2010-03-24 / 15 Minutes

Rock n’ roller maintains low-key lifestyle

BY BILL LAPLANTE Special to Florida Weekly

Fort Myers-resident Ricky Medlocke. COURTESY PHOTO Fort Myers-resident Ricky Medlocke. COURTESY PHOTO Ricky Medlocke knows fame, way more than 15 minutes of it. As the lead guitarist and vocalist for the iconic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mr. Medlocke has helped sell 45 million albums over his four-decade worldwide career.

Currently, the sometime-Fort Myers resident is on the road promoting the band’s newest album, “Gods and Guns.”

“We got snowed out in Bergin, Norway, last week on the European tour,” he said from his chair in the modest green room of the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City before taking the stage as headliner capping the two-week extravaganza of songs and shortcake, which brings several hundred thousand folks to this farming community just outside of Orlando best known for its sweet and juicy berries.

“It’s great to be back home in Florida,” he said as he started reminiscing about his first fond musical memories. His grandfather, a well-known blues musician named Shorty Medlocke, taught him to play the banjo when he was a kid. When the young Mr. Medlocke went to see Elvis Presley perform in Jacksonville, it was a transformative experience. “I came out of that show and said, ‘That’s what I’m going to do,’” he said.

By the time he saw the king of rock ‘n’ roll perform, musical momentum was already well under way for the boy who had taken the stage with the elder Mr. Medlocke on television and in front of concert-goers as a child.

Throughout his childhood, Mr. Medlocke quickly learned to play drums, dobro, keyboards, mandolin and, of course, guitar.

After graduating high school, he formed his own band, Blackfoot (named as a tribute to his Native American roots) playing around the globe and selling more than five million recordings. Throughout the years, he moved in and out of Lynyrd Skynyrd, first starting as a drummer for the band and occasional lead singer, providing the vocals for songs like “White Dove” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Pray.” But when Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Gary Rossington invited Mr. Medlocke to rejoin the band as lead guitarist and songwriter in 1996, he was back for good.

Late this summer, the seasoned rocker will perform with his band in eight Sean Hannity Freedom Concerts to benefit a scholarship program for children of deceased or disabled veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I got to be friends with Sean Hannity (Fox TV and radio host) and we put together this concert series to help vets families. We’re 85 to 90 percent sold out,” he said. The first show is in Orlando on Aug. 14. His friendship with Mr. Hannity belies a decidedly conservative political tilt that the longhaired rocker and card-carrying NRA member proudly eschews. “We’re too PC (politically correct) today. We need to remember things like freedom of choice and the Second Amendment.”

Despite all his globetrotting, Mr. Medlocke is a Southwest Floridian at heart, cherishing his free time here.

“I really like fishing for snook, reds and bass. One day I caught five 10-pound bass somewhere between the Panhandle and Marco Island,” he said, before stopping his story — not wanting to reveal his special fishing spot. “I also like Blue Sushi, but don’t go out like I used to,” he said. He also enjoys finding “hole-in-the-wall joints” that serve fresh-caught seafood and “grillin’ and chillin’” at home.

His time in Fort Myers, however, isn’t all just fun and games. During the mid-’90s, he opened Studio Sea near Page Field. The private recording studio eventually opened its doors to other major-league talents like Styx, William Shatner and Kid Rock as well as local bands such as A200.

On this day, he takes the stage and plays “Train, Train,” a song he wrote during his Blackfoot days. Here on stage is where he kicks off his vacation of sorts. He’ll enjoy Florida for a few months before hitting the road once again in July, restarting his travels to entertain a crowd in Walker, Minn. However, it’s on this stage, as he belts out that familiar tune, that he is where he belongs. “Florida will always be my home,” he said. 

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