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Lynyrd Skynyrd at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Lynyrd Skynyrd has been flying high for more than 50 years now -- and shows no signs of coming down any time soon.

How many groups, after all, survive a plane crash that kills three members, as Skynyrd did in 1977, as well as the subsequent passing of several other key members? And how many musicians go through several heart surgeries like guitarist Gary Rossington, the sole surviving founding member left in Skynyrd’s lineup, and stay out on the road?

But Skynyrd endures, survives...and thrives. There’s seemingly no waning in interest for “Free Bird,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and the rest of Skynyrd’s Southern rock classics, and this is one group that’s happy to deliver the goods for anyone that wants them...

• This year marks the 40th anniversary of Skynyrd’s tragic plane crash, as well as the 30th anniversary of the group’s reunion that’s continued to this day. Guitarist Rickey Medlocke, who was part of the group during the early 70s and returned in 1996, recalls his shock at the news of the crash back in 1977. “I was in Columbia, S.C., to play a gig the night I got the message from my folks,” says Medlocke, 67, who was a member of Blackfoot at the time. “My mom and dad were real upset; My ma just loved the boys. And my dad picked up the phone right away when I called him and I said, ‘Tell me this is not true’ and he said ‘I’m afraid it is.’ After that I always kind of felt like maybe if I’d been there I could’ve maybe helped and changed something, but as Gary said, ‘No, Rickey, you couldn’t change anything. It was meant for you to be here now and not then,’ so there you have it.”

• This year is also the 40th anniversary of Skynyrd’s celebrated “Street Survivors” album, whose track “One More Time” features Medlocke on drums and backing vocals from his first tenure with the band. “All of a sudden the record came out with that song, and I couldn’t believe it ‘cause I had done it so long ago,” he says. “I was very honored by that. That album impacted me quite heavily even before the disaster happened. I bought not only the record but the cassette tape and (Blackfoot) would be riding around listening to that album as a whole and we just loved it, and I was proud for the guys and happy for them.”

• Rossington’s most recent medical procedure came on Aug. 4, “to address some blockage in the arteries of his heart,” forcing Skynyrd to cancel a week’s worth of shows. But it won’t keep him down for longer than doctors suggest. “He’s got several stents in his heart now,” Dale Krantz-Rossington, the guitarist’s wife and longtime Skynyrd backing singer, says. “After his last stent we really had a serious talk about just letting it go for now and being happy to be alive. But after a few days he was just miserable and he said to me, ‘I would much rather go out kickin’ it than sitting here in my chair.’ And that was the last time we talked about it. After that we just decided to hit the road and ask for God’s mercy and do it ‘til we drop. It’s just the way you do when you’ve lived it your whole life. Every musician of age will tell you that, I think.”

• There’s been some discussion during recent years about whether Skynyrd could, and should, continue after Rossington is no longer playing. But Medlocke says the matter has been tabled for the time being. “If there ever comes a time when were going to announce a farewell tour, believe me everybody’s gonna be the first to know,” the guitarist says. “I guess we’re gonna have to see what develops this year, but at this point right now there are no plans to call it quits or to announce a farewell tour. We’re just gonna go out and do what we do and to the best of our ability have fun, ‘cause we have a load of fun out there entertaining everybody.”

• Gregg Allman’s death earlier this year hit the members of Skynyrd especially hard since the Allman Brothers Band were older brother figures to Skynyrd, according to Medlocke. “Yeah, the band was pretty shocked over this,” he says. “It’s way too close to home. He was such a good friend of ours. Being in Jacksonville (Fla.), man, we were raised around him and Duane (Allman) and all the core of the Allman Brothers in the late 60s and had been around them guys off and on and done dates with them, all that stuff. In our book if you didn’t like the Allman Brothers you were sacrilegious. It’s a terrible loss to me, to music. That guy, if you turned on the radio and a song came on he was singing, you knew exactly who he was. He had that. He was one of those guys that had that unmistakable voice.”

If You Go

• Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackberry Smoke

• 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17.

• Michigan Lotter Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights.

• Tickets are $30.50-$100.50 pavilion, $25 lawn with a $75 lawn four-pack.

• Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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