Seeing the story about Lynryd Skynyrd band member and drummer Bob Burns death recently, reminded me of the sad history of what could only be called a “Star Crossed Band,” with incredible highs and disastrous lows. Highs like the tunes: “Sweet Home Alabama,” and the great Southern anthem, “Freebird,” to the deep Lows of the tragic airplane crash in 1977 taking the lives of three founding members, including vocalist, Ronnie Zant, Guitarist Steve Gaines and four others, including the pilot. Other members of the band, and roadies, suffered burns and serious injuries.
After the crash the other band members took time off to recover and some formed and performed in other groups including, The Rossington-Collins Band, with Dale Krantz, a woman, as lead vocalist, trying to avoid comparisons with Ronnie Van Zant and the original band.
But a decade later in 1987, survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle reunited, with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny stepping in as lead singer and song writer. They made the well received double-live tribute album, “Southern by the Grace of God, Lynyrd Skynrd Tour 1987,” but legal actions by Johnny and Steve’s widows, due to an agreement that the group could not cash in on the Skynyrd name after the accident, threw the band and it’s finances into chaos and eventually the widows were paid around 30 percent of all Tour Revenue, about the same shares their husbands would have collected had they lived to play. Eventually, most of the members were either dead, or forced out, until all that was left of the original band was the name. But out of Bad always comes Good, and in this case the good is the great music that was made by a band who mocked the red-necked Physical Education Instructor at Jacksonville’s, Robert E. Lee High, by misspelling his name.