Robert Christgau

Lynyrd SkynyrdThe 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. Van Zant told the crowd how thankful she is to the community and first responders who treated everyone injured in the crash. King rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd after it reformed in 1987 for a reunion tour with Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, on lead vocals.

Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s longtime admirers might argue about the greatest songs, their favorite albums or key aspects of Skynyrd lore. One fact is indisputable, however: A plane crash on Oct. 20, 1977, decimated the band. Six people were killed that night, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and hotshot newcomer Steve Gaines. Skynyrd reformed a decade later, carrying on a Southern rock tradition that has lasted to this day. Here are some key players who’ve departed the band, tragically and otherwise.

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.

On the other hand, Skynyrd were never as musically gifted as the Allmans: their trio of guitarists was impressive, but a single Duane Allman would have lain them flat out in a moment. Not to mention the ‘image problem’: the Allmans never used the Confederate flag, after all. And, when taken live, the Allmans would easily blow old Lynyrd off the stage – that’s not to say that Skynyrd were pretty bad live, that’s to remind you that the live Allmans stuff is fantastic. If it weren’t for that last overwhelming argument, both bands would share a ‘two’ rating; as it is, Brothers And Sisters got an overall rating of 13, and I really can’t do that to any of the Lynyrd Skynyrd albums I’ve heard (although I confess I don’t own One More From The Road).

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.

Roadies, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the pilot and co-pilot boarded the plane that took off just after 5 p.m. There were 26 people in all, and the ride started much better than the previous flight. Just about everyone seemed a little scared, but eventually, they calmed down as they settled into the flight.

If I’d received $1 every time I heard a witless fan at a concert trying to be funny by shouting Free Bird” as a request I could have bought a dozen Lynyrd Skynyrd hoodies (at $65 per) at Sprint Center on Friday and had enough left over to buy a $30 concert T-shirt.



With a catalog of over 60 albums, sales beyond 30 million worldwide and their beloved classic American rock anthem Sweet Home Alabama” having over two million downloaded ringtones, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd remains a cultural icon that appeals to all generations.

Some in the South still observe the Oct. 20, 1977, crash near Gillsburg, Miss., that killed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, vocalist Cassie Gaines, as a day of regional mourning. The casualties were not limited to those killed in the wreckage. The surviving band members struggled with physical and psychological impacts that put the band on ice for nearly 10 years. In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited with five of the surviving members of the pre-crash band, and with Johnny Van Zant—Ronnie’s little brother—as lead vocalist.

Notable: Skynyrd’s original drummer played on the first two albums and contributed to the band’s signature sound. Burns left the group in 1974. (“The touring, the recording, the constant motion was too much,” he told the Freebird Foundation , a fan group.) Burns died in 2015 in a car crash in Georgia.

Earlier this year Southern Rock icons, Lynyrd Skynyrd, announced that, after a career that has spanned more than 40 years and includes a catalogue 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 two-year farewell tour will have logged over 50 stops in the US and Canada by the end of 2018.


Larry Junstrom was a bassist who was a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and went on to join38 Special. Junstrom played with Lynyrd Skynyrd from their formation in 1964 until 1971, leaving before the band released their debut album and gained nationwide fame. He went on to join38 Special in 1977 alongside Donnie Van Zant, brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd founder Ronnie Van Zant. The band had just released their debut album when Junstrom joined, and he played bass on a single track of the album. Their greatest fame was yet to come with early 1980s hits including Hold on Loosely” and Caught Up in You.” Junstrom went on to play bass on all of38 Special’s albums and remained with the band until 2014, when a hand injury forced him to retire.

Notable: Collins, a founding member of Skynyrd, co-wrote several of the band’s most famous songs with Ronnie Van Zant. He suffered severe injuries during the 1977 plane crash, but eventually recovered. Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band with Skynyrd bandmate Gary Rossington in 1979, and later, his own Allen Collins Band. Collins’ life was marked by several tragedies: his wife died in 1980 and he became paralyzed from the waist down in a 1986 car crash that claimed the life of his girlfriend. He died in 1990.

They’d added Steve Gaines on guitar, returning the number of guitarists to three and thus recapturing all the “crunch capacity” of the original line-up. And even if he’s clearly the “outsider” in the band at this point (since he’s originally from Oklahoma, joking references to Okies and ‘gonna set an Okie on ya!’ abound in Ronnie’s stage patter), it’s admirable how well he integrates into the band’s overall sound merely a couple months after the “merger”. Granted, I can’t always tell with these songs where Steve begins and the other two end, but that’s hardly a negative, since all the songs are done so well.

Notable: Powell began his career with Skynyrd as a roadie during the early 1970s, moving into the keyboard spot after a year or two. He remained in that role throughout his life, witnessing the band’s tragedies and triumphs, and was beloved by fans as a Skynyrd mainstay. Powell died in 2009 at his home in Florida.

The rock and roll lifestyle includes its share of crazy stories, and Lynyrd Skynyrd was no different. They ere living fast and hard. Previously, they were fond of chartering flights in nicer planes, but word soon got out that transporting them in the air was a nightmare for pilots and crew.

Ronnie Van Zant was the famed frontman of the group, but he also had the eerie gift of foresight. Van Zant missed the 27 club (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, etc), but that didn’t stop him from predicting his death to come before he turned 30 years old. Despite the death of their lead singer, an iteration Lynyrd Skynyrd still tours to this day.

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.

Sometimes there, sometimes not; Ed King’s count-in to the song doesn’t appear on all versions of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, yet Rodney Mills thinks the ones that do have acquired it from the original tape.

Adds Rossington, We’re still standing, still keeping the music going. We wanted to do the guys who aren’t with us any more proud, and keep the name proud, too.” With a catalog of over 60 albums, sales beyond 30 million worldwide and their beloved classic American rock anthem Sweet Home Alabama” having over two million downloaded ringtones, Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd remains a cultural icon that appeals to all generations.

Tickets for Lynyrd Skynyrd: Last of The Street Survivors Farewell Tour will be available beginning Friday, October 4, at and participating theater box offices.

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