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The saga of Lynyrd Skynyrd has unfolded in an almost mythical series of ups and downs, from being in the vanguard of a musical movement to the tragic 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of three band members.

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Lynyrd SkynyrdOne of the most tragic moments in rock history happened 42 years ago this Sunday. 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.

Donations for the Lynyrd Skynyrd monument and the hospital monument are still accepted and remaining proceeds will go toward a contingency fund to be used for directional marking along the roads leading to the location of the crash site marker, and other related long term expenses, Nelson said.

Southern rock met SoCal skunk last week at a concert in San Jose, California, when bandmates from Lynyrd Skynyrd got the full fan experience during a backstage meet up and smoke session with Snoop Dogg.

The roses symbolized the six lives lost more than 40 years ago after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane skittered along the tops of the southwest Mississippi treeline, before slamming into the thick swampy brush.

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.

J.J. Cale wasn’t the only influence the band paid tribute to on Second Helping. On “Swamp Music” VanZant likens the bowling of a hound to the blues moans of Son House. His ultimate tribute, though, is reserved for “The Ballad Of Curtis Lowe,” a song about a black country store owner who used to redeem the deposit bottles the band often collected to support themselves. After they’d had their refreshments, a neighborhood bluesman would take out his guitar and play it for the boys, a gesture VanZant never forgot and finally found an appropriate response to.

A feeling of impending doom carried over into his music, particularly the Street Survivors track That Smell.” Written as a stern warning after Rossington wrapped his brand new Ford Torino around a tree during a substance-fueled joyride, the foreboding smell of death surrounds you” refrain provides a glimpse into Van Zant’s unsettled psyche. I had a creepy feeling things were going against us, so I thought I’d write a morbid song,” he said three months before the crash. It would be one of the last songs he ever wrote.

Tragically, the crash claimed the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant; guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines; Skynyrd manager Dean Kilpatrick, as well as the plane’s two pilots Walter McCreary and William Gray.

After Van Zant died in a plane crash in 1977, the song took on new meaning. Guitarist Gary Rossington, who survived the crash, recruited Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant in the 1980s to help reform the band and—eventually—sing his brother’s words for thousands of fans.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is a Southern rock band from Jacksonville, Florida Formed in 1964, the group originally included vocalist Ronnie Van Zant , guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins , bassist Larry Junstrom and drummer Bob Burns The current lineup features Rossington, guitarist and vocalist Rickey Medlocke (from 1971 to 1972, and since 1996), lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant (since 1987), drummer Michael Cartellone (since 1999), guitarist Mark Matejka (since 2006), keyboardist Peter Keys (since 2009) and bassist Keith Christopher (since 2017). The band also tours with two backing vocalists, currently Dale Krantz-Rossington (since 1987) and Carol Chase (since 1996).



Following a performance at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina , on October 20, 1977, the band boarded a chartered Convair CV-240 bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana , where they were scheduled to appear at LSU the following night. After running out of fuel the pilots attempted an emergency landing before crashing in a heavily forested area five miles northeast of Gillsburg, Mississippi 27 28 Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with backup singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray were killed on impact; other band members (Collins, Rossington, Wilkeson, Powell, Pyle, and Hawkins), tour manager Ron Eckerman, 29 and several road crew suffered serious injuries.

The reunited band was intended to be a one-time tribute to the original lineup, captured on the double-live album Southern by the Grace of God : Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour 1987. That the band chose to continue after the 1987 tribute tour caused legal problems for the survivors, as Judy Van Zant Jenness and Teresa Gaines Rapp (widows of Ronnie and Steve, respectively) sued the others for violating an agreement made shortly after the plane crash, stating that they would not “exploit” the Skynyrd name for profit. As part of the settlement, Jenness and Rapp collect nearly 30% of the band’s touring revenues (representing the shares their husbands would have earned had they lived), and hold a proviso requiring any band touring as Lynyrd Skynyrd to include Rossington and at least two of the other four surviving members from the pre-crash era, namely Wilkeson, Powell, King and Pyle. 34 However, continued lineup changes and natural attrition has led to a relaxation in recent years.

It all began in Jacksonville, Florida, where a teenaged Ronnie Van Zant got turned on to several kinds of music: black country blues, which he learned from a neighbor; Merle Haggard-style hard country, which would play on the radio in his father’s truck; and the rocking sounds of the British Invasion that were in the air. He was floored by the Rolling Stones, vowing to form a group that would be their American equivalent. From the start Lynyrd Skynyrd has been a standard-bearer for Southern rock, but their biggest early influences were British—the Stones, the Yardbirds, Cream, Free and Led Zeppelin—and some of those bands’ controlled frenzy seeped into even their most Dixie-fied material.

As a way of extending Skynyrd’s touch to a wider variety of fans, the Freebird Foundation Inc., a non-profit charity established in honor of Ronnie VanZant, developed this Lynyrd Skynyrd website. Working closely with band members and Skynyrd families, the Foundation has provided the dedicated fan a complete Lynyrd Skynyrd resource. Representing a complete look at Lynyrd Skynyrd’s thirty plus year career through rare photos of the band onstage and off, detailed history and biographies of the band members, a discography, a complete song list with lyrics, a showcase of rare Skynyrd memorabilia and much more.

It’s possible Van Zant had filled Billingsley in on that day’s troubling flight from Lakeland, Florida. The Convair, which had served the band relatively well up until that point, began to exhibit serious mechanical malfunctions after takeoff on October 18th. Just as we left the runway the starboard engine backfired, the bang so loud I thought it had blown apart,” the band’s security chief Gene Odom wrote in his memoir Long orange flames were pouring from the engine as the plane continued to climb. We were all terrified. … Twelve thousand feet in the air, the engine spewed out a ten-foot torch of fire that lasted for several minutes, offering each of us an unforgettable look at our very serious problem.” On the morning of their fatal journey, Odom approached the flight crew at the behest of the band, in an effort to get some answers about the aircraft. He claims McCreary and Gray insisted the plane was fine, but they’d call ahead for a mechanic to look things over – in Baton Rouge.

While the plane crash undoubtedly shook the whole band and caused the parting of ways for some time, it did ultimately prove how strong they all were. The tribute show was a means of coming back together and doing what they love despite such a dark and grim experience had happened 10 years prior. It wasn’t enough to keep them apart forever.

According to the outlet, Junstrom left the group before they recorded their debut album in 1973, titled Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd.” Leon Wilkeson would go on to handle bass during the height of the band’s fame.

The Marcus King Band, Soulful Southern Rock and Roll, performs their song Side Door” and the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival from 2018. In classic rock history, there are few albums quite as tragic as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fifth studio album, Street Survivors.


Junstrom was a founding member and bassist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, although he left the group before it recorded its first album. He’s better known as a member of another Southern Rock band, 38 Special, with which he performed from 1977 until retiring in 2014.

The unveiling is free and open to the public. Pat Nelson, one of the organizers of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Monument Project, which has partnered with the Southwest Medical Foundation, has confirmations from several family members of those who perished in the crash. Judy Van Zant, widow of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, and Corrina Gaines, daughter of guitarist Steve Gaines and niece of backup singer Cassie Gaines, plan to attend the dedication.

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