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Guitarist - Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Exclusive Interview!
Rickey Medlocke


What a thrill it is for me to share this interview with you.  I was 8 years old when tragedy struck the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.  I grew up with the legend of the original members and their music.  I must say that I was in awe while conducting this interview with a founding member and current member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and definitely a pioneer in the whole southern rock genre of music.  Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot have always been huge influences on me.  I know that I am not alone in saying that songs like Sweet Home Alabama, Simple Man, Highway Song and Train Train  were the whole reason I learned to play guitar.  What I found during this interview was that besides being a visionary, pioneer, and an extremely talented musician,  Rickey Medlocke is just a good ole’ boy from the south who is always up for a conversation about wetting a line on some backwoods lake.  The simple things in life always have the most meaning.  Ladies and gentlemen,  I present “25 questions with Rickey Medlocke.”

1.    Your Name and Hometown 

Rickey Medlocke hometown Fort Myers, Florida 

What was your first guitar and when did you receive it 

Oh, lets see, first guitar I had, I was about five.  Electric guitar it was.  I used to play my dad’s old acoustic guitar, the one he used in all his bands which was an old Gibson J45.  I still got it, as a matter of fact.  My first guitar that they bought me was a twin set of Kay electric guitars back when I was five or six years old. 

What is your guitar setup consist of (electric and Acoustic) 

Actually, my current guitar setup is…  I play all Gibson.  Basically, I use Marshall’s.  I play an old Gibson Explorer with a Marshall setup.  It depends on exactly the tone I’m going for.  I actually use a combination Marshall and an old Fender Blues Deville 212 setup.  So right now, that’s the current rig.  What I’m using right now with Skynyrd, I’m using an original JCM800 that I got straight from Jim Marshall back in 1980 right when they first came out and I still use it today. 

What inspirations did you have growing up that influenced your guitar playing 

Well, understand that I was actually raised in a music family.  My granddaddy, Shorty Medlocke, who was a Mississippi delta blues, country, bluegrass player.  You know, he was a musician all his life and had his own bands and played with a number of people in and out of Nashville all the time.  He was actually my biggest influence growing up because he had bands in and out of our home all the time, rehearsing all the time.  Elvis was another one who was a huge influence on me when I was very, very young.  You know how times changed in the late 50’s, early 60’s it went from the rock and roll like that to the Beatles, you know, the British invasion right on through to my biggest guitar influences actually at that time was Hendrix, Clapton and Jeff Beck.  I’m a rock and roll fan first and foremost.  There’s different guitar players all throughout the years that I’ve admired, that I have thought they were really the cats ass when it came to playing guitar.  Right now today I’m still very good friends with Billy Gibbons who I think is probably one of the greatest guitar players that has ever lived.  Really, those four guys still to this day influence me.  I still listen to their recordings, I still listen to how they play, I mean, I’m right there with it.  We’ve had some great guitar players in the last 20 years if you think about it, 20 to 25 years, all of a sudden, like Eddie Van Halen just kind of like reinvented the guitar and so many people wanted to play like that.  Then you’ve got Zak Wyylde, you have Steve Vai, you’ve just got an array of guitar players that have been great, but if you really think about it, it all really started way years ago and it just came up through the ranks and re invented itself and I still to this day listen to a lot of the old school stuff and draw all my influences from and then just put it together with my own thing, you know, play my own style. 

Any other musical talents? 

Other than playing guitar, I love to play slide.  A lot of my early recollections of when I wanted to learn to play slide like my dad had a lot of blues records that I listened to by Mississippi John Hurt, Huddy Ledbetter who was “Lead belly”, Robert Johnson, of course, Sunhouse.  A lot of that stuff, you know, and I watched him play slide and learned different tunings.  One of my biggest slide players that I thought was just incredible, of course, Duanne Allman brought it to the forefront like he did.  But, I think I was a fanatic for Ry Cooter.  Ry Cooter was an incredibly talented  and extraordinary guitarist in his own rite.  Slide playing and the way he is innovative in the stuff that he does.  Pretty well old world stuff and he puts a different twist on it. As of lately, when you get into the blues and things, I love to listen to Keb Mo.  I ended up getting his first CD years ago and just fell in love with what the guy was doing.  You would have thought that this guy was really an old school, older guy.  When you look at him, all of a sudden there’s this young guy with this voice that he has is really old school.  As far as rock goes anymore, there are some things that I like to listen to in rock music today, you know I listen to a lot of new bands when I really feel it.  It’s a feel thing for me.  When I really feel it, I feel that they have a lot of heart and soul into it that I’ve become accustomed to listening to new things and new bands.  I’ll search it out and download it on my I-pod so I have it and listen to it.  Funny thing with me is that I carry two different I-pods with me all the time.  I’ll have certain music in one and certain music in another and I’ll switch back and forth.  It’s kind of an interesting deal.  The band, Skynyrd, they’ll ask me every once in a while what I’m listening to and I’ll come out of left field with something.  But I feel like if you don’t listen to new stuff you turn yourself off to new things.  New players, and new writers and so forth and so on.  I think it’s non educational.  Our whole life we are here to learn till our last day and I feel if you don’t listen to new stuff, you’re not learning.  You’re not educating yourself to what’s going on out there.  It limits your ability even in your own music to write new stuff and stay current.  And that’s what the game is about.  Trying to stay as current as you can with your own group and your own writing and your making of records and stuff so you can stay out there and keep going. 

What or who inspires you today

Well, honestly, as far today goes, I listen still to Beck.  I love Jeff Becks playing.  I think that that he is probably one of the most extraordinary guitar players in this world.  And if you love his guitar playing, you would absolutely love the way he puts hot rods together.  I mean it seems like he is just as great of a mechanic putting street rods together as he is a guitar player.  But I love his guitar playing.  His guitar playing is so innovative, and just so different and out there.  I have a lot of his stuff downloaded on my I-pod.  One of my favorite things to listen to is “A Day In The Life” by The Beatles.  And his recreation of that is just unbelievably extraordinary.  Um, I still listen to Clapton.  I have a lot of admiration for that guy.  I still listen to Hendrix.  But I listen to a lot of Billy Gibbons, Eric Johnson.  I think Eric Johnson is just another incredibly talented guitar player.  I still listen to a lot of those guys.  I have a lot of their music that I take with me and listen to on the road.  I’m just really into it. 

What was your first song that you mastered on the guitar 

(**Laughing**) Ha, Ha, Oh, that is so funny!  I guess lead wise, I would have to say that I had learned a lot of old  rockabilly stuff like Elvis and Carl Perkins used to play and some of the stuff that they did.  I remember sitting down and I used to have a record player and I’d put a record on and slow the record down, back then you could slow the record down and pick the notes out.  I’ll tell you how I got my very first lead guitar job.  I knew the lead to “Louie, Louie”.  (**Laughing**)  I walked into this place and, oh gosh, I was probably what… 14 or 15 years old or something like that… I don’t know, anyway, I walked in and it was a local talent band and they wanted to get a lead guitar player and they were telling me what songs they did.  They said to play something for them and I told them let’s play Louie, Louie, and the band started “Louie, Louie” and I had my guitar and amp with me and I played the lead to it.  Pretty much just like the record, then the guy told me that I had the job.  (**Laughing**)  I don’t know, maybe we ended up playing “Louie, Louie”  three or four times per night just because I knew how to play the lead to it. 

Favorite song to play live and favorite solo to play 

Oh wow.  Probably for me, in the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, there are a lot of solos that I absolutely love like “Simple Man” playing with Gary Rossington because he and Allen Collins used to play it together.  And I love playing solos with my own band, Blackfoot.  Charlie and I played duel solos together.  I love doing stuff like that, harmony wise.  I must say that probably one of my favorite solos in Lynyrd Skynyrd is the solo that is in “The Needle and the Spoon”.  I just love playing that because I love playing with a wah wah.  It’s interesting because I watch people playing with a wah wah pedal but my whole influence with a wah wah was how Hendrix used to play.  It isn’t just because you sit there and pat your foot to the time.  It’s how you grab notes and bend notes, you can bend the wah wah with it and use it as a tonal thing and a lot of different things. 

Current CD in your vehicle right now 

Current CD?  Oh wow, that’s interesting.  Funny thing is that I don’t carry CD’s anymore.  I carry my I-pod.  When  I was buying a lot of CD’s, and believe me, I ended up buying TONS of them.  From rock to country to blues to pop even, I’m a huge flamenco music fan.  I used to buy a lot of that stuff.  Right now, the one CD that is in my pickup truck, and not everything is on my I-pod that I favor, every once In a while I pull a CD out from some place and throw it in my truck and listen to it.  I do know that last time I was home, I was actually listening to Audioslave.  I’m a huge Audioslave fan.  I love that band.  So, right now in my truck, Audioslave is in the disc changer.

What are some hobbies of yours? 

My biggest hobby, man, is that I’m a fisherman.  I love to fish.  I’m a largemouth bass fisherman.  I love to saltwater fish for Redfish.  I am really, so into fishing.  Fishing cleanses your head, you know.  I have my own bass fishing boat and my brother and I, next to the oldest brother, I’m the oldest in the family, but the brother next to me, I’m a couple years older than he, he and I love to fish together.  That’s how we spend our quality time as two family members and that’s how we are close together.  We just love to go fishing together.  Now, he’s more, several years ago he got me into Red fishing, and of course, me being a bass fisherman, he goes with me.  And we spend some real quality time together.  When I get home off the road, that’s the first thing that I want to do.  I want to load up, put the fishing stuff together, even while we’re on the road I have friends around the country that will take me to get out for a day, a breath of fresh air, and I always like to wet a hook. 

If you weren’t the guitar hero that you are, you could see yourself pursuing a career as what? 

It would be either or.  It would be a fighter pilot and, or a law enforcement guy.  I am not a pilot now, but I had family that was in service and one that flew a fighter.  I always foresaw myself if I hadn’t been a rock musician as a fighter pilot.  I think there is something very special about those guys that take themselves up and ride on, I call it ‘on the nose of a pencil’.  There is something very special about those guys that can handle an aircraft like that and go into combat and really be in control of this multi million dollar machine and get the job done. 

With such an extensive collection of hits, how do you narrow down which songs will be added to the play list?

That’s a good one.  We already know when we’re planning the set that we will end the night with ‘Freebird’ with “Sweet Home Alabama” closing the show with “Freebird” as the encore.  We really start to look at it as putting songs in there that maybe we haven’t done in a while or songs that we see on the website that people have requesting to hear.  What we do is, at the beginning of a tour we look at it and go….ok, what would we like to do this year that we haven’t done in a while.  Like as a matter of fact, like right now we’re doing a couple of tunes that we haven’t done in a while.  We’re doing “Coming Home” and we’re doing “Curtis Lowe”.  We try our best to round out a show and a set with songs that people really want to hear.  We usually come out with a great show and a great set. 

Please  set the story straight.  Who was Curtis Lowe? 

Well, if you dig back in some history on the band, ‘Curtis’ was written half about my grandfather, Shorty.  Shorty was a blues player like I was telling you before.  I mean he was a big influence on my band, Blackfoot.  He wrote the song “Train, Train” that we ended up recording and having a hit with.  And so, Ronnie, Gary and Allen, when I was in the band the first time around, would come over and spend some time at my house on the porch with my old man and watch my old man play.  I mean he would just play a dobro on his knee, which that is what the song says.  But what Ronnie did was, Ronnie loved Sunhouse, the old black blues guy, and so what he did was just write it about both of them, It’s about both my dad, Shorty, and Sunhouse. 

While with Blackfoot, what was your favorite highlight 

With all the years that I was with those guys, the highlight of the bands career was that we played a lot of arenas; we played around the world, all over Europe.  W headlined and we had a real good run of it.  I have some great memories of that thing.  I guess probably some highlights of my life with that band was playing some of the festivals that we ended up playing with a lot of great bands such as Deep Purple, Whitesnake, AC/DC and many others.  My most memorable times with that band was when my granddaddy, Shorty, was out touring with us.  He toured with us off and on.  He’d come out and do shows, he’d come up on stage and he would play “Rattlesnake Rock N Roller” with us and then “Fox Chase” then he would play the harmonica on “Train, Train” and people would go ballistic.  I used to introduce him as the oldest rock star in the world.  We had a great run of that whole thing.  But all of a sudden, the eighties came in with the hair bands from California and the times changed and the music changed, radio changed and business wise it just faded out.   

And with Skynyrd, what has been your favorite highlight 

Well, the first time around my highlight was just being able to work with incredible, and this gets into one final thing I will say about this whole thing, the first time around I was able to work with just an incredible, incredible talented bunch of individuals.  I got to work with Ronnie Van Zant which I really hold dear to my heart, always will, because he was just an incredibly talented individual that didn’t even know it.  Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, what can you say, the guy’s were just hungry for it.  We were all hungry for it as young guy’s and we made a little well known recording as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s First and Last that consequently, after the plane crash happened, came out and was a huge success for the band and especially for me.  I guess when I got the call to come back into the band it was just really a great feeling.  Since then probably one of my biggest highlights, other than playing all over the world with these guy’s and playing for audiences and just being back in a family situation.  I remember not too many years ago, we headlined Royal Albert Hall.   I had always wanted to play the Royal Albert Hall because all of my hero’s had played it and talked about it.  I had passed it when I was there with Blackfoot a lot and I wondered what it would be like to play that place, you know?  And finally, Lynyrd Skynyrd ended up playing it and we just flipped out.  I stood on that stage and never closed my eyes that night so I could take it all in.  And the stage, you could walk right off the stage into the audience and I did.  I didn’t even want to leave the stage when we said ‘goodnight’. Saying thank you to everybody and waving to everybody, I didn’t want to leave the stage.  I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to go back there.  It was one of those memorable things that you hold near to yourself.  That’s probably one of the biggest ones. 
16.    What was some of your jobs before playing in a band? 

OH, God, Man!  As a kid, I was a bag boy at a grocery store.  I used to work at a gas station.  The biggest reason I worked at a gas station was so I could clean the windshield when the ladies came in.  And as a bag boy, you have to take the ladies groceries to the car for them and the whole bit.  I cut lawns for the city of Jacksonville, Florida.  I painted houses with my dad.  I worked at Air National Guard units in Jacksonville in maintenance and fueling planes.  Hell, I even cropped tobacco and threw watermelons in the Florida heat.  So that pretty much covers it. 

How is the chemistry of the current Skynyrd lineup?  With the departure of Hughie Thomasson and the addition of Mark Matejka 

I’ve gotta tell ya man, honestly it’s like a family affair.  When people hurt, we hurt.  When people are up, we’re up.  There is a real chemistry of course with Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, Billy Powell and myself.  Michael Cartellone and Ean Evans add to it as well as Dale Rossington and Carol, of course they’re in there with us too, but Mark has come in here and really added that third guitar thing.  That whole magic thing keeps rolling with us.  It’s amazing to me after all this time.  We’re having a great run at it.  Were getting ready to start this tour with 3 Doors Down which is one of my favorite bands, Mississippi boy’s, you know,   I’m looking forward to this man and I think it’s going to be a great year for the band.   

If I could ask a couple “Where are they now” questions about some of the other original members like Artimus Pyle, Ed King, Bob Burns and the original ‘Honkettes’ – Leslie & JoJo. 

If you look on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show, the induction ceremonies, all of those guy’s and girls were on stage with us that night.  The Honkettes go out and sing with Arties group every once in a while and Ed has a band that is around and doing dates.  Bob, from what I understand, takes it easy and lives in Atlanta with his family.  That pretty much say’s it right there. 

Bo Bice has brought Southern rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd back into the living rooms of America by surprise.  What is your perception of the whole American Idol craze?

I have mixed opinions on that whole thing.  For me personally, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.  Bo’s a great guy.  We are really good friends.  I don’t really think that he brought Lynyrd Skynyrd back to the forefront with us being on American Idol.  Lynryd Skynyrd goes out and draws 18,000 to 22,000 people every night before we did the American Idol thing.  I believe it did give us some popularity as far as some younger fans and it brought us to the forefront as far as TV goes and TV audiences.  I know that Simon Cowell looked at us like he didn’t care if we were there or not.  I think he probably still thinks and never understood how we got there in the first place.  I’m good friends with Randy Jackson.  He’s always been a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.  But you know, the whole American Idol thing, I understand what it’s all about.  It is what it is.  They have people come in right there and raw right in front of a camera.  They have to sing, they have to perform.  Do I think that America picks the right people?  I’m not sure about that.  I think that Chris and Elliot were great singers.  To me, I thought that they were really good.  And not knocking the guy that won it, he’s a Birmingham boy and I’m not knocking anything, yeah, he has a good stick and that’s what people loved about him.  I’m not bashing anyone’s talent or anything like that.  I thought that the girl that was runner up is going to develop into something incredible.  Look at Carrie Underwood.  She has developed into something really incredible.  And you know what, justifiably so, I think that she won that.  Nothing against Bo, I love Bo.  He’s going to be on a few shows with us.  I’m sure it was a close run off.  I can see where America would pick her because here genre of music is a hot genre of music right now, the country thing.  I’m sure that is why they probably went with her.  I think it does give people a chance to showcase their talent, if they have talent or not.  It’s a big show.  You’ve got to admit, it’s a successful program.  It gives people a chance to prove themselves and say hey, do I make it or not.  Which is a lot better than the way we would do things.  Maybe I wish we would have had something like that going in the days we were trying to make it, but we didn’t.  People are very fortunate to be able to have this thing called television and that kind of media to be able to reach out to millions and millions of people for them to see your talent and decide if they really have it or they don’t.  Clever idea, no doubt about it.  Very clever.  We were glad to go in there and play with Bo and play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.  We were on there working with people.  The guy from Rascal Flatts was on there.  George Benson was on there.  And a lot of people were on there that we respected.  It’s going to be interesting to see how long it is going to continue.  I’ll be interested to see that.  And its funny how there are so many shows.  I saw Regis Philbin on the tonight show with Jay Leno and now he has a show.  It’s going to be on ABC and they were talking about how much alike it is to American Idol.  But you know, there is only one American Idol.  I don’t know how people think that they are going to beat that American Idol out.  I mean, come on.  Let’s get an original idea out there.  But hat’s off to Simon, Randy and Paula and all the people that have anything to do with that show because they came up with an idea that has been successful. 

One of my favorite Skynyrd Albums is Endangered Species.  Acoustic Skynyrd songs have always been a staple of mine on hunting and fishing trips and around campfires.  Could there be a follow up to Endangered Species or live ‘stripped’ songs? 

You know what we just did this year?  This year we just did a complete acoustic show live at the Ryman Auditorium.  It was completely Skynyrd songs from beginning to end.  A complete non electric version of Lynryd Sknyrd all except for “Freebird”.  We wouldn’t want to play “Freebird” acoustically because of the ending.  But I’ve got to tell you it was so much fun and we have thought about going out on a short two or three week run of theatres and doing that.  That might become a reality and a possibility.  You wouldn’t believe it.  The people, especially playing in the Ryman Auditorium.  This is where my granddaddy, Shorty, had been before.  I mean, I couldn’t believe it.  I’m actually playing the Ryman.  There’s another one of those memories just like the Royal Albert Hall.  I mean, I got the opportunity to play the freakin’ Ryman Auditorium!  I’ll tell you something, my friend, I had a journalist ask me once not too long ago, and I said this on camera.  He asked me what my greatest accomplishment is.  I had to sit there and it didn’t take me long to let him know that to me, my greatest accomplishment in my whole life is being blessed and fortunate to have made it with two bands much less one band.  But my greatest accomplishment other than, of course, the fans, I owe a lot to people that have bought the records and bought the songs and have gone to see the shows.  The biggest thing that I have in my book right now is fans.  I love playing for fans because without them, we’re nothing.  They are the reason we stand up there and do what we do.  You hang the gold and platinum records on the wall, you look at them, you’re proud of them but once again, that’s the fans.  But I think that one of the greatest accomplishments in my whole life other than having a great family that I came from, great friends, great business people, is that I have been able to stand on stage with some of the world greatest, talented musicians and have a career with.  From Ronnie, Gary, Allen, Billy, Leon, Huey, the girls, Michael, Ean, and my other band like Jackson Spires – he passed away last year.  Incredibly talented musician.  Greg Walker, Charlie Hargrett.  I have been able to stand on stage with some of the worlds greatest musicians and share that stage with them.  That’s one of my greatest accomplishments of my life.  For that, I’m very proud of it.  That is one thing that will last with me my whole life.    

What kind of ‘words of wisdom’ would you give anyone who is trying to break into the music industry? 

Hold true to your heart.  My deal is that I have always stayed true to my heart.  What was in my heart went from my heart to my hands and to my voice.  If you have dreams and you have talent, be persistent and stay true to the course.  At some point, hard work always pays off.  There’s not a time where hard work won’t pay off.  And that is the advice I’d tell anybody.    

Tell me about the early days.  How did you know Ronnie Van Zant, and Gary Rossington?  

Oh, God.  We all grew up on the west side of Jacksonville, Florida and it was just being around the neighborhoods.  And being associated with each other through music and stuff like that.  I’ll tell you a little inside story that a lot of people don’t know.  Other than being a drummer for them the first time around, one of the first things that I ever did for the band is that I ran lights for them for a little while.  It just happened to work out that way at the comic book club.  Being around those guys in the early years when we were all around 15 or 16  years old was a trip, man.  From Ronnie, Allen, Gary, Steve, Leon, Billy, they were all incredibly talented guys.  

What is the next thing on your “to do in life’ list? 

For the last several years I have been concentrating on writing a lot of music, getting a lot of music recorded and hopefully at some point get it out.  I have also been doing some acting in films and television.  I am really going to concentrate on doing that stuff as a sideline thing because I love to do it.  So the next thing on my ‘to do list’ is to keep doing what I’m doing and aside of that, get in as much fishing as I can. 

Best Bass Fishing Spot? 

(**Laughing**)  You’re asking an old horse that, aren’t you?  I have what I call ‘bobcat’ holes all over the south.  But I can tell you that a lot of the best bass fishing spots that I have ever come across is in central to north Florida.  You have a lot of great lakes that have made a comeback in several years.  Orange lake outside of Gainsville, Fl. Which is connected by a little creek called Cross Creek that goes into Lake Lochloosa.  Those are two great bassin’ lakes.  You’ve got Lake Jackson in north Florida.  Lake Walk in Water which has rendered some huge fish.  You have lakes in south and south central Georgia that have rendered some big fish.  I caught some big fish out of lakes there.  Lately, I have been fishing in Mississippi for a pretty good bit.  Last year I caught a ten pound, four ounce fish there.  I also caught a twelve pounder there.  I know a lot of lakes.  I go to a lot of lakes.  I love to bass fish.  What I love to do is find the ‘out of the way lakes’.  Guy’s are always saying ‘let’s go to this big lake where all the bass fisherman are saying is doing this and doing that’.  Well guess what, dude? They might be shortchanging themselves because those lakes have a lot of pressure on them.  Those fish have seen just about every bait there is.  So what you do is, you go to lakes that doesn’t have a lot of pressure.  Ones that are not pressurized by local tournaments, or state sanctioned tournaments or the national tournaments.  You go to those and you get on that lake.  You might not be in a big, fancy bass boat.  Maybe the only thing you can get on it is a jon boat with a trolling motor and whatever.  But let me tell you something.  On those lakes, I have caught some monsters.  I’ll tell you something.  Down in Jacksonville, Florida, if you go downriver on the St. Johns River around a little town called Palatka, you will get down there in the area of Black Creek or the other creeks that come off the St. Johns render some big ass fish.  I saw a monster, fifteen and a half pounds, at this guy’s place where I had my last fish mounted at.  A guy had sent it to him from the Jacksonville area that he caught near Palatka.  But dude, this fish was a monster bass.  Which brings me to a thought.  Recently about a couple months ago supposedly, a new world record had been caught in California.  On a lake called Lake Dixon supposedly, a twenty five pounder had been caught which had broke the twenty two and a half mark.  But the guy wouldn’t take credit for it.  Which my red flag went up.  If you catch the world record, we’re talking millions in endorsements.  And I’m thinking to myself, what’s the catch.  I’m not really sure what that was all about.  I never really understood that.  My biggest bass was thirteen and a half pounds.      

Any Parting Words to anyone?  

I’d like to thank the fans from the bottom of my heart for all the years of great success.  I owe it all to them.  Hopefully I’ll continue to make music that people enjoy.  I’ll still be there when they stop coming then I’ll probably just fade out.