In his formative years Rickey Medlocke mastered a whole bunch of instruments, but he truly flourished on guitar. He cut his musical teeth under the watchful eyes of his grandfather, Delta musician Shorty Medlocke, and become handy with a pair of drum sticks, going on to play in his grandfather’s band and later sitting behind the kit in an early Lynyrd Skynyrd line-up.
But his career really hit a new gear when he stood out front as guitarist and vocalist for Blackfoot, and more than 40 years on from the band’s debut they’re back with a brand new record, Southern Native. So, it seems like a perfect time for Rickey to reflect on those early years, and the records that put him on the path to guitar stardom.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced (1967)
“I loved all of the Hendrix records. My top one was Are You Experienced.
“When I was in high school I was in a band and one day I was in the car on the way to the drummer’s house. I had the radio on and all of a sudden I heard Purple Haze come on the radio. I was like, ‘What is this?’ It finished and the guy said it was the new song from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I couldn’t believe it. When I got to the drummer’s house he met me at the door and said, ‘Were you listening to the radio? Did you hear that Jimi Hendrix record?’
“A short time after that I saw Hendrix opening for the Monkees of all things. I saw him several times after that, the last of which was at Woodstock. Hendrix changed the face of guitar playing along with guys like Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.”
Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)
“A lot of my lead stuff I’ll start off with a basic lick and really it’s all blues licks. My grandfather raised me and he was heavy into the old Delta blues and country thing. I loved listening to a lot of those old blues guys.
“When I heard Clapton and this Cream album that there was something familiar about the way he approached his playing and his leads that really reminded me of a lot of the old blues guys.
“I took to that album really heavy because I felt a kinship in what he was doing and what those blues guys were doing. That Clapton stuff struck me in a great way and has stuck with me all the way to today. I have such a respect for that guy.”
AC/DC – Back In Black (1980)
“I toured with AC/DC in the States on the Highway To Hell tour with Blackfoot. When Blackfoot really started to tour Europe I was invited over to a party and it happened to be at Brian Johnson’s home in England. He was telling us how he had just cut this new Back In Black record with AC/DC. We were telling him that we couldn’t wait to hear the record and all of a sudden it came out. He put it on and I was blown away. We ended up touring with AC/DC again later on, so that was cool to tour with them before with Bon, to be in Brian’s house listening to Back In Black and then tour with them again. That was great.”
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Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)
“I love Joe Perry’s playing on that album and tracks like Back In The Saddle. Right now we’re using Back In The Saddle as Skynyrd’s entrance music. All of the early stuff from those guys I just love. They were really raw. Joe Perry at that time, to me, had this reckless abandon to his playing, it was so raw, so off the cuff. I love that kind of stuff.”
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)
“After I left Lynyrd Skynyrd the first time and Blackfoot was gigging around Texas quite a bit I got to see ZZ Top in the early days.
“I loved what Billy was doing on their first two records but there was something about Tres Hombres. I think Billy’s guitar playing just came alive on that record. People really began to sit up and take notice to them at that time.
“I think Billy is one of the most soulful players. Last year I was at a function where Billy and I got up and jammed together. We played Tush together and I had a blast. It was so much fun and a great honour to stand up there with him.
“To me, no one plays like Billy. He’s so soulful and earthy and he’s also very bluesy.”