Blackfoot is an American Southern rock musical ensemble from Jacksonville, Florida organized during 1970. Though they are primarily a Southern rock band, they are also known as a hard rock act. The band's classic lineup consisted of guitarist and vocali...
Blackfoot is an American Southern rock musical ensemble from Jacksonville, Florida organized during 1970. Though they are primarily a Southern rock band, they are also known as a hard rock act. The band's classic lineup consisted of guitarist and vocalist Rickey Medlocke, guitarist Charlie Hargrett, bassist Greg T. Walker, and drummer Jakson Spires.
They have had a number of successful albums during the 1970s and early 1980s, including Strikes (1979), Tomcattin' (1980) and Marauder (1981).
During the spring of 1969, Rickey Medlocke and Greg T. Walker met New York City native Charlie Hargrett in Jacksonville and organized the band "Fresh Garbage" featuring Medlocke on drums and vocals, Walker on bass, Hargrett on guitar, and Ron Sciabarasi on keyboards. They played most of their shows at The Comic Book Club on Forsyth Street.
That autumn, Fresh Garbage dissolved following the departure of Sciabarasi. However, Medlocke, Walker, and Hargrett regrouped and formed the band "Hammer" with Medlocke switching to vocalist/guitarist, and with new recruits Jakson Spires (drums), DeWitt Gibbs (keyboards), and Jerry Zambito (guitars) joining the band. Gibbs and Zambito had previously played together in Tangerine. They soon relocated to Gainesville, Florida to be the house band of Dub's, a well-known topless bar on the outskirts of town.
About the beginning of 1970, the band relocated to Manhattan after a friend, who was working in a music publishing company, told her boss about the band and he had them move to New York City.
During the early spring of the same year, the band, after learning of another band on the West Coast named Hammer, decided to change their name to Blackfoot to represent the American Indian heritage of Walker, Spires and Medlocke (Spires was part Cherokee, Medlocke part Sioux, and Walker part Eastern Creek, a Florida Indian tribe). When the band failed to acquire a contract as a result of their relocation, Gibbs quit the band and Medlocke began playing rhythm guitar full-time.
During the spring of 1971, Medlocke and Walker accepted an offer to join Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot ended for a time. There was a brief attempt to regroup during 1972, but Medlocke quit again, and Walker joined The Tokens (not to be confused with the 50's doo-wop group who popularized "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), who shortly afterward changed their name to Cross Country. Hargrett remained in the north, living in Hackettstown, New Jersey. During August 1972 Blackfoot's old friend and roadie, John Vassiliou, visited Hargrett with Reidsville, North Carolina bassist Leonard Stadler from the band Blackberry Hill. Hargrett decided to relocate to North Carolina and invited Medlocke, who'd quit Lynyrd Skynyrd by this time, to reform Blackfoot with Stadler on bass guitar and Spires returning as drummer. Danny Johnson (later with the bands Derringer and Steppenwolf), from a Louisiana group, Axis, was employed as second guitarist. But Medlocke soon decided to be both main vocalist and guitarist again, and so Johnson's tenure with the band was brief.
During the summer of 1973, Stadler quit the band after a tumor was discovered on one of his lungs (it later dissolved). But Stadler decided to leave secular music to join a gospel group. He eventually became a Methodist minister. Greg T. Walker was invited to rejoin at this juncture.
By 1974 the band had returned their base of operations to the Northeast (Northern New Jersey) and Medlocke developed nodes on his vocal cords and temporarily lost his voice. Another singer, Patrick Jude, was brought into the band. After a brief time, Medlocke was able to sing again and Jude was dismissed. Soon afterward, Medlocke and Walker sent producers/session players Jimmy Johnson and David Hood a copy of Blackfoot's material. Johnson and Hood had worked with Medlocke and Walker in Muscle Shoals, Alabama when they were there recording with Lynyrd Skynyrd. No Reservations was released by the company Island Records during 1975 as part of a deal organized by Blackfoot's then manager Lou Manganiello, and their second record album, Flying High, was vended by Epic Records company during 1976. Both record albums were produced by Johnson and Hood.
By late 1975, the group was living back in Gainesville, Florida. During 1977 they communicated with Black Oak Arkansas' manager, Butch Stone, who hired them as the backing group for one of his clients, Ruby Starr, who had been a backup singer for Black Oak but was now becoming self-employed. After the stint with Ruby ended during 1978, they met Brownsville Station manager Al Nalli and his partner Jay Frey, who got them a contract with the company Atco Records.
Blackfoot Strikes, produced by Al Nalli and engineered by Brownsville Station drummer Henry Weck, was recorded in Nalli's basement studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was completed by January 1979. It was destined to be the band's most commercially successful effort. The song "Train, Train", written by Rickey's grandfather, "Shorty" Medlocke, became their first success and best known song. "Highway Song" proved to be another success for them later that year.
The group toured frequently during 1979; late during the year they opened for the band The Who at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan while developing their next album, Tomcattin, which was released during 1980. They went on to release the album Marauder during 1981 and Highway Song Live during 1982.
During the early 1980s the "southern rock" genre was considered passe by the pop music press, so the band began attempting to change their style somewhat. They decided to add keyboards to the group once again. Organist Ken Hensley (ex-Uriah Heep) was contacted and agreed to join during 1982 in time for their next record album, Siogo. But the poor sales for Siogo had the band thinking they might have to "modernize" for the new MTV generation. It was thought that perhaps Hargrett with his "biker type" appearance might not be appropriate for television. Hargrett reluctantly decided to end his employment with the band during January 1984 having not played on their next album, Vertical Smiles, which had been recorded in Atlanta in late 1983 with former Yes band's engineer Eddie Offord. This album was rejected by Atco. But the revamped version, which was released finally during October 1984, also failed to sell well.
Ken Hensley, not accustomed to Blackfoot's intense tour schedule, quit by late 1984 and was replaced by former Axe band's singer/guitarist "Bobby" Barth. But by December 1985, with their popularity waning and good-quality engagements becoming few, the band decided to quit. During February 1986 the Blackfoot company was dissolved. Medlocke decided to continue with a new team that included Doug "Bingo" Bare (keyboards, synthetics, backup vocals), Jerry "Wizzard" Seay (from Mother's Finest, bass guitar, backup vocals)and Harold Seay (drums, percussion). For their 1987 album Rick Medlocke and Blackfoot (their final album for Atlantic Records), the new group was attempting a more radio-style 1980s rock music sound. Jef Stevens played bass guitar for one track. Many of the group's fans were not all that happy with the changes.
During 1988, Wizzard and Seay quit and Gunner Ross (drums, percussion), bassist Mark Mendoza and Neal Casal (guitar) were employed. Mendoza quit by the end of the year and Rikki Mayr (ex-Lizzy Borden band) began playing bass for the band during early 1989.
During 1990 a new album, Medicine Man, was released by the independent Loop company.
By 1992, Medlocke had revamped the team yet again and hired three other players: Benny Rappa (drums, percussion), Mark Woerpel (an ex-Whiteface guitarist who had done some studio work for Medlocke for earlier albums) and Tim Stunson for bass guitar. Another new album, After the Reign, was released during 1994 by the company Wildcat and, like Medicine Man, had something of the band's old style. During 1994, also, the Rhino Records collection Rattlesnake Rock N' Roll: The Best of Blackfoot was released.
By 1996, Blackfoot was: Medlocke, Stet Howland, John Housley (from Ragady Ann) for lead and rhythm guitar and Bryce Barnes (from Edwin Dare) for bass guitar. That same year, Medlocke rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd, this time as a guitarist. But he continued to tour with Blackfoot honoring all dates booked through 1997, then disbanded the group to concentrate on Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Live On The King Biscuit Flour Hour, a 1983 concert recording, was released during early 1998, and EMI released Live during 2000, also culled from the band's heyday.
During 2004 a second resurrection of Blackfoot occurred with original members Jakson Spires, Greg T. Walker and Charlie Hargrett. Medlocke was not available, so the lead vocals role was given to Bobby Barth (band member of Axe). During March 2005, Spires died suddenly of an aneurysm, but the band decided to persevere. In compliance with the will of Spires, Austrian drummer Christoph Ullmann was hired as the new drummer.
During 2006 the band toured and was joined by Skinny Molly's Jay Johnson (the son of Jimmy Johnson, their original co-producer) for guitar and vocals after Barth was sidelined for a shoulder and neck operation. Barth resumed performing later that year. During November 2006 Ullman left to return to Austria and was succeeded by Mark McConnell. In April 2007 Blackfoot dismissed Johnson and McConnell. That year the band toured and consisted of bassist Walker, Hargrett, Barth and drummer Michael Sollars. Later that year a live DVD was released. In 2009 Scott Craig was employed as drummer.
During the spring of 2010, Barth was forced to undergo emergency back surgery. Former Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mike Estes and current vocalist/guitarist for Skinny Molly was then employed for lead vocals/guitar and Kurt Pietro (drummer of Skinny Molly) replaced Scott Craig on drums. In the summer of 2011 Charlie Hargrett was replaced by Randy Peak.
In 2012 Rickey Medlocke reformed Blackfoot with a completely new line-up, with him acting as their producer.
Walker, Hargrett, Estes and Pietro subsequently regrouped under the band name Fired Guns. In 2015, Walker, Hargrett, Barth and Ullman began performing together again under the band name Warrior's Pride. Rickey Medlocke continues to perform with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Brian Carpenter - bass, vocals (2012-present),
Tim Rossi - guitar, vocals (2012-present),
Matt Anastasi - drums, vocals (2012-present),
Jeremy Thomas - lead vocals, guitar (2014-present),