We’re giving away four tickets on Go’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/GoWenatchee. Hit “like” and guess which item was NOT one of the band’s requests of the Town Toyota Center. We’ll choose two winners at random from those who guess correctly.
a) large Crockpot of homemade chicken noodle soup
b) two sliced avocados
c) a case of Dr. Pepper
What: Lynyrd Skynyrd with Shooter Jennings, Texas Hippie Coalition
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 26
Where: Town Toyota Center
Information: towntoyotacenter.com, 667-7847
WENATCHEE — As Rickey Medlocke strums the opening chords of “Free Bird,” it’s hard not to think back to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s roots.
“If I stay here with you girl … things just couldn’t be the same,” sings Johnny Van Zant, standing where his older brother once stood 30 years ago as the frontman of the iconic southern rock band.
It’s been a long, rough road since the band formed in 1964. In 1977, their tour plane ran out of fuel and crashed in a Mississippi swamp, three days after releasing their “Street Survivors” album. Six people died, including frontman Ronnie Van Zant, lead guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines.
Lynyrd Skynyrd started touring again in 1987, but they’ve suffered several losses to health issues, including founding member Allen Collins, keyboardist Billy Powell and bassist Leon Wilkeson from the band’s heyday. Gary Rossington is the only pre-crash member left.
Yet Lynyrd Skynyrd forged on with nine new albums, while honoring their past hits and fallen bandmates. They’re still touring and selling out arena-sized shows with bassist Johnny Colt of the Black Crowes and Train, guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka and keyboardist Peter Keys. But in a music business that’s ruled by pop instead of rock, where cellphones have replaced lighters at the live shows, Skynyrd felt their latest album, “Last of a Dying Breed” was aptly titled, Medlocke said.
“We do feel that along with ourselves and the Rolling Stones, the Allman Brothers, AC/DC — we are the last of our kind,” he said in an interview earlier this month.
Medlocke grew up in Florida in the same area as Rossington and the Van Zant brothers. He formed his own band, “Blackfoot” in 1970, three years before Lynyrd Skynyrd’s double platinum, “(Pronounced ‘Leh-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd).” As Medlocke watched his band unravel in the hands of bad management, he decided to give Van Zant a call.
“I asked if they needed someone to work for them, like a crew guy or whatever,” Medlocke said. As luck would have it, they needed a drummer, which in addition to guitar, Medlocke knew how to play.
“I brushed up on my chops and a week later I was sitting in Jacksonville rehearsing all the material that would later become Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘First and Last’ album.”
Medlocke returned to Blackfoot in ’72 for the chance to be a frontman once again. In 1995, Rossington called him back to play guitar for a reunited Skynyrd, in which he’s been playing ever since.
Here’s what he had to say about the upcoming show, and how they walk that line between old and new.
Go: Lynyrd Skynyrd could have ended with the plane crash, why revive it?
RM: After the crash happened and the guys were all busted up, they took a couple of years to get healed and try to get their mental selves back together. In 1987, they decided to do a 10-year tribute to the band. What ended up happening after that was the outcry from fans so great to keep going, they said you know what, we’re not going to stop it here. That was 25 years ago, and I’ve been a part of it 17 of those 25.
Go: The band used to hang a hat on a microphone to honor Ronnie Van Zant during, “Freebird” — is the band planning any touches like that for the concert here?
RM: Every night, we have a beautiful backdrop that drops during “Free Bird” that has all the names of everyone who have gone on. They’re illuminated in that backdrop in the clouds, around an eagle. It’s just a real touching thing. Johnny gives tribute to Ronnie every night. We pay tribute to the troops and their families during “Simple Man.” The band is very caring like that. Man, we think about those guys, Ronnie and Allen, Leon and Billy. All the guys and gals who have gone before us — we think about those people.
Go: What can fans expect with this new record — classic Skynyrd or a new kind of sound?
RM: It’s kind of classic stuff, but it’s touching more modern. The deal is that we went into this record deciding we were going to do it old school, where the band set up and worked this stuff up live.
Go: How do you move on with new material when you still have fans who want to hear the old songs?
RM: We’re three generations deep in fans. I know the older fans probably don’t care too much about newer stuff because older fans I don’t think buy records anymore. The younger fans buy records and I think they do like the fact we do try and make new records and play those new songs in the set. We’re three brand new songs deep in the set right now in the show. It works out great. They accept it, they’re having a good time with it, they enjoy it, and we’re going to keep doing the same thing.
Go: What was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s reaction when Kid Rock sampled “Sweet Home” in his hit song “All Summer Long?”
RM: You know what, man, we actually we loved it because it kind of hooked us up. We did two tours back to back with Kid Rock. I actually met my wife on that tour. She was one of his backing vocalists on the tour and that’s how we met. The tour came off great. It lifted him with the song, it lifted us and all worked out great.
Go: Do you ever get sick “Free Bird” or “Sweet Home?”
RM: Everyone asks us that. They take on different nuance every night. Every band wishes they had a “Sweet Home Alabama” or a “Free Bird” in their show. We’re fortunate and blessed to have one. We go with it every night, and it never gets boring.
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139