A LITTLE BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
There are two things to know about me that those who are my friends and family know about me – I love baseball (my Phillies in particular) and I love music, both with a passion (maybe music more so than baseball).
I love all kinds of music, but there are a few artists that I really latch onto and my love for them last years and years. I spend a lot of time learning about these artists and really get to know what makes them tick. One of those has been Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Lynyrd Skynyrd started recording back in 1970-71, I was born in 1971, therefore I didn’t know much of them back then. They’ve influenced many artists I like, Travis Tritt being an early stand out name in that group. I was big into country and he was one I remember also being a big Skynyrd fan. I knew a few of the songs and listened to them, although probably mostly covers of them, outside of Sweet Home Alabama. I don’t know that there is an American born since it’s release that hasn’t heard that song. It’s everywhere.
Anyway, fast forward to the year 2010. At that point I had been working for Bret Michaels for about 12-13 years. The aforementioned Sweet Home Alabama is a staple on the his home away from home, the tour bus. After show parties, just sitting around, you will not go a day in Bret Michaels World without hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd. During the summer of 2010, Bret is opening for Skynyrd. I do what I always do when Bret works with someone, I get to know them and do my research. My co-worker and roommate referred to me today in am email to someone as “all around music aficionado/Bret Michaels historian.”
I can’t help myself. I love music. I can’t remember the television show I just watched, but little bits and pieces of music history get stuck in my head and are often referred to whenever possible. I love to learn new things – a variety of subjects, too. So when I made plans to head up to New Jersey (it’s just Jersey to me – growing up just outside of Philly, it’s just Jersey), I bought a DVD of Lynyrd Skynyrd live.
I purchased Lynyrd Skynyrd Live From Freedom Hall on June 25, 2010. I was flying to Jersey to see Skynyrd July 1 (their show was July 2). Obviously, I have never see Skynyrd live before, so I wanted to know what they were like on stage. The Freedom Hall CD/DVD set was fairly new and although the line-up I was going to see was different, it was still Skynyrd to me.
I absolutely fell in love with Skynyrd. I will never say I am anyone’s biggest fan or number one fan, I will always tell you when I became a fan of someone. I wasn’t a big fan of Poison ‘back in the day’ but I became I fan in 1995 when I saw Bret Michaels on TNN Country News that year. I won’t make up any stories, I’ll just tell you what made me fall in love with the music.
Back to Skynyrd — I watched Rickey Medlocke go crazy on stage, playing with an amazing passion and put every ounce of himself into every note, every move and every moment of the show. The whole band was electric – Billy Powell was in that video, as was Ean Evans. I was hooked. Admittedly Rickey became my favorite member, his energy was and still is unbelievable. But after seeing them live and purchasing more live DVDs from a variety of time periods, I fell in love with all the members. There is a magic to Lynyrd Skynyrd as Rickey often says. There really is. The music is what draws you in, their live performance of said music is the icing in the cake.
For the last two years, I have read books, bought more CDs and downloads, collected magazines and so forth. My roommate calls it obsessed. Maybe I am, but there is so much history for me to explore and catch up on, I’ve missed a lot. They’ve been Lynyrd Skynyrd as long as I have been alive and, well, I have only been collecting CDs, DVDs, books and magazines on them since 2010. There is much to learn. I guess I could have read all the books and web sites and gotten it all out of the way before I collected the music and videos, but my passion is for the music. Doesn’t matter what line-up of the band, there are songs I can listen to over and over and over. For obvious reasons, I have latched on to the line-up I saw live in 2010. That line-up was Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, Rickey Medlocke, Dale Krantz-Rossington, Michael Cartellone, Peter Keys, Carol Chase, Mark Matejka and Robert Kearns.
I have only met Peter Keys, he came to a Poison show here in Nashville this year. And, well I did meet Robert Kearns, too. I, of course, was backstage prior to the show catching up with Janna who was on the road with Bret (I don’t travel with him, but I do travel to see him in certain cities). She stopped and chatted with Peter and Robert about Bret, who had just two months prior to going out with Skynyrd had his brain hemorrhage, so that’s what we talked about. So technically, I met Peter twice.
Anyway, back to the show 38 Special went on first, so I watched with a friend I invited from the side of the stage. Donnie Van Zant is something else. A nice guy, too. No I didn’t meet him, but in the middle of a song he did come over and asked if we were good. Bret went on second and Skynyrd was the headliner. I learned quickly in my research that no one can follow Lynyrd Skynyrd – throughout their history some of the biggest names in music have been left in the dust when coming on after Skynyrd. When you see them live, you’ll understand.
They give 1000% to every show and despite any nervousness they may have, it never shows on stage. They are master showmen.
FAST FORWARD TO 2012…
I started writing this piece to discuss the Classic Rock Magazine (UK) Lynyrd Skynyrd Fan Pack. For the release of their new CD Last of A Dyin’ Breed, as every band does, there is promotions, interviews, and exclusive bonus tracks to get people excited about the release. A friend I made through the Skynyrd message board posted a link to this UK magazine fan pack. I bought one. UK magazines and releases are different than US their US counterparts. So I ordered a fan pack. (You can order one here if you are interested – Classic Rock Lynyrd SKynyrd Fan Pack)
The fan pack arrived just before my trip to Atlanta to see Skynyrd after the Phillies vs. Braves game at Turner Field. (I met my Mom and brother at the airport and was taking them with me to the game and concert. Skynyrd did not disappoint and they made a fan out of my Mom.) I read the first part of the magazine in the fan pack on the flight into Atlanta. I read the first 50 pages on the second leg of my trip into Atlanta.
The sections I read before the game and concert were the making of the album, track by track and the interviews with Gary, Johnny and Rickey. I read the rest of the magazine between Atlanta and Philly after the concert. The rest of the magazine had interviews with Mark, Michael, Peter Keys, new bassist Johnny Colt, the Honkettes (Dale and Carol), as well as an abbreviated history, information about the members who had passed and reviews of their back catalog.
I learned some new things, I knew some of the information they discussed and it was fun hearing the stories. I was touched by Johnny Colt’s interview and his story of being the new kid in the band. I became friends with him on Facebook shortly after he joined the band, follow him on Instagram and he’s shared a few stories about joining the band, along with some behind the scenes photos. Johnny Colt was a founding member of the Black Crowes. I knew of them, have some of their music and all that jazz. I like literally thousands of different artists, but obviously I can’t follow every detail of every artist I like. I probably would if I could, but realistically I can’t. So I didn’t know much about Johnny Colt and still have a lot to learn about him. What I have learned is that he’s a genuine guy who is passionate about his beliefs and the projects he immerses himself in.
His joining Skynyrd is no different. Reading the interview in the Fan Pack magazine just proves how passionate he is. He is still working on his groove and his place on stage with the band, but he’s filling some pretty big shoes. I think he’s doing just fine and if he’s nervous or loses himself in the moment of each show, I didn’t see it on September 1, 2012. I’m sure there was some pressure for him, he was home and playing in front of many people he knows, I’m sure. Add that to being onstage next to Gary Rossington all night, and, well it can’t be easy. But, much like the rest of the band, he’s an intense player. He’s real and genuine and, from everything I’ve learned about Lynyrd Skynyrd, a perfect fit.
I didn’t read his interview until after I went to the show. Watching him from the front and seeing him interact with the audience, observing him (that’s kind of what I do at all shows, I observe everything going on, it’s kind of part of my job), it made reading that interview more than just an interview. It made me go back through my memory and as I edited my photos from the show, really think about what I saw of him on stage.
Over the past few months, Team Skynyrd has been tweeting and posting more than they have since I started following them. One of the tidbits they posted was about how shy Gary Rossington is. That made me smile. I am super shy around most people. I avoid crowded rooms and meeting new people. I don’t like talking to people on the phone, but I will chat like crazy and post like crazy on a message board, my Facebook and blog. You’d have to know me pretty well to get me to say all this to you in person — this really long post is easier typed than spoken for me. Probably why I like to write and blog, it is easier than talking to someone for me.
In the Fan Pack, Dale, Gary’s wife, talks about how shy he is. That he won’t even answer the door for room service. It is crazy to me to think that Gary Rossington is a lot like me. I can’t explain what that admission means to me, who is often painfully shy to the point of social anxiety. Backstage at a show, I am pretty outgoing with the crew members and people I have come to know. As much as I would love to meet a bunch of people I admire, I could almost never do it on my own. If I could I would have met Rickey Medlocke in 2010 when I walked past him looking for a friend. I was so embarrassed as I walked past him and my phone rang. I wasn’t all that close, but my ringtone was Skynyrd Nation. I am that shy. I know these guys are all approachable, but at the same time, I am me and that me is still shy. So to learn that about Gary Rossington, THE Gary Rossington – the guy who plays guitar like no one else – it touched me, you know they way those things do. He’s world famous and still a shy guy. I am almost the silent partner in Bret’s World, most people don’t know anything about me, you won’t see me interviewed for a biography special and I like it that way. I don’t like answering the phone, although I do when I have to. I just smiled when I think about Gary being the same way.
The Fan Pack was a really cool memento to get and I’m glad I read it at the time I did. I study and learn about the people that I really admire. In a way I learn more about why I love music and certain musicians. The interviews and the reviews, as I stated earlier, contained both information I knew and some new information. The Lynyrd Skynyrd story is one of triumph and tragedy, rebirth and triumph again.
I know this was a long-winded, yet short review of the fan pack. It is very worth the investment if you like Skynyrd. If you love Skynyrd, you probably already have it or ordered it. The pin, bottle opener, poster and CD are all great additions to every Skynyrd fan’s collection.
Here’s the link again – http://www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk/music-bookazines/classic-rock-presents-lynyrd-skynyrd-last-of-a-dyin-breed/
A LITTLE SIDE NOTE…
While I will gush every now and again, I don’t often brag about what I do. Yes, I get to work for THE Bret Michaels, but he’s more than just my boss, he’s family, my friend. At the same time, when other really famous musicians know my work or comment on my work – it means everything to me. Shy little me (You can read my story on my other web site blog (My Stories), has talked to a few rock stars from the pages of my Metal Edge magazines from high school, helped a few rock stars to web sites or just get tickets to one of Bret’s shows.
I work in the music business, but I shut that off and become a fan of the music I love. Just an ordinary fan like everyone who doesn’t work in the music business. I buy my own tickets to every show I go to. I don’t ask for tickets, passes or anything. I buy what I like and I’ll talk about it forever. When I love something I love it — it is completely genuine. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like something when I don’t post about it, ’cause I will tell you what I don’t dig, too. My favorites and opinions aren’t always popular, I prefer deep album cuts to singles for a lot of artists I listen to. I guess I latch on the artists that are genuine in that way too. I like real people. Bret Michaels and Lynyrd Skynyrd are those kind of people.