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What happened to Jacksonville's big 'Southern rock' acts Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special?

Molly Hatchet's Friday show in Ponte Vedra Beach was postponed.
Molly Hatchet's Friday show in Ponte Vedra Beach was postponed.

Back in the 1970s, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, .38 Special and the Allman Brothers Band were selling millions of records and playing to huge crowds.

The common thread between the bands? All of them were “Southern rock” acts that formed in Jacksonville.

Today, you can buy a ticket to see four of the five (the Allman Brothers Band retired from the road in 2014). But what are you really seeing when you go to one of their shows?

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Health issues have led Gary Rossington to sit out shows with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Guitarist Damon Johnson has been playing with the band in his absence.
Health issues have led Gary Rossington to sit out shows with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Guitarist Damon Johnson has been playing with the band in his absence.

Guitarist Gary Rossington has been sidelined due to health issues, so if you go to a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, you are likely going to see none of the musicians who played on the band’s best-known songs. There are no original members left in Molly Hatchet or Blackfoot, either. Guitarist/singer Don Barnes is the sole original member still playing with .38 Special.

That’s not to say the acts are terrible or that they are pale imitations of the originals. Johnny Van Zant has been singing with Lynyrd Skynyrd for 35 years, far longer than his later brother Ronnie ever did, and the band is still a big draw on the road. When they start playing "Gimme Three Steps" or "Call Me the Breeze," you are going to boogie in the aisles, regardless of who is actually playing the music.

Barnes leads a tight, well-rehearsed version of .38 Special that still sounds very much like .38 Special. They’re at the Florida Theatre on Oct. 21.

Don Barnes (left) is the sole original member still playing with .38 Special. The band comes to the Florida Theatre in October.
Don Barnes (left) is the sole original member still playing with .38 Special. The band comes to the Florida Theatre in October.

But Molly Hatchet, which rose to fame behind a blazing three-guitar attack, is playing these days with one guitarist and is on at least its fourth singer. The band's show Friday at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall was postponed due to Hurricane Ian. No new date for the show has been set.

Blackfoot, which was led by current Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Rickey Medlocke back in the day, is now a five-piece band out of South Carolina “chosen by Rickey Medlocke and the Blackfoot team.” The band has just two shows listed on the tour schedule on its website.

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.

In many cases, 'Southern rock' giants were forced to replace members

It’s a rock ‘n’ roll version of the classic Ship of Theseus thought exercise, in which a beloved Greek ship saw all of its timbers replaced over the years, leaving people to wonder if it was still actually the same vessel.

In many cases, the bands had no choice but to replace musicians.

Three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in a 1977 plane crash while on tour to support the “Street Survivors” album. The band returned to the stage in 1987 with Rossington, bassists Leon Wilkeson, guitarist Ed King, and pianist Billy Powell from the original band. Wilkeson, King and Powell have all since passed away. Medlocke, who played drums with an early version of the band, rejoined as a guitarist in 1996.

Of the original Molly Hatchet lineup, all six members are dead, as are the band’s second lead singer, Jimmy Farrar, and its third, Phil McCormack.

Health problems forced Donnie Van Zant, who sang with .38 Special for nearly 40 years, to retire in 2013. And Medlocke can’t play in Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot at the same time.

Jaimoe is the only original member of the Allman Brothers Band still performing regularly. He has a show with the Big Band of Brothers booked at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in January.
Jaimoe is the only original member of the Allman Brothers Band still performing regularly. He has a show with the Big Band of Brothers booked at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in January.

The Allman Brothers Band, which formed in a Riverside house in 1969, went out on top, retiring with a big series of shows in New York in 2014. Singer Gregg Allman and drummer Butch Trucks have since died, leaving only guitarist Dickey Betts and drummer Jaimoe from the original lineup. Betts has no shows listed on his tour website.

Jaimoe still plays live shows and has a date with the Big Band of Brothers at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in January. The Allman Family Reunion, which comes to the Florida Theatre on Nov. 30, will feature the Allman Brothers Band music played by the Devon Allman Project (Gregg Allman’s son), Duane Betts (Dickey Betts’ son) and Melody and Vaylor Trucks (Butch Trucks’ children), among others.

Allman Brothers Band

Classic lineup: Gregg Allman (keyboards, vocals), Duane Allman (guitar), Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), Butch Trucks (drums), Jaimoe (drums)

Current lineup: The band is retired, so there is no active Allman Brothers Band.

Upcoming Florida shows: None

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Classic lineup: Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Ed King (guitar), Leon Wilkeson (bass), Billy Powell (keyboards), Bob Burns (drums)

Current lineup: Johnny Van Zant (vocals), Rickey Medlocke (guitar), Mark “Sparky” Matejka (guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar), Peter Keys (keyboards), Michael Cartellone (drums), Keith Christopher (bass)

Upcoming Florida shows: Sept. 29 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood

.38 Special

Classic lineup: Don Barnes (guitar, vocals), Donnie Van Zant (vocals), Jeff Carlisi (guitar), Jack Grondin (drums), Steve Brookins (drums), Larry Junstrom (bass)

Current lineup: Don Barnes (guitar, vocals), Bobby Capps (keyboards, vocals), Gary Moffatt (drums), Barry Dunaway (bass), Jerry Riggs (guitar)

Upcoming Florida shows: Oct. 9-10 at Eat to the Beat Festival at EPCOT, Oct. 21 at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Dec. 10 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, Jan. 19 at Rokisland Fest in Key West.

Molly Hatchet

Classic lineup: Danny Joe Brown (vocals), Dave Hlubek (guitar), Steve Holland (guitar), Duane Roland (guitar), Bruce Crump (drums), Banner Thomas (bass)

Current lineup: Bobby Ingram (guitar), Tim Lindsey (bass), John Galvin (keyboards), Shawn Beamer (drums), Jimmy Elkins (vocals)

Upcoming Florida shows: Sept. 20 at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra Beach, Oct. 21 at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Nov. 1-5 aboard the High Seas Rally Cruise departing from Port Canaveral, Nov. 18 at the Space Coast State Fair in Viera

Blackfoot

Classic lineup: Rickey Medlocke (guitar, vocals), Charlie Hargrett (guitar), Greg T. Walker (bass), Jakson Spires (drums)

Current lineup: Kenny Lawrence (vocals), Drew Spencer (guitar), Stuart McConnell (guitar, vocals), Dave Somerville (drums), Chief Spires (bass, vocals)

Upcoming Florida shows: None

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Where they are now: Jacksonville's big 'Southern rock' acts