The legacy began some 41 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and halted for a decade by the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. 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.
On October 17, 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their fifth studio album, Street Survivors, which would eventually be certified double-platinum. Three days later, however, tragedy struck the group when their chartered Convair 240 began to run out of fuel at 6,000 feet en route to Baton Rouge. The plane’s crew, whom the National Transportation Safety Board would hold responsible for the mishap in the accident report issued eight months later, radioed Houston air-traffic control as the plane lost altitude, asking for directions to the nearest airfield. We’re low on fuel and we’re just about out of it,” the pilot told Houston Center at approximately 6:42 pm. We want vectors to McComb airfield poste-haste please, sir.” Approximately 13 minutes later, however, the plane crashed just outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi.
The group themselves first came to prominence with the release of their 1973 debut album, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd. Produced by Al Kooper, who had signed the band to MCA the year before, this included ‘Freebird’ and featured the three-pronged guitar line-up of Rossington, King and Allen Collins, together with Bob Burns on drums, Leon Wilkeson playing bass and keyboardist Billy Powell. The same personnel then reassembled for ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, again with Kooper sitting behind the console at Studio One, a facility located in the Northern Atlanta suburb of Doraville, Georgia, that had been designed and constructed by engineer Rodney Mills, with assistance from music publisher Bill Lowery and future Altlanta Rhythm Section manager Buddy Buie.
The final straw came when they allegedly witnessed pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray passing a bottle of Jack Daniel’s back and forth. The plane may have held up, but the pilots failed their inspection, and that is why you are reading about Lynyrd Skynyrd instead of Aerosmith right now.
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.
Aye, some prefer Second Helping to this one, but I guess it all stems from the mega-success of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and the executive bashing of ‘Workin’ For MCA’. Actually, the band was so consistent and stylistically narrow (not necessarily in the bad sense of the word), that their first record couldn’t help but be their best. Eight songs on here, and all of them, except, perhaps, the somewhat bland rocker ‘Poison Whiskey’, have quite a bit to offer to both the casual and the devoted listener. This is also kinda unpretentious: they were seven exuberant young lads who’d just landed upon a recording contract and hadn’t yet carved out the fabulous ‘confederate image’. Just look at the album cover – seven gruff, dirty ‘nerds’ who look like they’d kill you for a penny (although the lyrics to ‘Gimme Three Steps’ kinda suggest the opposite).
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.”.
Street Survivors,” which had been released three days prior to the crash, ended up being Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most successful album and achieved double-platinum status. At the insistence of Gaines’s wife, the album cover was changed because it morbidly depicted Gaines and other band members engulfed in flames. Obviously, this was done in poor taste, so it’s a good thing that the record label heeded Gaines’ call.
It would take me a week to go through everything laughs. The one thing I can tell you, that I can share, is that this guy, in my opinion, was just a total genius. He was a Southern poet. He was a great friend. I just hated to see it end the way it went. I wish he could have been here, and Allen (Collins), Steve (Gaines) and Cass (Cassie Gaines) to see how this all has culminated, right now. I know their spirits are with us every night, and I’m sure that they can see it. But I would have loved for them to have been (heres) and able to see how this has ended up.
The unfortunate thing was that Skynyrd did their Southern thing with such loads of conviction they couldn’t help being marketed and publicized as, you know, the Sons of the Cotton Fields, just as Sabbath were always pictured as Sons ‘ the Devil. In that respect, they’ve managed to earn themselves many a thoroughly braindead fan from the same cotton fields who loves them not so much for the music but ever so much for the image. Let me get this straight now from the very beginning: I don’t care much about Skynyrd as a ‘way of life’. Perhaps, if I were born in Alabama, it would be a different matter; but I wasn’t, and looking at this band from an objective point of view, I just prefer to concentrate on their musical, rather than cultural, value.
Roles in band: Guitarist (King, second from right in photo) and drummer (Pyle, third from right). Sammie Ketcher was a member of two of Gaines bands when he first started, and says he was one of the most promising musicians he knew.
Reunited and reignited, Lynyrd Skynyrd – including core members Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlock – will lead a fiery, guitar-driven assault on The Plenary, Melbourne, on February 11, 2014.
Last year the iconic group, known for such hits as What’s Your Name, Saturday Night Special, Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird, announced that after a career that has spanned more than 40 years and includes a catalog of more than 60 albums with more than 30 million units sold, they would embark on their Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour. The farewell tour logged over 50 stops by the end of 2018 and has continued throughout 2019 taking the band across the country and around the globe in countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and the U.K., giving fans one last unforgettable night of classic American Rock-and-Roll.
The film weaves the three survivors’ stories together to paint a picture of what might have been and the web of tragic decisions leading to the plane crash that forever altered their lives — and LYNYRD SKYNYRD’s place in history.
The concert film, directed by multi award-winning director Shaun Silva and Tacklebox Films, will feature their 2018 hometown stadium performance from the Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour at TIAA Bank Field in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. The production will also feature an intimate interview with the band about their experiences on tour and what performing together has meant to them.
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.
Since May 2018, Lynyrd Skynyrd has been on a global farewell tour, entitled “Last of the Street Survivors.” The Jackson Free Press caught up with Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and vocalist Rickey Medlocke in advance of the band’s Sept. 27 concert at the Brandon Amphitheater.
Former member Ed King, who had been battling cancer, 43 died in his Nashville, Tennessee home on August 22, 2018 at 68 years of age. 49 Original bass guitarist Larry Junstrom died October 6,2019.
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.
Neighbors who turned rescuers Oct. 20, 1977, came up with the idea for the monument just last year and won endorsement from the current Lynyrd Skynyrd band. A lot of the money came from fans.
Despite what amounted to pilot error, it’s actually amazing that there were 20 plane crash survivors The absence of fuel was a contributing factor for survival (once on the ground), but there was no shortage of broken bones, contusions, and lacerations. Wilkeson, who was heard screaming, was pulled from the wreckage and faced hours of operations to repair his teeth, legs, arms, and body.
On the other hand, it doesn’t matter much here and now, does it? This is tribute, and there’s nothing ironic or nonchalant about the death of four people in a plane crash, so why penalise the “tributeers” for not acting like the smart clowns we’d expect them to be under different circumstances? They do their job well. Speaking of “they”, they even manage to drag out Ed King, who hadn’t played with the band since 1976; and they would have dragged out Allen Collins, too, if he hadn’t been paralyzed in a car crash a couple years earlier (he was still part of the tour, nevertheless, assigned the role of “arrangement consultant”, whatever that might mean). With King and Rossington on guitars, Billy Powell on keyboards, and the classic Wilkeson-Pyle rhythm section in action, at least the instrumental parts of all this stuff are as close to the classic Skynyrd sound as possible.
The Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour includes 30 concerts in venues across the US. The band will also visit countries around the world, including Canada, Mexico and multiple locations in Europe. Don’t miss your last chance to see Lynyrd Skynyrd live in concert one last time. Grab tickets for a venue near you at StubHub.