What is the Deal Today with Blackfoot?
For those of you who have been around for awhile listening to this rock n’roll, you might just know Blackfoot. I type that with a smile on my face thinking about Shorty Medlocke. He was another old. . .older geezer that also liked that “fast rock n roll”. Anyway, Blackfoot started way back in the seventies and have continued in various forms over the years. In July they are making a run up north and hitting the Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie. That is cool. That said it has been a long strange ride and today, I just am not sure what to think.
The Shady Lane was quite the place in Hunterdon County NJ back in the day, and Blackfoot seemed to be quite the band there. At least that was the legend I grew up hearing about. For anyone that knows Interstate 78 you might know Millers Tavern, right off the Interstate, and right outside of Annandale and Clinton. No longer is it Millers, but every time I drive by I think Blackfoot. The story goes that was their place when not playing. That is the story. I heard these stories as I myself was getting into the music scene. Me and my crew missed much of that scene. As I was the oldest, I did catch the last breaths of the Shady lane before it became a church. And we still saw Blackfoot, just not at the Shady Lane.
Influenced by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Oak Arkansas, with each album they were moving a little further away from a southern rock sound to heavier and louder things. Meanwhile, they were touring with Ted Nugent. Yes. . . Ted Nugent. The last big show I remember them doing was with Def Leppard. That was probably the High and Dry tour, way before Pyromania. It was also when Blackfoot released Siogo.
Blackfoot circa 1982 doing the Free tune Wishing Well
Teenage Idol from the Siogo album.
So the band decided in some fashion to embrace that sound and Ken Hensley was now a proud member of Blackfoot. I liked the Siogo album, but then I liked Deep Purple, Gillan, Rainbow, and the like – hard rock with a Hammond Organ and synth there in the mix. Most Blackfoot fans were not buying, however. I guess it was just too heavy – too far removed from Highway Song and Train Train. Nor do I think did the Def Leppard tour really clicked. Hmmm I kind of liked High n’ Dry. Certainly better than the things that followed. Thanks Phil. So that led to Blackfoot doing a series of shows around NJ – their old haunts, like the Stone Pony, the Nook in Hackettstown, and the War Memorial in Trenton. Probably leaving Ken Hensley to ponder what he had gotten himself into.
The next album, Vertical Smiles, was an attempt to navigate the US market. They did get some success on MTV doing a cover of the Yardbird’s Morning Dew, but it was not their best work. It just seemed neutered – it was neither southern rock, nor their adopted hard rock. They pleased neither their old fans nor made new ones. My mates and I did catch them at the Stone Pony and Vertical Yawns or not, it was a great show. Their shows, the ones I saw, were always good. They were a tight band, and Ricky Medlocke just knew how to put on a show.
Ricky Medlocke and Blackfoot
The answer is Jerry “Wizzard” Seay on bass guitar, and Harold Seay on drums. Jerry “Wizzard” Seay came from Mothers Finest, an Atlanta based funk-rock act. An amazing bassist! With Ricky on his own, Blackfoot was now exploring funk rock mixed up with the hard rock riffs and guitar solos he had sharpened over the years. I think for this album and tour he decided to just have some fun. And it was kind of appropriate for the time. I saw this lineup at the Ritz and again enjoyed it, and some of the tunes on the album did rock. No doubt though it was different.
Mother’s Finest on the Arsenio Hall show.
Finally, however, I get to the question I raised at the start – What is the deal today with Blackfoot? What I mean is that the band does continue. Ricky Medlocke, I guess, today owns the rights to the name. That said, he is not performing with the band. On occasion he might but generally not. He has instead hired a group of younger musicians that perform under the moniker of Blackfoot. That is different. I know of no other band, where all the original musicians are gone – and where one of the founders is now in the producer’s chair selecting who does what and I suppose how. How far does that go? Does he select set lists? Does Medlocke determine length of solos, pace of songs, the tone and effects a guitar runs through? They have promised that at some point they will have a new album out – Medlocke and the new Blackfoot. Who is writing the new material? Is it a joint project between Medlocke and the new crew?
I am skeptical but curious. I know my one buddy from way back, who still cares about such things, is critical. He asks what the hell is that? He answers his own question saying,”Not Blackfoot!” Then again I saw Blackfoot without Medlocke a few years back, and was of the attitude that was not Blackfoot. So no doubt this is an interesting arrangement and certainly not typical. So on July 22nd, I probably will have to travel up to the Chance in Poughkeepsie and take a gander. And yes the Chance does have the wrong band or set of band members up on their site.