DIARY - 5 NOVEMBER 2009 - LYNYRD SKYNYRD
WHERE DIXIE ROCK MEETS COUNTRY
I've lost everything I've had/ but I'm not dead, at least not yet/ still
alone/ still alive, still unbroken." - Still Unbroken - Gary Rossington-
Johnny Van Zant-Rickey Medlocke-Hughie Thomassen
guitarist-songwriter Rickey Medlocke had God on his side during a 26-year
hiatus from the band.
He joined the iconic Dixie Rock band briefly in 1970 as the drummer and
was set to rejoin in 1977 when fate and his band Blackfoot saved him.
"I got invited by Ronnie (Van Zant) to travel with them for a week
while they did the Street Survivors tour," Medlocke told Nu Country
TV in a call from his river retreat near Fort Myers in Florida.
"I got bookings with my own band so I was not with them when their
plane fell from the sky. I was doing another gig right down the road in
Columbia, South Carolina. Now I'm back with the guys and I believe everything
happens for a reason - I'm back where I'm supposed to be."
Van Zant, 29, fellow band members Steve & Cassie Gaines and three
others died when their jet crashed on October 20, 1977 in thicket near
It killed them and the dreams of Australian country rockers The Dingoes
who were about to join them on a Rolling Stones tour.
Crash survivors Gary Rossington and Allen Collins filled the breech as
the Rossington Collins Band but reformed Skynyrd in 1987 with Ronnie's
brother Johnny as lead singer.
But the death toll has since more than doubled for the band that took
its name from Jacksonville High School gym teacher Leonard Skinner who
tried to enforce bans on long hair in the sixties.
First, Collins and Rossington flirted with death when they crashed their
cars in 1976.
Collins was paralysed in 1986 in yet another crash in which his girlfriend
He died on January 23, 1990.
Bassist Leon Wilkeson perished at 49 on July 27, 2001 of emphysema &
Outlaws member Ean Evans replaced him but was taken by cancer on May 6
That was just five months after co-founder-pianist Billy Powell died of
a heart attack at 56.
So should Medlocke, who rejoined in 1996, feel lucky or jinxed or write
a song of survival after the chain of tragedies?
The multi-instrumentalist singing actor chose the latter - Still Unbroken
- for Lynyrd Skynyrd's 13th studio album God & Guns - despite
another band fatality.
was written after Leon passed away in 2001 but Hughie Thomassen, who helped
write it, passed away two or three years ago too," Medlocke revealed.
"Gary found a cassette tape with the song on it. We had forgotten
about it so we took it to producer Bob Marlette and he loved it so we
recorded it. On New Years day we found out Ean Evans had inoperable cancer.
So we sent him to Nashville to undergo treatment but a week and half later
Billy Powell passed away from a heart attack. So we started the record
with them last year - next thing we know we have to finish the record
without these guys. We had to finish this record - not only for the fans
but those two guys. I believe they would have been upset if we had not
finished and put it out."
Although there have been 61 Lynyrd Skynyrd albums on the market this is
only their 13th original album - the first since Vicious Cycle in
and guns keep us strong/ that's what this country was founded on/ well
we might as well give up and run/ if we let em take our God and guns."
- God & Guns - Mark Stephen Jones-Travis Meadows-Bud Tower
is Lynyrd Skynyrd's latest disc God & Guns (Roadrunner) a morose
Hell, no - this healthy hybrid of Dixie Rock and cool country looms
as the catalyst for a belated Australian tour in 2010.
"We have had great response to the record in Australia,"
"We have wanted to come there for so long - it's way overdue,
time we come down there."
Kid Rock's sampling of Sweet Home Alabama and late Warren Zevon's
Werewolves Of London in All Summer Long and Keith Urban's
guest role with the band on the 2005 Grammies fanned the flames.
"Keith played with us on the Grammies," Medlocke recalled.
< Rickey Medlocke
with him three or four nights before that in one of the arenas in my home
town Fort Myers in Florida. He's quite an incredible guitar player - it's
a pleasure to be on stage with him."
artists such as Hank Williams Jr, Charlie Daniels and Marshall Tucker
have long blurred the lines between Dixie rock and country.
Zant and another brother Donny - lead singer of 38 Special - formed country
band Van Zant.
The brothers, surviving sons of a Jacksonville truck driver, released
Dixie rocks albums in 1998 and 2001.
They later released a country album Get Right With The Man on May
10, 2005 with the single Help Somebody.
The band went off the road when Johnny had surgery to remove a throat
polyp but released another album My Kind Of Country in 2007.
New age Dixie Rock band Drive-By Truckers ignited the flames further with
Southern Rock Opera - an acclaimed two-CD concept album about Lynyrd
The Nashville-Florida fertilisation was cemented on Gods & Guns
- the new Skynyrd disc title track.
"Nashville writers Travis Meadows and Mark Stephen Jones wrote it
and turned it into our management company. They played it for Hank Jr.
He decided he didn't want to do the tune so they gave it to Skynyrd. It
fit us perfectly. The original sounded like an old delta blues tune. It
felt natural to us. It was the only tune on album we didn't have anything
to do with writing. That's cool for us - we're playing it live in America
into Still Unbroken."
AIN'T MY AMERICA
there's kids that can't pray in school/ hundred dollar tanks of gas/ I
can tell you right now this country ain't/ ain't supposed to be like that."
- That Ain't My America - Gary Rossington-Johnny Van Zant-Rickey Medlocke-Brad
teamed with Floridian born Warren Brothers, who toured here as a country
duo, for sibling song That Ain't My America.
"We had written stuff with The Warren Brothers on our Vicious
Cycle record - the song Red, White & Blue in 2003,"
"This is about the political correctness running rampant in our country.
You can't say anything without someone correcting you. The way it is right
now the country is very divided in the direction we're going in. We're
not satisfied, not very happy with it. All I can do is write about it
in song and let the music stand say what it is."
They also teamed with former Boy Howdy singer Jeffrey Steele for the jukebox
lament Unwrite That Song.
"Jeffrey Steele has been a friend of ours for quite some time,"
"We've written half a dozen or more songs with Jeffrey, On the Vicious
Cycle tour he was opening shows for us with just an acoustic guitar.
He played a lot of songs he had written for other artists in the past
- he has written for virtually everyone. We have so many songs left over
now that we wrote with a lot of people - him in particular. He's a very
talented individual - we love Jeffrey. So far they're in our library but
we might pitch them to others."
out there in the parking lot/ smokin' that stuff, it's a rebel flag rock."
- Skynyrd Nation - Johnny Van Zant-Rickey Medlocke-John 5-Bob Marlette.
On the disc
Southern Ways - a sibling of Sweet Home Alabama - segues
into Skynyrd Nation.
"Southern Ways came to us in about 15 minutes, that's the
way a lot of great songs come," the guitarist added.
"We wrote Skynyrd Nation after Billy passed. We got a lot
of email from a lot of people. One comment on the band web site said we
hope Skynyrd Nation doesn't stop - long live Skynyrd Nation. Johnny called
Gary and me and read the comment out and we said what a good idea to do
a song - Skynyrd Nation. Johnny and I wanted to do sing together
trading off and on - it was the perfect one to do."
was a trapper way back in the holler/ made moonshine so he could make
a dollar/ six feet tall, dressed in overalls/ and wore himself a long
gray beard." - Floyd - Gary Rossington-Johnny Van Zant-Rickey
also wrote the moonshining murder narrative Floyd with rock guitarist
story tells how G-men and deputies perish in the swamps during the
hunt for Floyd.
doesn't get taken by the gator, Floyd's too smart for that,"
"They went to try to get him but it didn't quite work for them.
It was the first tune we wrote with John 5. We knew he had played
with Marilyn Manson and is with Rob Zomby now. He walked into our
writing room - he has spiked hair and black fingernails. Johnny
said to him - 'man you look like a freak'. He said 'you guys do
too.' His folks raised him on the TV show Hee Haw. He pulled out
his Telecaster and played Roy Clark better than Roy Clark played
him. He showed us his idea - one riff - the opening line to Floyd
and it fell together like that. We all collaborated on the lyrics."
members Rossington, Van Zant and Collins began in 1965 as My Backyard
before a succession of bands and names morphed into Lynyrd Skynyrd
Members left and rejoined the band and its offshoots down the years -
especially after the tragic plane crash.
The current band features Damn Yankee's drummer Michael Cartellone and
guitarist Mark "Sparky" Matejka - one time Hot Apple Pie member.
MOVIES AND SHATNER
from making 12 albums with Blackfoot in Medlocke's 26-year hiatus from
Skynyrd what else did he do?
"In the down time with Skynyrd I wanted to do something with acting,"
"I got an agent in L A. doing a movie Groom Lake with William
Shatner and 5 others, mainly independent films. It was good experience.
I enjoyed it. I played the part of a real derelict desert rancher who
believed in the whole space ship thing. It's what Shatner has always done
- UFOS and space ships. It was in the desert near Area 54 in New Mexico
and Arizona - it was said to house a lot of space ships that crashed.
We actually filmed in Douglas, Arizona, next to Mexican border. Shatner
directed and starred in it. I also did part of the soundtrack at my studio
here in Florida - it was really cool. He's an interesting guy to work
with, put it that way."
And so are the Lynyrd Skynyrd survivors whose air ship crashed just 32
singer Shorty Medlocke raised the Skynyrd guitarist.
"He was my grandfather who I call my dad," Medlocke said.
"They adopted and raised me - they were actually my parents. Shorty
was my main inspiration. He was an old delta blues player - he went on
the road with Roy Acuff. The funny thing about it is, country and blues
were hammered into us."
Medlocke lists George Jones and late Johnny Cash & Waylon Jennings
as his original musical rebel mentors and Vince Gill and Marty Stuart
as two of his favourite modern country guitarists.
Johnny Van Zant praises Brad Paisley and Keith Urban and has affinity
with former convict outlaw country singer-songwriter and actor David Allan
"David Allan Coe actually went to jail one time," Van Zant revealed
"Some fan cursed Lynyrd Skynyrd, and David Allan Coe kicked his teeth
in. He ran and kicked a guy's teeth in for saying something about Lynyrd
Skynyrd. He actually pulled me on his bus one night to tell me this. And
I go, 'Thanks, man!' Believe me, he'd do it again, I'm sure!"
But these days it's love not war that keeps Skynyrd home fires burning.
"I've been here 18 years, it's a beautiful place in south west Florida,"
"We spend so much time on road that this is a real retreat. I live
with my lady Stacey Michelle - a backing vocalist for Kid Rock. We have
a home here right on the river."
Sweet Home Florida.
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