some serious health issues with his heart. He just can’t do the 80 to 100 shows that we were doing. As far as saying farewell, we’re saying farewell to big touring. It doesn’t mean that we’re not gonna come out every once in awhile and play a special event or do some charitable work. I don’t know. It’s way too soon to even say that.
I know that Gary, Johnny and I have formed a production team called Three Southern Gents. We’ve already been into the studio and produced a song together, and it works. We’re gonna do more. I’m sure all the individuals in the band have other projects that they’re going to continue. Me, I have projects that I want to do and things that I want to accomplish, but my number one goal is and always has been Lynyrd Skynyrd. I want to make sure that this thing ends up on top, and we give it our best. Hopefully, the audience will be satisfied and happy. Who knows after that?
Centanni: What are some of the bucket list things that you want to do onstage or offstage before Skynyrd wraps up this tour?
Medlocke: I tell you, Rickey here hasn’t had too many bucket lists. If I did, they were early on in life, and I’ve done every one of them being in this band and being in the other band. I don’t have too much, other than maybe accomplishing more in music. Right now, I’ve gotten into producing. I’ve even dabbled into television work and getting into that.
One of the things that I’d like to do is with my better half, Stacy Michelle, who sings with Kid Rock. We’ve been wanting to do something together for quite a few years. I think that she and I are going to explore the possibilities of doing some music together and putting together a song or two. That’s too soon to look into right now, in the immediate future. My immediate future is to finish out this tour and be there for Gary and Johnny and the rest of the band and maybe catch a fish or two in my off time.
Centanni: What’s it been like putting the setlists together for this tour?
Medlocke: It’s been fun! It started out one way and slowly morphed into another way and then slowly morphed into another one. With the catalog of songs that this band has, when you’re putting together a setlist for a farewell tour … we’ve been putting songs in there that we haven’t played in a very, very long time. The set that we have coming up this weekend might be totally different from the set that we’ll play in Orange Beach. I don’t know. We do as we feel, and as it goes along, sometimes Gary, Johnny and I say, “OK, let’s put this song in the set.” It’s fun, because there are so many songs in the Skynyrd catalog. That makes it enjoyable.
Centanni: What’s it been like interacting with the fans?
Medlocke: It’s been great. There are a lot of people who are sad to see this thing taking the road that it is taking. I’m talking about not only the older generation but also the younger generation that has seen the band maybe once or twice and want to come see the band as often as they can. All of a sudden, they realize that it’s not going to be here forever.
For years, I’ve told people, “If you haven’t seen Skynyrd before, then you need to come see us.” Just like a lot of the other classic bands, they’re not going to be around here always. Get out and go see it.
Well, the interaction with fans have been that they’ve thanked us. People all the time have thanked us for the years of music and doing what we’ve done and playing the shows and putting out songs.
I think Lynyrd Skynyrd is a an American band for everybody. It’s not just for one breed of people. It’s an American band. From Timbuktu to all the way to New Zealand, everybody has thanked us for keeping the music alive. It’s very gratifying, man, and I love the fans.
I’ve always said that without those people coming to see you and enjoying the music, the band would be nothing. We might as well stay home and do nothing. It’s all about the fans loving the music, and I appreciate it so much. It’s such a gratifying feeling.
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