Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist keeps his promise after Ronnie Van Zant’s passing

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A band’s future may be significantly impacted by the passing of a band member, which can be a tragic occurrence for the group.

The passing of a band member occasionally results in the dissolution of the group. As the loss of a major member can result in a significant change in the lineup and the impossibility to recreate the same music that was formerly made, it can cause a dramatic shift in the band’s sound.

Back in 1977, something similar happened to the band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

American rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd first became well-known in the South of the country in the 1970s.

The band’s first lineup of drummer Bob Burns, bassist Larry Junstrom, guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, and singer Ronnie Van Zant in Jacksonville, Florida.

The classic singles “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” which are still two of the most well-known rock tunes of all time, are the band’s best-known works.

When the group’s tour plane crashed in 1977, Ronnie Van Zant and several other members perished, dealing the band a sad blow.

Others among those who lost their lives were Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines. They were flying to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The band suffered irreparable damage as a result of the plane tragedy in 1977 that claimed the lives of three of its founding members.

The band’s remaining members had to come to terms with the loss of their friends and bandmates after the disaster, which happened just as they were beginning to experience widespread fame. Back then, Johnny became the band’s lead singer and songwriter.

He is also Ronnie’s younger brother. Rickey Medlocke rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996 after his first stint with the group in 1971–1972 and has been a member ever since.

In a recent chat with Goldmine, Medlocke reflected on his career in the band.

He said that the band is still Lynyrd Skynyrd even though they lost some original members in that tragic plane crash. While talking about it he also revealed a promise he made to Johnny and Rossington. He said,

“I was there, starting in the early spring of ’71, all the way through almost to the end of ’72 going into ’73. I played drums. And so Gary, myself, and Johnny get hammered because folks say we’re not the original band. We admit that we know that. But this is really Lynyrd Skynyrd because you’ve got Gary, who’s still alive and still there. You’ve got Johnny, the original singer’s younger brother.”

“So, when we walk out there, you’re looking at what we call Lynyrd Skynyrd. Look, we’re going to play these songs. And we’re going to keep them like the originals and play them as close as you can possibly get it. And we hold firm to the idea that we owe that to the fans. We keep the integrity of the songs and the band; we hold true to it. We don’t sway from it.”

“I told Gary when he got me back into this band — what, 27 years ago? I said, ‘Gary, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to come into this thing and be here with you and Johnny.’ I said, ‘I’ll be with you guys until the last note of ‘Free Bird’ is finally played.’ And I meant that, and here I am. I still hold true to that, and I’ll be here for whatever remaining time we have.”

Up until Lynyrd Skynyrd’s departure from the scene, Rickey Medlocke had committed to remaining there with Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, and the others.

Lynyrd Skynyrd underwent a significant shift as a result of the 1977 stock market crash, but it also solidified the group’s reputation as one of the finest rock bands ever. Due to the band’s commitment to its music and the fortitude of the surviving members, Lynyrd Skynyrd has endured in popular culture.

1 Comment

  1. Dick Nibbler Reply

    Give it up! There has been no Lynyrd Skynyrd as long as Ronnie’s been dead. Rickey thinking they are justified because Johnny “is Ronnie’s brother” is ridiculous. Ronnie had talent and a vision for what the band and its music should be. How many hits has Johnny written? Johnny has to be the luckiest guy alive – never had to do anything but be Ronnie’s brother and sing his songs. What a joke. Since 1987 the so called “Lynyrd Skynyrd” band have never let the death of a member stop them from touring. After all, it puts money in Judy’s bank account so why not? I have a question for anyone who has seen one of their concerts post 1987 – If Ringo Starr hired 3 other Liverpool Musicians and toured as the Beatles would you believe you had seen the Beatles???

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