At the height of its fame in 1977, southern rock band LYNYRD SKYNYRD was struck with tragedy — a plane crash that killed the band’s founder and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant along with Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. Surviving members re-formed in 1987 for a reunion tour with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny as frontman. A version of the band continues to tour and record, with only Gary Rossington of its original members remaining as of 2012. Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006.
Over the years, Lynyrd Skynyrd has put out a number of albums. Some of the most popular albums include (Pronounced ‘Leh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nerd), Street Survivors, Nuthin’ Fancy, Gimme Back My Bullets and Second Helping.
Craig shares his stories about serving as the band’s fixer, providing access to drugs, alcohol and women. His tales of crazy parties and wrecked hotel rooms stand in contrast with Leslie’s accounts of attempting to balance life as a mother and rock star. Gene, Craig and Leslie share their stories of recovery in the hospital, how they found out about the news of Ronnie’s death and how they coped with the tragedy.
Each of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums contains its share of classics. From Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd came Down South Jukin’,” Gimme Three Steps,” Simple Man,” Tuesday’s Gone” and the immortal Free Bird.” The last of these had been a fixture of Skynyrd’s live repertoire, and they had recorded a demo version as far back as October 1970. The song was initially conceived as a tribute to Duane Allman, and onstage they would dedicate it to the late guitarist. After the death of Ronnie Van Zant, the song served as an homage to Van Zant himself.
If you only plan on purchasing one ‘new-look’ Skynyrd album, this could as well be it. The Johnny Van Zant-led band’s studio albums have all received their due amount of hammering and bulleting from the press, but Endangered Species is one record that some of the critics (me included) hold a soft spot for. If for one reason and one reason only: there are but several new songs on here, while everything else is re-worked Ronnie Van Zant-era originals. In fact, the record is something of an ‘Unplugged’ for the band: all the songs are played in acoustic versions, although I’m not too sure if the recordings are live or not – most probably live in the studio, as there’s no audience participation at all.
In conclusion, the tribute tour proved they could go on. Since 1977, the band has released nine more studio albums. Many of the songs they’ve recorded throughout the years have become true southern rock anthems. Additionally, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame They continue to play their hearts out for their fallen loved ones, as that is exactly what they would’ve wanted.
By 1970, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a veteran bar band with a pile of original songs but had no recording contract. They cut some demos at producer Quin Ivy’s studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and returned in 1971 to make a proper album at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. By this time, bassist Leon Wilkeson had replaced Junstrom in the group. The album was rejected by numerous labels. By then they’d begun playing regularly in Atlanta, where producer Al Kooper signed them to his Sounds of the South label (an MCA subsidiary) in 1972. Some personnel shuffles ensued: Wilkeson left for a half-year and was replaced by Ed King (late of Strawberry Alarm Clark), who moved from bass back to guitar when Wilkeson rejoined. Billy Powell, their piano-playing roadie, had become a full-fledged member, too. Now Lynyrd Skynyrd was a seven-man monster with three guitarists.
Notable: Rossington, 65, is the last original member left in Lynyrd Skynyrd. He shows no signs of retiring, but the band canceled or rescheduled several shows in July 2016 while Rossington recovered from heart surgery.
His death was announced Sunday on the official Facebook account of38 Special, a rock band that Junstrom joined in the 1970s following his stint with Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In the latest thrilling episode, Mick and Joel take a wise and witty wonder through the fast life and tumultuous times of Ronnie Van Zant, frontman of Florida rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd. Best known for Sweet Home Alabama and the epic Freebird, Skynyrd are usually portrayed as wild bunch of redneck renegades. There’s certainly more than a grain of truth in that, but what’s often forgotten is that they were also fabulous, pioneering musicians and tone of the biggest bands on the planet when their plane fell from the sky in October 1977.
Notable: Medlocke, 66, played drums for Skynyrd during his first go-round. He rejoined the band in 1996 as a fiery and flamboyant guitarist. During the 1970s and ’80s, he also earned fame as the frontman of Blackfoot.
Three days after the release of Street Survivors, on October 20, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour plane—a 1947 Convair 240 turbo-prop plane that they’d nicknamed Free Bird—ran out of gas due to an engine malfunction and crashed in rural Mississippi. Three band members (Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and backup vocalist Cassie Gaines) were killed, as was their road manager and the two pilots. Twenty others on the plane survived with injuries of varying severity. After the survivors recovered, a number of them regrouped as the Rossington-Collins Band.
There’s also ‘Things Goin’ On’ – now that one was apparently destined to be played on an acoustic, and the arrangement is sharp and tasteful; the minimalistic guitar sound seems to jump out of the speakers and cling on right to the imaginary acoustic you’re strumming at the moment. On the other hand, ‘I Ain’t The One’ definitely ain’t the one: the song begs for electric treatment, and no matter how eagerly Rossington and King bend their strings, the number loses almost everything. In general, the numbers that are supposed to ‘hard-rock’ don’t succumb to the boys’ softening process: ‘Saturday Night Special’ is equally a failure, and I never even cared much for ‘Poison Whiskey’ in the first place. But ballads, like ‘Am I Losin’, or ye ol’ South standards like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, are very nice.
The encore was a delirious 12-minute version of Free Bird, which included a furious jam from the three-man guitarmy, plus Ronnie Van Zant’s guest vocal appearance, which closed the song.
With Van Zant’s death, Lynyrd Skynyrd was effectively over for the moment. But there were still plenty of survivors, and many of them were in really bad shape. The plane was loaded with equipment and just about every seat was throttled from the floor. People started emerging from the twisted metal of the crash.
Of course, I don’t see the point of the album. It’s supposed to be a ‘nostalgia trip’, but truth is, at this stage in their career Skynyrd already had very little to do with nostalgia; the lineup is quite different, and the tracks hardly sound nostalgic at all – like I said, this hardly reminds you of the original Skynyrd, even in terms of pure atmosphere. Rather this is a half-hearted attempt to keep Southern rock alive, that’s why they got all those ‘outcast’ guitarists from minor bands. Well – if there still is an audience out there for this kind of music, I give ’em my hearty cheers. Better to listen to this, melodies or no melodies, than to Jennifer Lopez, anyway.
Wanna mellow out? ‘One More Time’ is a nice and thought-provoking ballad, although the fact that it was actually an old outtake (you can easily find an earlier version on Skynyrd’s First) makes me wonder if it was really so problematic for them to sit down and write something new at the time. Wanna boogie in? ‘I Know A Little’ is one of their fastest and most danceable tunes, with excellent jazzy guitar runs from Gaines, of an almost Alvin Lee-like character. Or else you have ‘You Got That Right’, another excellent rave-up from the boys. In short, most of this stuff cooks.
In short, I “done had my fun” with this album. I did have to empty my stomach first, upon unfolding the booklet and looking at the photos, not because they look old, but because they look so Eighties, fuzzed frizzed bamboozled hair and all (worst of all are the Cyndi Lauperish girls singing backup vocals). But don’t judge a booklet by its photos; the music, bad or good, is timeless, and kudos to Billy Powell for not setting up a bunch of sterile hi-tech gadgets instead of the honky-tonk.
The other former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd continued to make music during the hiatus era. Billy Powell played keyboards in a Christian rock band named Vision, touring with established Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre During Vision concerts, Powell’s trademark keyboard talent was often spotlighted and he spoke about his conversion to Christianity after the near-fatal plane crash. Pyle formed the Artimus Pyle Band in 1982, which occasionally featured former Honkettes JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins 31 and released one MCA album titled “A.P.B.”.
Notable: Guitarist King, one of the founders of Strawberry Alarm Clock, joined Skynyrd as a bassist and soon switched to guitar. In the process, he helped to create the band’s triple-threat guitar sound. King left the band before the fateful plane crash, and returned when Skynyrd reunited in 1987. He departed again, nearly a decade later, when heart problems intervened.
The documentary features original behind-the-scenes film footage of life with the band before the crash, dramatic reenactments illustrating key dramatic scenes, and high-end CG animations — including a simulation of the plane crash that matches the NTSB report. Rare interviews with four first responders were also captured, filmed on location at the crash site in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Based on Gene’s book, “I’ll Never Forget You”, this documentary offers the fond remembrance of one man’s journey with this legendary band, but more importantly, the loss of his dearest friend. Gene’s unique perspective and down-to-earth sensibility grants unique access to the behind-the-scenes story, the celebration and the tragedy.
Songs from the South Land were plenty on this night. Opener Blackfoot began a 5 hour stomp and dance , followed by 38Special, and then the Texas Trio that is the one and only ZZ Top, sliding into the headline act Skynyrd. A feeling of a Farewell night was hanging over a loud and lively crowd. A romance of sorts to the band’s rebellious spirit. Hitting all the material that has stood a test of time, standing up, even if some of it’s most important creators no longer do.Sweet Home Alabama still has the ability to “pick people up when feeling blue” all these years cheers were the loudest though for the show closer Free Bird, a euphoric anthem, a defiant declaration of the band’s rebel spirit. The Street Survivors Farewell sings Red,White and Blue and flies an American flag and here in the Big Smoke TO, flew alongside our Red and White Maple Leaf forever. The night rocked with a distinctive swampy, feel-good rhythm boogie.
Having returned to active duty, Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded prolifically in the Nineties. Their output included The Last Rebel (1993) and the all-acoustic Endangered Species (1994). The latter appeared on the Capricorn label, which had been home to the Allman Brothers and other Southern rock groups in the Seventies. Twenty (1997) and Edge of Forever (1999), along with the concert album Lyve from Steel Town (1998), were released on CMC International. Along with their new works came a flood of compilations and reissues, including a box set, a single-disc of greatest hits, a two-CD set of rarities, expanded editions of several of the classic early albums, a Christmas album, and the double disc Thyrty: The Thirtieth Anniversary Collection.
Rossington had quintuple bypass surgery in 2003 and had a heart attack in 2015 that also affected the Southern-rock icons’ tour schedule. The sole original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the band’s current incarnation, Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, Honkettes backup singer Cassie Gaines, assistant tour manager Dean Kilpatrick, and the pilot and co-pilot of the Convair 420. The accident derailed the band at the height of their career, but they reunited with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant as singer in 1987 and have been on the road ever since.
Earlier in 1977, there was another rock and roll band in the market for an airplane. Eerily, legendary rock group Aerosmith had representatives looking to buy the very Convair that carried Lynyrd Skynyrd to their demise. Aerosmith’s managers toured the plane and were extremely unimpressed with the plane’s condition as well as the staff that manned it.
According to Ed King, it was actually following a band rehearsal in the late summer of 1973 that, inspired by a Gary Rossington guitar riff, he went to bed and the chords and two main solos for ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ came to him, note for note, in a dream. King presented the new tune to the other band members the very next day, and Ronnie Van Zant, who felt that Neil Young‘s criticisms of Southern social conditions amounted to “shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two,” subsequently came up with lyrics that caused their own controversy by referencing Watergate and pro-segregation Governor George Wallace.
In the summer of 1977, members of the rock band Aerosmith inspected an airplane they were considering chartering for their upcoming tour—a Convair 240 operated out of Addison, Texas Concerns over the flight crew led Aerosmith to look elsewhere—a decision that saved one band but doomed another. The aircraft in question was instead chartered by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who were just setting out that autumn on a national tour that promised to be their biggest to date. On October 20, 1977, however, during a flight from Greenville, South Carolina , to Baton Rouge, Louisiana , Lynyrd Skynyrd’s tour plane crashed in a heavily wooded area of southeastern Mississippi during a failed emergency landing attempt, killing band-members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines as well as the band’s assistant road manager and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot. Twenty others survived the crash.
On the other hand, some of the material, like the pedestrian rocker ‘Wino’ and a couple unimaginative shuffles like ‘Comin’ Home’ and ‘Lend A Helpin’ Hand’, do tend to sabotage the positive effect of the record: it’s really, really hard to wade through all of it in one sitting if you’re not a diehard. I’m still leaving it with an overall rating of ten, because it’s a worthy product, and the record companies did a solid job of digging it out and making easily available; but the critics do tend to overrate it. Saying that Skynyrd’s First is better than anything else they released is pretty much the equivalent of saying ‘I like it far better when Skynyrd were a derivative average hard-rock band’. Isolated, this record goes nowhere; in the context of Skynyrd’s entire career, though, it holds up pretty well and is definitely a must for all those who care about the poor late Ronnie Van Zant. Or Rickey Medlocke.
Attendees also heard from Gene Odom who was the band’s security manager, and one of the survivors of the deadly plane crash. Lynyrd Skynyrd—the hard rocking, tough-as-nails band that defined Southern rock.