Interview with Greg T. Walker (Blackfoot)

You have just released your first ever DVD, Train Train. Are you pleased with how it’s turned out?

It turned out just great and it’s doing very well for us. We couldn’t be happier with it. It’s a 2-disc set with a live DVD of the show from start to finish as well as an audio CD so that there’s a disc for your home and a disc for your car.

Where was it recorded?

It was recorded at the M.A.C Centre in Prestonsburg in Kentucky. We had a sold out crowd, it was a great, great night and we had a blast doing it.

As far as the track listing goes, does this cover pretty much the whole of the Blackfoot spectrum?

We cover material from just about every album and we’ve got a new song on there that was a tribute to Jackson. There’s a couple little extras in there too where Bobby Barth does his Blues thing by himself, which is just excellent.

What sort of people come to your shows these days?

I see more and more younger people coming to our shows than what came 10 years ago. That’s not enough to change the world again and I’m not saying that it’s ever going to take off like it did, but there are more now than there have been in the past. A lot of people come up to me after a show and say that they’ve brought their kids too. They have grown up listening to their own music and also their parents music and they like what they hear. The music of our generation had a bit more meat to it, something you could sink your teeth into. There was a little more substance and structure. It tended, on the whole to have more melody. Then in the late ’80’s and 90’s you got these, what I call, “monotone singers” that didn’t really seem to change notes a lot. It seems as though music has been changing again back to the older style now so maybe that’s why more young ones at coming to our shows now.

There must be plenty of archive footage of Blackfoot from the 70’s and 80’s. Are there any plans to release any of this?

We would certainly be looking at doing something like that in the future but we haven’t put any on this disc. There is some footage of us out there of us from the MTV video days, it’s a bootleg or something as we hadn’t authorised it but we might do something official sometime.

This is your first release with your new line up. Bobby Barth, who has replaced Ricky Medlocke as lead singer has had a long association with the band going back to the Siogo days. This must have made it a fairly easy choice to ask him to join?

We have known Bobby for many years and he first got involved with Blackfoot around the time of the Siogo album. Shortly after that album he joined the band. When we put the band back together he was always the first choice, there was never any consideration for anyone else. He was the first one I called after Charlie and Jackson. He’s just an outstanding guy and has such a great voice which just seems to get better and better and he fits in so well with us.

At the time we did this show which was at the end of 2006 when it was actually recorded, we had a fifth member. Bobby Barth had to step aside for sometime in early 2006 with some health issues which are now sorted and he’s doing great. We asked a friend of ours from Muscle Shoals to come in a help us out and he did such an outstanding job that when Bobby returned after a few months we kept this other guy so we were a five piece at the time we filmed the DVD. Since then we’re back to a four piece featuring myself and Charlie Hargett from the original days, Bobby Barth on vocals and guitar our new drummer Michael Sollars. Michael has turned out so well. for us. After we lost Jackson we had two other drummers with us who were great drummers but for one reason or another hadn’t worked out but Michael has done a terrific job. He’s a great guy and has a great voice and fits the sound of the band perfectly. Michael has turned out just wonderful for us. I couldn’t be happier.

How did Blackfoot finally get back together after so long?

It was something that we’d talked about through the years. Jackson and I had done some projects together. We’d often fly into town to be the rhythm section on someone’s album. We kept writing songs together and talked about doing our own project. At the time he was with The Southern Rock Allstars so I joined them for a while. I worked on their debut CD with them and then when it came time to do mine there was so much going on at the time. I told Jackson that I really wanted to do it and if he couldn’t break away then I’d just have to do it and he was OK, he knew I had to do it. I went ahead and did it on my own. I worked with Charlie; then I worked with Bobby and Jackson worked with Charlie, you know we kept working together in two and three combinations through the years and I finally said one day “Look, why don’t we just reform Blackfoot?” There was a fourth member who didn’t want to do it so we asked Bobby to join us. It took some talking on the phone, you know, getting some issues addressed and we hoped we’d be a little smarter this time. That’s how it came about; we simply just went ahead and did it.

Tragically Jackson Spires passed away not long after putting the band back together. Did you feel like calling it a day or did you feel that Jackson would have wanted you to continue?

That just about killed me. When we first got back together we all sat down and lengthy conversations about what we were going to do with this project, what the future held for us and how long we’d last. One of the things we discussed was what would happen if someone got injured for a few weeks or for a few months or permanently or if somebody left or someone dies. The answer was always to keep going. After the 6th show we played together with the reformed band, I dropped Jackson off at his house and he left to go and finish his solo CD for a few weeks. He called me a few times during that period and he said he’d got all his tracks finished and he’d call me when he got home. I told him to get some rest as he’d had a hard week. I told him to call me on Monday and this was Saturday. Monday never came as when he got home on Sunday he had a brain haemorrhage. I got the call to go to the hospital and he was on a respirator, on life support and he was never conscious again. He was moved to intensive care and I stayed by his side for four days and nights. He never twitched a finger, never moved a muscle. I rubbed his arms and legs, I talked to him. He was totally lifeless and finally at 4 o’clock one morning I was standing by his bed and held his hand and I said to him that if he could hear me, to fly away, it’s OK to go. We knew there was no hope. On that fourth day he passed away. All my childhood memories were with Jackson ever since kindergarten. We played sports together in school; we played for our city team. We had our own softball team as a band and we toured the world together, we wrote tons of songs together, we partied together and hung out together. He was a lifelong true brother. To lose him was really difficult and I still have my moments but I know he’s not suffering now. His health had started to deteriorate as he was working so hard to help get Blackfoot going and doing the Southern Rock Allstars thing at the same time and I kept saying he had to slow down. He was so hard working and a great songwriter. He’s left a lot of good songs behind some that we wrote together and some he wrote by himself. I always tell people he had more talent in his little finger than I do in my whole body. People would come up to me and say that he had said that about me but that’s not true, he could run circles around me.

You know, every now and then when we’re on stage outdoors somewhere playing the song that was written for and about him, I play that song for the most part with my eyes closed, and once in a while I’ll open my eyes and I’ll see an eagle and I thought that’s just got to be him as it’s his song. It puts a tear in my eye. It has to be his spirit up there. God rest his soul, it was so hard to lose him.

What about new material. Are there any plans to record some new songs?

Recently we’ve been in full rehearsal and we’ve been playing “Morning Dew” from the Vertical Smiles album; we’ve been working on “Great Spirit” from my solo album and also a new song called “Too Hot To Handle”, that’s “Too Hot To Handle” not “Too Hard To Handle” which is another of ours. We’ve also got some more new material we’ve been working on that we’ll play live. We won’t be doing all the new songs in the set but there’ll be three new ones in the set at least. We hope to put out some new material soon.

Have you had any contact with Ricky Medlocke since the band originally split?

I saw Ricky when Jackson passed away for a couple of hours one afternoon and we hugged and we wished each other well but I haven’t heard from him since then. He’s doing well as far as I know and he seems to be happy so all the best to him.

Ricky is of course now in Lynyrd Skynyrd. If they offered you a tour, would you take it?

I think that would be like mixing oil and water!! It’s a good idea on the surface but not something I think would come to fruition.

You have always had a very strong reputation as a live act, how many shows do you get through each year these days?

You’re right. We always had more of a reputation as a live band. It was more difficult for us to harness that in the studio as we were always a live band. I think we pulled it off OK with our albums but we just lived to play live. That’s why the Live DVD is so much more representative as was the live album we did, Highway Song Live. That’s Blackfoot in its purest form; it’s just so natural for us to play out on stage.

Do you find it harder now to cope with the rigours of the road now?

Speaking for myself first, I’ve been very fortunate and have had extremely good health and I can still fit into the clothes I had when I came out of High School. I feel great and I’m as active as I’ve ever been. The one thing that is a little harder though is when I jump off the drum riser; my knees get a little sore these days. Charlie’s in good shape and Bobby is probably as good as he’s been in 20 years and our new drummers in great shape too. We don’t really pace ourselves live. We mean to and talk about it all the time, especially the next day when we’re kind of tired. We just seem to have one speed when we hit the stage and that’s “Go!!” We did two shows in Kansas City last year on the same day. We did one show and they turned the house out and we had a couple of hours break then we did the second show and we were so worn out from that first show that it took an awful lot to get through that second show but we did it. It wasn’t quite as easy as we thought. It’s not like we could hold back on the first show to save ourselves for the second one. We played just as hard for both of them. I just love playing live; it was great but hard work.

Blackfoot have always had a strong following in the UK and Europe and made a legendary appearance at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donnington in 1982 What are you memories of that day?

That’s strange as I was just talking about that 3 or 4 days ago!! I remember the crowd and the flying bottles!! We also had a chartered jet as we had to fly to Germany for a TV show the next day. We buzzed over the crowd real low and people thought that the plane was crashing but it was amazing to see all those people. It was also great catching up with some people we hadn’t seen for a while like Meatloaf and Leslie West and some American bands. It was so good to see so many old friends. The crowd?? That was amazing; I’ve heard that there was 80,000 there. As far as I could see I could see people. I’ve got a plaque hanging on my wall in Florida and every time I see that I think “Wow, what a day that was!!” We played Reading too and that was another big crowd and we played with Iron Maiden. At the end of the night we got up on stage with Iron Maiden so there were 5 guitarists, 2 drummers and 2 bass players. I think Pete Way also joined us on stage at some point. It was just crazy and so much fun.

There may be some people out there that are unaware that you were actually a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd back in the early days of the band. How long were you actually in the band?

I was in the band for 6 months and in that short amount of time there was a great deal of music recorded. Some of that came out on Skynyrd’s First and Last album in the 70’s and later on The Complete Muscle Shoals Recordings album in ’98. I listened to that album a couple of weeks back and I played bass on most of it.

What was it like for you when Skynyrd’s debut album came out hearing those songs that you’d played on being played by someone else?

I was OK. Even on the First and Last I was on five tracks and Ed King did a lot of the bass work before he switched to guitar and he’s such a talented player anyway there was nothing that made me mad, I just thought “God bless you Ed, you’ve done a wonderful job”. I thought let the best man for the job get the job. I was totally happy on the parts where he’d replaced my work.

Were you in Skynyrd at the same time as Ricky?

Yeah, I was in the band with Ricky at the start; he was actually the drummer then.

Have you been back to The Muscle Shoals studios since those first sessions with Skynyrd?

I just went back to Muscle Shoals studios in July last year as we were playing a show near there. This guy had bought the studios from the original owners and he’s put it back to period correct just about exactly like it was in the 70’s. I walked in the front door and like wow, there’s the control room, they’ve got the original board, the original tape machine they got the old style lighting on the walls. They’ve even got the same creaky floor boards and the original bathroom door that we all used in those days. It was really, really cool. I spent about 3 hours with the new owner; he was a really nice guy.

You were actually in Blackfoot before joining Skynyrd. Why did you decide to leave Skynyrd to restart Blackfoot?

When I left Skynyrd and reformed Blackfoot I asked Ricky if he wanted to come with me. I wanted to get Blackfoot together with the guys as that was where my heart was. I said to him that if he wanted to stay that’s OK but I chose to go back with Jackson and Charlie but he said he wanted to come too. We hadn’t been back together for more than 6 months and we sent a demo tape down to Muscle Shoals and Jimmy Johnson and David Hurt remembered us from the Skynyrd days and said that on the strength of that alone they were prepared to listen to the tape. We sent them the tape and they liked it. We arranged to go down there and we ended up recording the No Reservations album. We did the Flying High album there too.

Was there a time when you regretted your decision to leave Skynyrd?

No regrets whatsoever. I’m very happy with the decision I made and I’m happy doing what I’ve been doing.

It took a few years to get your breakthrough but it was worth the wait with the likes of Marauder, Tomcattin’ and Strikes being considered classics. However it’s probably Highway Song Live that is considered an all-time classic. Why was it only released as a single album?

I don’t know really. There was an interesting thing going on politically at the time with the record company. We had signed a deal where we had to do an album every year which was pretty much a standard thing to do back in the day. We found ourselves back in Europe for three months and it was time to do an album so that’s how we came up with the idea to do a live album. When it was finished and mixed it was released in the UK first and they only shipped about 10,000 copies to America. To this day I still believe if that album had been released properly in America it would’ve made a huge difference to the career of this band. It would have greatly enhanced us as a band. Both Atco and Atlantic were owned by Warner Brothers on different sides of the ocean. There was some kind of pissing contest going on. I saw Phil Carson a while back who was president of Atco and asked if he could explain what happened with the album but he couldn’t.

Are you tempted to reissue the album with the full setlist?

I think it pretty much included everything that we were doing in our show at that time. It was recorded in a lot of different cities and they would use a few songs from one city and some more songs from a different city but its pretty everything that we were playing at our shows so there’s probably not a lot more that could be added to the original album in terms of extra live tracks.

You also had a great idea of releasing several live versions of the single “Highway Song” recorded at different venues. Why did you decide to do that rather than just release the version from the album?

I remember that. Releasing different versions of the song from different towns was a brilliant marketing strategy. It was something different to do and got us noticed. It worked extremely well for us and got our name out there in the UK but I really wished they had released the album on a grand scale over in America like they had done with the earlier ones and with the future ones.

After Highway Song came a line up change with the addition of Ken Hensley on keyboards for the next album Siogo. Who’s idea was that?

Ha!!, oh boy!! We were reaching a point in our career where I think the management and record company were trying to think what it would take to get us to the next level. I’ve just told you what I think would have worked but they looked at what everyone else was doing and said that we needed to modernise. They said we were playing old and tired, we were young at the time but when you’re 25 you’re seen as a dinosaur sometimes!! They told us to change the way we dressed, our hairstyles and make our music more commercial. Then this keyboard thing came up. In fact we had a keyboard player originally back in 1969 for 12 months but he left and we never went back with a keyboard player and stayed a four piece. So we said to the label we’d consider adding keyboards so we called Jon Lord and he said he wished we’d called two weeks earlier and he’d have been on a plane straight over. You know, he loved our band but that was at the early stages of Whitesnake and he had a couple of other things on the go so he couldn’t do it as he was already committed elsewhere. Our second choice was Ken Hensley. If you were going to do keyboards it would have to be the old style and Kenny was a very talented musician and a great guy and we had a lot of fun. I spent more time with him than anyone but it changed the sound of the band, I’m not saying for better or for worse but it did move us into another direction and I know that we gained some new fans, kept a lot of fans but we also lost some loyal fans that weren’t enthralled at the idea of adding a keyboard. I think at the end of Marauder we had Ken on a few tracks then for Siogo and Vertical Smiles. It was during Vertical Smiles that Kenny just up and quit right in the middle of a tour and that was the point we brought Bobby in. I never heard from Kenny in all those years until a couple of years ago when I just sat down and sent him an e-mail. I said to him that the way he quit the band really, really bothered me. It’s not that he quit but it’s the way he went about it. I said to him that I’d never asked for a reason before and if he didn’t want to give me one then I’d respect that but I was still angry at the way he went about it. He wrote back to me and said the truth is he loved it and was having the time of his life but he said after losing his friend from Uriah Heep it was really preying on his mind and he was really distraught. He started dabbling in drugs again and was getting all out of sorts. He said he just woke up one day and said that he just couldn’t do it anymore. I said to him that we only had 12 more dates to do and he could’ve finished those then quit. He gave me an answer and I’m happy with it and I wish him well. He seems to be doing quite well now.

Was there any opposition from anyone?

No one in the band was vehemently opposed to it, it kind of caught us by surprise but we discussed it for a couple of months and although the record company were not pushing us to get a keyboard player or pushing for Ken Hensley in particular, they just said that we had to do something. The management at the time were also saying we had to do something to propel this band forward. When the idea of the keyboard player came up we really had to stop and think it. I wasn’t really crazy about the idea, I play keyboards myself and added the odd piano part in the studio but nothing that you’d miss live. We decided that if we were going to have a keyboard player it would be the “Old School” style of player, a real Rock Hammond organ style of player, it’s such a great sound. When we decided that we were going to do it then we only wanted one of two people otherwise we weren’t willing to try it. Kenny was a great songwriter and had a great voice too so it was real exciting and fresh at first. Unfortunately it didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I’m not saying that it was bad, it did change the sound of the band from that raw guitar sound of Blackfoot.

Your last album with Blackfoot was Vertical Smiles. Why did you end up leaving at that point?

After the thing with Ken Hensley we kept going another two years I think it was and we’d finished Vertical Smiles and kept touring and honestly it was a thing where one person had an idea of what they thought should be done, the direction the band should go in and the rest of us were very happy with what we were doing. We were open for change as you always want to evolve and go forward as a player but it just kept getting to the point where you could feel the tension, it just came to the realisation that things might not go any further with the way things were. It wasn’t my decision to break the band up. I would have kept going with it just the way it was for the next 50 years and the same with the other guys but this one person thought that he could go off on his own and do it by himself.

How did you feel when Ricky kept the band going without you, Charlie or Jackson?

Well, we just totally split up when this happened. I was told “This is it, tonight’s our last night” and it broke my heart and basically for a long time later that I was basically a shell of a man, I was unhappy and miserable and everything I did musically just wasn’t the same. I missed my band, that was my baby. I put the band together originally and it was me who got the people in to start the band. It was like someone taking my baby away, it broke my heart. The band went back years and years. I knew Jackson from kindergarten and we both knew Ricky from around that time too, he was a year older than us but we grew up together. There had always been a least two of us together in the same band and sometimes three of us with a fourth person. After all those years, throughout the whole of your childhood and through adulthood and to have that snatched away from you, it was devastating. It was very hard on me for a lot of years as I didn’t feel that I was doing what I wanted to do with the people I wanted. The best thing I ended up doing was my solo CD as I ended up doing my songs and I finally found some peace.

After leaving Blackfoot you kept yourself busy with a number of projects one of these was making Native American jewellery. Are these personally handmade by you?

I don’t really do it as much now as I don’t have the time but people are always e-mailing me asking how much would I charge to do so and so but I just don’t have the time. I used to do bow and arrow sets, breastplates, dream catchers and lances. I don’t do much of that anymore as I’m so busy with Blackfoot although I really enjoy doing it. We’ve hired people to advance the shows now and a marketing company for the merchandise so it’s taken a lot of burden of me so I hoping in the next few months or so I’ll have some time to sit down and make some beautiful pieces. It’s good therapy, I love doing it.

Your background is from the Creek nation, why did you choose the name Blackfoot?

I’m from the Muskogee Creek nation, a woodland tribe from the South Eastern part of the United States. Back in its day it was probably the largest and most powerful tribe in the entire United States in terms of numbers. Before we called the band Blackfoot we moved from Florida to New York City and we’d been there for two weeks and we were called Hammer at that time but we found out that there was a band with that name on the west coast had released an album. We then chose the name “Free” but two weeks after that “All Right Now” came out!! We then started to talk about a new name and Jackson, who was a Cheyenne Cherokee, thought it would be nice to have a name that reflected our Native American heritage. None of our Tribes really sounded like a band name and one night Jackson said “Blackfoot” and we thought that it had a good ring to it. It’s a very bold, powerful sounding name and it just struck everybody and we went “That’s it!!”

Do you have a tribal name?

Yeah, my tribal name is Two Wolf and Jackson was known as Thunderfoot. Jackson was actually adopted and didn’t really get to know much about his family until we were adults and he researched it. He found out where he was born and who his father was but never got to meet him.

You train horses as well. Is this a commercial venture for you or more of a hobby?

Before I moved back to Florida I was living in Texas and I had my horses and adopted abused and abandoned horses and nursed them back to health. I started reading a lot and talked to a lot of people about horses. I’ve always had such an affinity towards horses and seem to have a little bit of a gift with them. With the help of other people I worked with horses and got a lot of satisfaction by getting a horse that was 300 pounds underweight and a walking bag of bones back to health and getting comfortable with humans again. It was such gratifying work helping those horses.

As well as Blackfoot you have other musical interests including your NDN project and have released an album called Warriors Pride back in 1999. What sort of direction were you heading in with this?

The first two tracks “Great Spirit” and “Traveller” are songs that Blackfoot could have done, in fact “Traveller” was meant to be a Blackfoot song. We did a demo in New York of that for the Flying High album but it didn’t make it on there but we had a full version worked out and even performed it live as Blackfoot. Songs like “Warriors Pride” which is a very moving song and “Indian” , which is another song that Jackson and I had written together and “Home” are a mixture of true heartfelt ballads that have deep, positive lyrics then you’ve got the Rock stuff so there’s a good mix of stuff on there which combines Rock and Native American themes.

What did you play on the album?

I went to a studio just outside of Nashville, Tennessee and hired some studio musicians to play. It was funny, having been in a band all my life then playing with musicians I’d never met before. One of my friends who co-wrote some of the material came in to play guitar on the album but everyone else were studio players. Jackson was tied up with The Allstars so he couldn’t help out unfortunately. I ended up playing keyboards and bass. I had no intention of singing, I’ve only ever done background vocals but when we finished the music I looked at the guys and asked who was doing the singing and they said none of them were so I ended up doing it. It took a few days getting used to hearing myself back on tape but once I got passed the stage fright of being a lead singer I enjoyed it. Once I’d got it finished and mastered and released, I listened to it and though if I could just go back and do it again, I could do it so much better!! It was however one of the most enjoyable, rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. It was truly fulfilling to do my songs, my way.

Are there plans for a follow up?

It’s a natural thing. Musicians are never satisfied. I am absolutely going to do another one. Bobby Barth has a whole load of ideas too. We’d like to do an Indian CD, Bobby has a load of ballads we’d like to do acoustically, an instrumental album and of course a new Blackfoot album. It’s just a matter of getting the time.

Blackfoot were always classed by the press as a Southern Rock band. Is that what you saw yourself as?

You know we always got lumped into that Southern Rock category but we were always a lot heavier than those other bands that we grew up with and played with. We had much more of a British influence to the other bands which had more of a Country influence. Our heroes were Jeff Back, the early Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Beatles of course and Eric Clapton and Cream. That’s what we really, really liked. We loved American music as well obviously but we liked that harder edge, fresh sound that was coming out of Britain at the time. The term “Southern Metal” was coined when we toured Europe and we thought that was a good term to use for us. We had the same roots and tendencies as we were from the same geographical region, we can’t deny that but we’re not quite as laid back or Bluesy and certainly not Country in any way. To call us Southern Rock and compare us to The Allman Brothers was not really fair so we liked “Southern Metal” better.

What are your plans for the future?

We’ve had a meeting and we’re so excited that 2008 is going to be so good for this band. It’s got better each year since 2004 when we got back together. It’s time now to come into our own. Winter tends to be a quiet time but we will write more and discuss business but we hope to be playing a lot of shows through 2008. We have great fans wherever we go but we always pay homage to our fans across the pond in the UK and Europe so we hope to be over there too. You guys have always been lifelong, loyal fans and we’ve always greatly appreciated that.

We are actually hoping to be play at the Rock and Blues Festival in Pentritch, Derbyshire in the summer. We did that 2 years ago and the Promoter called me up and said he wanted to bring us back over. We get so many people asking us to come over and play. We have to come and play the UK and we must get up to Scotland because of what happened a couple of years ago. That wasn’t our fault, we had a problem with the Promoter. We were actually up there and left the hotel to head to the venue. When we got there we found out that we weren’t allowed to play. We went to a club down town that night and signed autographs and were hanging out with the fans all night but that was the best we could do. We felt awful about it so we owe those guys a show up there. They’ve been very loyal, supportive and understanding and we owe them. So hopefully we’ll be back over to Europe pretty soon.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.