Jacksonville, Fla., was alive with the sound of music in the late 1960’s. Out of nowhere the town gave birth to Southern rock, spawning the careers of the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot and .38 Special.
Suddenly, local boys were becoming national heroes. Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Gregg and Duane Allman and Berry Oakley are but a few of the names that have gone down in musical history that began their career in Jacksonville.
There is another native son whose name belongs among Jacksonville’s elite. While he is best known as the guitarist and singer of the band Blackfoot, Rickey Medlocke was also one of the original drummers for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Reflecting on what it was that made Jacksonville such a special place, Medlocke says, “A lot of jokes have been made that there was something in the drinking water. Jacksonville was a growing town at the time and was a transient type of city. You had my old man, Shorty Medlocke, Glenn Reeves and Mae Axton, who is Hoyt Axton’s mama, all living there. There were a lot of older adults who were musicians and they had kids. Jacksonville had a ton of talent who knew how to play and how to write songs — I guess it might have been in the drinking water.”
Medlocke began playing music at the age of 3 when his grandfather, Delta bluesman Shorty Medlocke, put a banjo in his hands.
“He bought me a miniature five-string banjo and taught me how to play. I was only 3 years old, and I picked it up naturally. I picked up guitar when I was 5. ”
While Shorty and wife Juanita are actually Rickey’s grandparents, they raised the youngster and Medlocke refers to them as his Mom and Dad. Looking at it from afar it seems that Medlocke’s future was destined, but Juanita was not sure that Rickey should put all of his eggs in one basket.
Medlocke recalls a conversation he had at the family dinner table. “I was getting ready to graduate from high school in a month or two, and I was sitting at my parents’ table. My mom was very old and reserved. She put her utensils down and said, ‘Rickey, have you given any thought of what you are going to do when you get out of high school? Are you going to take a couple of years of college so you have something to fall back on?’ About that time I heard my dad throw his fork and knife down. He said, ‘Juanita, I want you to take a real good look at him. I think it is pretty laid out what this boy is going to do right when he gets out of school. When he gets out of school he is gone. I don’t think he is going to be no brain surgeon or attorney.’”
Shorty was right, and it didn’t take long for Medlocke to join the blossoming Jacksonville music scene. Medlocke describes what it was like in the early days of Southern rock.
“Back in ’68 there was a band called the Second Coming that the Allman Brothers came out of. Berry Oakley and Dickie Betts were in that band; so was Reese Wynans, who went on to play keyboards with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. There was another band called The Allman Joys that had Gregg and Duane Allman in it. I got with Jakson Spires, Greg Walker and Charlie Hargrett and formed Blackfoot. Skynyrd was called The One Percent at that time.
“We would have these Be-Ins in Jacksonville and six or seven bands would get together and all set up their gear at the same time and everyone would get up and jam. You would look up and see Duane, Gregg, Dickie and Berry playing together. Then Skynyrd would play, and we would play. It was really the breeding ground for Southern rock.”
Medlocke relates that while the bands competed with each other, they did so out of mutual respect and a