Lynyrd Skynyrd headlines Hurricane Ian fundraiser: 'We’re doing it for absolutely nothing'

Lynyrd Skynyrd is a Florida band that knows a thing or two about hurricanes.

But when Hurricane Ian tore through Southwest Florida on Sept. 28, the band's members were stunned by the devastation. That included Fort Myers guitarist Rickey Medlocke.

“Our community surrounding us was just totally in shambles,” Medlocke says. “My neighborhood, actually, our area did great. But I took a trip around Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva, and I just couldn’t believe what I was looking at.”

Now Medlocke and the rest of Skynyrd want to help Southwest Florida recover. The Southern rock legends are headlining an all-star fundraiser Boots on the Sand concert Thursday, Dec. 1, at Hertz Arena.

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Rickey Medlocke played drums with an early version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then formed Blackfoot. He is back in Skynyrd as a guitarist and Blackfoot is now a five-piece band out of South Carolina.
Rickey Medlocke played drums with an early version of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then formed Blackfoot. He is back in Skynyrd as a guitarist and Blackfoot is now a five-piece band out of South Carolina.

The lineup also includes hard-rocker Ted Nugent, comedian Jim Breuer and country singers Ira Dean (formerly of Trick Pony), Tracy Lawrence and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line.

And they’re all doing the show for free, Medlocke says.

“All of the bands and the personalities are coming there on their own money and their own time,” he says. “We got all the trucks coming down (for the Lynyrd Skynrd show), all the gear coming down. And we’re doing it for absolutely nothing. And it’s our pleasure to do it.”

The event is organized by Ira Dean and Live Nation. Proceeds will go to disaster-relief efforts through the Florida Disaster FundCollier Community Foundation, Collaboratory and Charlotte Community Foundation.

Medlocke grew up with the founders of Lynyrd Skynyrd in Jacksonville. He played with the band in the early '70s, left to reform his band Blackfoot and then rejoined Skynyrd in 1996.

During a 12-minute Zoom interview, Medlocke talked more about the concert, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s upcoming 50th anniversary and whether or not this will be the band’s final tour.

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Lynyrd Skynyrd often packs arenas whenever it performs.
Lynyrd Skynyrd often packs arenas whenever it performs.

The News-Press: Why are you headlining Boots on the Sand?

Medlocke: We were contacted at first through Hertz Arena. We’d already done something at the Hard Rock (in Hollywood, Florida) and donated a check for the hurricane relief. And the Hard Rock matched us in our donation.

But then we were approached about doing this benefit. And we thought, "You know what? This is a good idea." Skynyrd has always wanted to and been willing to reach out and help people when we can. And it’s a very important thing.

You know, Johnny (Van Zant) still lives in Florida. He lives up in Jacksonville. I live here in Fort Myers. The Fort Myers community has been my community ever since 1991.

And you know what, I love Lee County and I got a lot of friends there. … So I’m really happy to do this.

Do you see the show as a way to help people forget their problems for a while?

I do. But I’m also looking at this show for us as a band. Fans give us so much and have given us so much in our lives. …

I think a little goes a long way, you know what I mean? And the band was very happy to volunteer.

Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd performs during the Exit 111 Rock Festival at Great Stage Park Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Manchester, Tenn.
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd performs during the Exit 111 Rock Festival at Great Stage Park Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Manchester, Tenn.

Aside from the concert, what’s going on with you? I know you’re on this big 50th anniversary tour with Skynyrd that may or may not be the final tour (the band announced a farewell tour in 2018, but has since backed away from those plans).

Well let’s put it this way: Basically, when we announced the farewell tour, it was a farewell tour. … Then COVID knocked us out of — oh, I don’t know — 60-plus shows.

And when that happened, we said, "Man, people have gone out and bought tickets. You know, they want to come see the band." So what we ended up doing is we said, "Hey, let’s go out and we’ll make up shows and the dates that were booked and all that."

In order to do that, you gotta add other dates. So we took it upon ourselves … (and we called it) the Big Wheels Keep on Rolling Tour.

I’m not really sure how many more years it’s gonna ensue. Nobody really does. ...

For myself, personally, I’m never gonna stop playing. I’m a lifer.

I’ve been playing guitar ever since I was 5 years old, man. And you know what: You don’t just lay it down one day and go, "OK, I’m gonna go fishing. I’m gonna go fishing for the rest of my years." You know, it just doesn’t happen.

Lynyrd Skynyrd
Lynyrd Skynyrd

I had a feeling you’d say that!

No, I’m not gonna do that. I can’t foresee the band calling it quits, as far as completely shutting down.

I know that we’ll try to do some residencies and special events and stuff like that. We’re even talking about maybe even trying to put new recordings together and put stuff out. So we’ll see what happens.

But next year: 50th anniversary from the very first band’s release of the "Pronounced" record. So here we go!

How do you feel about that? That’s quite an accomplishment. Can you believe it’s been 50 years?

I swear, it seems like 50 seconds. I started as an original drummer of the band. And you know what, now I’ve been back with them for 27 years. …

So I look at it and I feel very blessed and very fortunate to have been a part of such a great band that has a part in the history of great music. And that music will be around a lot longer after I’m gone, that’s for sure.

It’s classic stuff.

But you know what, man: It’s great. And I love seeing people come out and enjoy themselves. I love watching.

Johnny and I, we wrote a song called "Skynyrd Nation" quite a few years ago that we recorded. And at that time, we were saying "three generations bold" (in the lyrics). Well now, it’s FOUR generations bold.

And I mean, we’re seeing people 8 to 80 at the shows, you know? And all the young adults, man, they know the songs. They love the songs. That’s a statement, in itself, of how great the songs are.

Rickey Medlocke performs with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Stagecoach country music festival, Indio, Calif., April 27, 2019.
Rickey Medlocke performs with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Stagecoach country music festival, Indio, Calif., April 27, 2019.

If you don’t mind me asking, Rickey, how old are you now?

(Laughs) I don’t look bad for 89, do I?

(Laughs) You’re not 89!

No, I’m not. I’m actually 72 years old. And, you know, I take steps to do the right things in my life. I try to eat clean — as clean as I can – all the time and get what exercise I can and take a lot of supplements.

And hey, you know, there you go!

Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at crunnells@gannett.com or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).

If you go

What: Boots on the Sand

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1.

Where: Hertz Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero

Tickets: $65-$250

Fundraising: Proceeds from the concert will go to disaster relief efforts through Volunteer Florida and the Community Foundations of Southwest Florida.

The lineup: Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd headline the show, which also features Ira Dean, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tracy Lawrence and Ted Nugent. Comedian Jim Breuer hosts.

Info: 948-7825 or hertzarena.com

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Lynyrd Skynyrd's Medlocke on Ian, 50th anniversary, farewell tour