By Kelly Baughman
He’s a legend and somewhat of an icon to those who see him on the go. There are always sightings of his flaming red pony tail, red pick-up kicking up dust as he zooms around the property, and his sidekick, a tiny black Pomeranian, Ruga-roo, who will simply tell you his own name with every bark.
He’s Mike Locklin, Flora-Bama’s Production Manager, Sound Engineer, musician, and so much more.
Always a lover of music and a talented musician himself, Locklin worked for many years in his younger days as a salesman in music stores all over the gulf coast. “When working in a ‘mom and pop’ type of store, a good sales guy was only as good as his knowledge of the equipment and gear his was selling. Peavey, Roland, Yamaha….you name it. They would fly me to their plants to stay for a week at a time to tour and learn about their products. If I was doing a million dollars in sales in a little store in Pensacola, FL, they knew I had something special, and they wanted to cultivate that,” Locklin said of the unique hands on training he received in the industry.
The companies he visited taught Locklin engineering software tricks and techniques, and specifically singled him out as a product specialist for PA systems to digital recorders, digital mixers, digital processing, instrument amps and so much more.
A musician himself since 1969, playing keyboards and shredding on the guitar, Locklin has spent most of his life on stage and touring with bands both locally and nationally. Born into a musical family, Locklin’s cousin, the late Hank Locklin, was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for nearly 50 years and is in the Country Music Hall of Fame. And while he was kin to country music royalty, Locklin said that country music just wasn’t his style.
“I was in to heavy 70’s and 80’s rock n roll….borderline metal. Country guitar was never my bag. Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynryd….those were my favorites. If I had to classify myself as an artist, I guess I’d say I’m a rock artist with a little southern rock infusion,” Locklin said. “I would’ve kept pursuing my career in music, but when I started having babies, it became a risky business, and I needed a steady way to provide” he added.
Luckily, Locklin didn’t have to look very far to find a way to make a good life for his family while still keeping music alive in his heart. Armed with an extensive knowledge of music both on stage and behind the scenes, Locklin became a well sought after sound engineer along the gulf coast.
Locklin began working for the Flora-Bama in 2008 after being recruited by the music manager during the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival. “I was really coming out to work festival, but when I arrived I checked out what kind of equipment set up they had and realized it was a mess, so I immediately straightened that out,” Locklin said.
After a ten day run that was supposed to end with the festival, Locklin was approached by co-owner, Joe Gilchrist, and then production manager, Donna Slater, to stay on full time. A lifelong resident of Milton, Locklin knew that the opportunity was a good one, but the daily drive was too much for him. “Up to this point, I really had no idea how much music was coming out of this place. It was magical, but I knew in order to keep up with the high volume schedule, I would have to stay closer….that’s when I moved to Boys Towne,” Locklin said.
Boys Towne was an obscure little community of musicians and songwriters that resided on the property now known as the Flora-Bama Yacht Club. This “town” of campers, trailers, and little shacks housed some of the most talented and colorful characters the area music scene has ever known. With the freedom to play all night and sleep on the property during the day, Boys Towne made the music that came out of the Flora-Bama not only unique, but a constant good time. And the addition of Locklin to that mix was no exception.
While Locklin admits the party was never dull in Boys Towne or the Flora-Bama, he said that the work ethic was never lacking either. “For the first eight years or so, I was working seven days a week. I managed the sound on every stage, every show, by myself. I was doing over 1,000 shows a year,” Locklin said.
When the Silver Moon closed (now where the Liquor and Lotto store resides) and the Main room opened upstairs in the Flora-Bama, Locklin knew that he needed some help. As Production Manager, he began to create a team of some of the best sound engineers in the country.
He single handedly designed and built the phenomenal sound systems still in use today on all stages on the Flora-Bama properties, and said, “I’ve been told by some of the best and most well-known artists and songwriters out there that we have one of the best “listening rooms” in America in the Main Room at the Flora-Bama. The sound system there is second to none, and we’ve had some heavy hitters publicly announce the fact that they love to play in this room. I feel real proud of that because I designed it,” he said.
In addition to all Locklin does for the numerous shows the Flora-Bama puts on every week, he is an active member of the church at the World famous Flora-Bama. You can find Locklin every Sunday working the sound boards, playing on stage with the band, and making sure to spread the joy he finds in the message each week. Locklin says he encourages everyone in the community to give the Flora-Bama church, a non-denominational and come one come all environment, a try one Sunday.
As the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival approaches this week, Locklin will once again be in charge of making sure some of the best songwriters from all around the world sound the best they possibly can. “It’s an honor to be able to contribute to such an amazing event in one of the most amazing music venues in the world. It’s hard work, but I am blessed to be a part of it.”
And with Locklin at the helm, you can be sure that every show will be something special.