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Rock Report: Skynyrd Plane Crash 35 Years Ago Today

Lynyrd Skynyrd
MCA Records

It was 35 years ago on Saturday (October 20th, 1977), that a plane carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed in a swamp near Gillsburg, Mississippi. At the time, the group was en route to its next show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The crash took the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant; guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines; Lynyrd Skynyrd manager Dean Kilpatrick, as well as the plane’s two pilots.

All the other members of the band suffered horrific injuries, from which they eventually recovered. Two years later, survivors Gary Rossington and Allen Collins (guitars), Billy Powell (keyboards) and Leon Wilkeson (bass) formed a new group, the Rossington-Collins Band. A decade after the plane crash, the surviving members of Skynyrd regrouped under the legendary name and played a series of dates to mark the anniversary with Johnnie Van Zant, the younger brother of Ronnie Van Zant, stepping in as his permanent replacement.

Gary Rossington — who broke both arms, both legs, both wrists, both ankles and his pelvis in the plane crash — was asked what motivates him and his bandmates to keep the Skynyrd name alive: “Gosh, it’s just, y’know, you gotta carry on, and go through it. If you take the lives of just any seven individuals and follow them, tragedy happens, y’know? And it just happened to us. And we just kept carryin’ on, we’re doin’ it for the guys that aren’t with us, and for us, and for the music and the name and — it’s what we are.”

Recently released was the limited-edition DVD — Wolfgang’s Vault Presents “Day On The Green 1977: Featuring Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd.” The show, filmed on July 2nd, 1977 was one of several Day on the Green summer festivals presented by the late Bill Graham at Northern California’s Oakland Coliseum Stadium. The concert features Skynyrd just three-and-a-half months before the tragic plane crash.

Out now is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s latest album, Last Of A Dyin’ Breed — which is their best charting studio set since 1977′s Street Survivors collection.

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