Inside the mind of the guitarist: Blackfoot's Rickey Medlocke

Blackfoot's Rickey Medlocke
Blackfoot's Rickey Medlocke
(Image: © Getty Images)

This month saw Rickey Medlocke’s Blackfoot release their first new album for 22 years. The record saw Rickey (who also remains a mainstay of Lynyrd Skynyrd) effectively re-launch the band by putting together a whole new line-up for whom he acted as a mentor figure as well as mucking in with the writing, tracking and production of the record. To mark the occasion we gave Rickey a call to talk through some of the big questions of guitar and rock stardom.

The song that made me want to pick up the guitar was…

“A big moment for me was when I first heard Elvis Presley. The first time I heard Hound Dog I knew what I wanted to end up doing. That song had a big impact on my life.”

The first guitar I owned was…

“My grandfather bought a pair of guitars, I’m not sure why he bought a pair but one of them ended up being mine. It was a 1953 Kay guitar. It had a great big neck to it. I still have that guitar today.”

My first guitar teacher was…

“In those days there were not really any guitar teachers. My grandfather was the guy that showed me a lot in the early days. He had an old J45 from the mid ‘40s and that’s the guitar that I started learning on.”

The first thing I learned on a guitar was…

“My grandfather showed me the basics. He showed me G, C and D and made sure I had it down and then he said I was on my own. From there I learned other chords from a guitar player in my grandfather’s band.

The best bit of advice another guitarist has given me is…

“Again that would be from my grandfather. He told me to always stay true to what you are and don’t try to be anything but that. I followed that rule my whole life. My grandfather taught me what it was to play the guitar from your heart.”

The most underrated guitarist in history is…

“Oh boy, that’s tough. Being honest, and this isn’t because I’m on stage in his place playing what he created, but I think Allen Collins was one of the most underrated guitar players of his time.”

The one thing I can do on guitar that no one else can is…

“I play my style and I don’t think anybody else can play my style. Everybody has their own style. Someone might try to emulate someone else’s style but you can’t quite nail it down. It was like everyone wanted to emulate Eddie Van Halen but there was only one Eddie Van Halen.”

The most I’ve spent on a guitar is…

“That would probably be the old Explorer that I’m playing. I paid quite a bit for that. What’s interesting is that I started collecting guitars when they didn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate myself as…

“Does it go up to 11 [laughs]? I don’t consider myself a great guitar player. Other people might say I’m great or this or that but I think of myself as a good guitar player. That way I keep striving to be better.”

The album I want to be buried with is…

“Wow, that’s an interesting question. I guess it would probably be one of the Clapton records. I’d go for Wheels of Fire by Cream.”

If I wasn’t a musician I’d be…

“I’m probably crazy enough and wild enough to have been a fighter pilot. I’ve had people say to me that I would have been good at that. I’m built for speed and heights don’t bother me. As it happened I’m a rock musician and I’m happy with the way my life turned out.”

The one thing I’ve never told anyone about myself is…

“A lot of people don’t know that I am a huge fan of classical flamenco music. I really love that music and I wish I had taken flamenco lessons when I had the opportunity.”

The guitarist I’d most like to do battle with at The Crossroads is…

“In the last few years I have appeared on stage with Joe Bonamassa. I don’t consider that a battle. I think if you get asked to jam with somebody on stage I don’t see it as a battle. I would love one day though to stand on stage and play with Clapton. I would love to share a few leads with him, that would be an incredible honour.”

The worst thing about singers is…

“Staying on key, not being flat or sharp. Hey, if you play rock music we’ve all been flat or sharp at one time. Who am I to judge though?”

My musical nemesis is…

“I guess anybody that has ever been an asshole to me because I try to be friendly to people. It would be anybody out there that thinks they’re better than anybody else.”

The silliest I’ve ever looked onstage was when…

“Oh god. I’m sure there have been a lot of them. Maybe back in the day when everybody was getting their hair layered. That was the goofiest time in rock history with everybody dressing up really stupid. I fell that for a whole but then got out of it real quick.”

My favourite musician joke is…

“I don’t have one really. Hey, everybody will always look at me and ask how I feel and I will tell them that the thing with old rock musicians is they don’t die, they just break more strings and hurt bad every day.”

Blackfoot’s new album Southern Native is out now.

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