This article was published on 9/17/2013. [One note: when the band is listed at the bottom, Robert Kearns was listed as the bass player, he is not in the current lineup. Johnny Colt is the current bass player of Lynyrd Skynyrd.]
On their Facebook they asked: “It’s been 40 years since Skynyrd’s debut album We want to see how long you’ve been a Skynyrd fan, post a picture on the page with a story about your love for the band and we might feature yours in our #40YearsOfSkynyrd series.”
Last night, after a few days of thinking about how I could say what I wanted to say, I posted a short version of why I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. I’m long-winded at times, so even my short version is long.
I figured that it was no better time than to elaborate and make Lynyrd Skynyrd my artist of the week this week for CreativelyMusical.com. I started this feature to highlight my vast music collection, learn more about artists I like and maybe discover new artists along the way. Some are short and quick. Others, like this one, will be long and detailed.
When there is an artist I really dig, I can go on for hours and maybe even days about the things I like or love about them. With Lynyrd Skynyrd it could be weeks or months.
Believe it or not, even after of loving this band the way I have for the last three years, I still have albums and songs I haven’t heard yet. I’ve read a few books, I’ve read the articles in magazines and online, I’ve watched and listened to interviews, and I’ve seen them live several times. I still have lots and lots to learn about this band, its legacy and its music.
Unless you’ve never heard of or about Lynyrd Skynyrd, you have no idea how many members have come and gone in this band. Founding members Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins have both passed on and the third founding member Gary Rossington is the only remaining member from the Lynyrd Skynyrd that most people remember from the 1970s.
Current members include Rickey Medlocke, who played drums for the band in the very early 70s, is in the band as one of the guitar players. Johnny Van Zant has replaced his older brother Ronnie as the lead vocalist and Peter Keys has replaced Billy Powell who passed away in 2009. Mark “Sparky” Matejka replaced Hughie Thomasson who passed away in 2007. The current drummer is Mark Cartellone and the current bass player is Johnny Colt.
In October of 1977, the private plane carrying the band members crashed en route to a show. Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup vocalist Cassie Gaines died in the crash. For some, that was the end of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Surviving members took time off, did their own thing for a while and just took time to recover.
In 1987, surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, plus an additional musicians came together for a tribute tour celebrating the legacy, the lost members, and the music of one of America’s most iconic groups. That tribute tour was the catalyst for the reformation of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The list of musicians that have been a part of Lynyrd Skynyrd since 1987 is long and something I haven’t even had the chance to research fully. The line-ups since 1997 are the ones I am most familiar with through video tapes and DVDs. Although I never got to see the 1970s Skynyrd in concert, or even the 1997 Skynyrd, the 2009 Skynyrd, I’ve enjoyed watching those concerts on the Internet or DVD or even VHS. I have seen the 2010 – 2013 line-ups and I love these guys.
Every line-up has had their own chemistry and they have all given every ounce of their being to each and every performance. While, I’d give anything to have witness the 1970s line-up or even the line-up with Hughie Thomasson live and in person, this 2013 line-up is by far my favorite.
It’s the one I’ve seen the most live and in person, so I guess that’s the fairest assessment to make. There is no denying Ronnie’s a musical genius and that he has no equal in music, but experiencing his legacy through video and other people’s words is all I have to go by. He was a tremendous writer and lyricist. To listen to Rickey explain how Ronnie worked is thrilling, and to hear those who’ve worked with him talk about him – I do feel I know him fairly well. But I never got to experience it personally. If I could go back it time, it is definitely something I would do, if only just to see the music and the bands, like Skynyrd and Ronnie, that shaped the music that I listened to as I grew up.
The year I really dived into all things Lynyrd Skynyrd was 2010. Very late to the party, I know. I wished I had joined a little earlier….well a lot earlier. The only problem with that is I was born in 1971, in Pennsylvania. That’s a long way from Jacksonville, Florida. My Mom loved music, we almost always listened to the radio in the car. My Mom, though, was into singers, not bands. She was a big Elvis Presley fan, but she listened to a variety of artists. At some point in my life, I’ve listened to every one of her records and the 8-tracks she had. Standards, country – a variety of music — just not rock music.
I have always listened to and loved music. I played an instrument in school. In the early 80s, I listened to pop, rock, disco, country – everything. Radio stations were different back then. They weren’t so focus on a single genre or the same 40 artists. So to say I never heard Skynyrd growing up is probably not true. I’m sure somewhere, I heard it on a radio, a television show or something. From my recollection, I first remember Skynyrd music leaving an impression on me in the early to mid 90s. At that point, I was listening to country music almost exclusively. I spent the 80s listening to mainly rock, hard rock and what they called hair metal. After high school and during college is when things shifted to country music.
Skynyrd’s Frynds was released in 1994. My favorite country artists at the time performed Skynyrd classics. Fast forward to later in the 90s / early 2000s and Chris Cagle covered “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Then Montgomery Gentry did a CMT Crossroads with Lynyrd Skynyrd. I had my opportunities to join the Skynyrd Nation during those years, but with a move to California and later a move to Tennessee, finances and free time were tight.
Fast forward to 2010, my boss toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd and 38 Special that summer. He was the opening act. Opening for his musical heroes and friends. As I do every year, I like to get to know the bands he’s touring with. Most of the time, I know the band, but this was one of those tours where I wanted to see what I was going to see when I went out to a show. I bought a DVD and my life as a music fan changed.
I fell in love with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The line-up on the first DVD I saw – Rickey Medlocke, Mark Matejka, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Johnny Van Zant, Ean Evans, Carol Chase, Dale Krantz Rossington, and Michael Cartellone. It was the Live From Freedom Hall CD/DVD. It was so much fun to watch them interact with each other and the audience on that DVD. It’s hard not to notice Rickey Medlocke on stage, and if I had to pick one favorite member from the line-ups I’ve seen in person he’s it. As a whole, these guys have fun on stage. They interact with each other and all the while play and sing some amazing music.
The next DVD, my favorite of all the DVDs, is the Vicious Cycle tour. That’s the line-up before the one listed above, which includes Hughie Thomasson. That’s the first line-up I want to go back and see – Rickey, Hughie and Gary had an amazing chemistry together. More than anything else, the way and artist or band performs live is what will win a fan over. There is no other band or artist, for me, that best exemplifies that than Lynyrd Skynyrd. Now, my boss will win you over – I’ve seen it happen and I’ve read the stories about him doing it. He won me over enough that I eventually started working for him. Then came Lynyrd Skynyrd and I’ve lost my musical heart again.
There has to be more than a pretty face or a catchy song to win me over like Skynyrd did. There has to be a passion, a catalog of songs that I can listen to endlessly and never tire of, and there has to be that magic. That last bit, the magic, is the part you can’t explain. It’s the human element of the band. It’s the part you can’t create if it’s not there. It’s what fuels the passion and lastly, the music.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is the band that best exemplifies why I love music. It’s not about one genre, how good you look on the cover of a magazine or how many records you can sell – to paraphrase Blackberry Smoke’s Charlie Starr. It’s all about the music and the passion to make that music.
I did say I was long-winded, right? Well more than 1500 words into this and I haven’t yet touched on the music. I really don’t know where to start with the music. From the early Muscle Shoals recordings to the most recent album, Last of A Dyin’ Breed, I have more favorites than I could ever list. My playlist has probably over 300 Lynyrd Skynyrd songs and up to six different versions of several songs – live, demo, 1976, 1997, etc. There are probably a bunch of songs missing from that playlist, but most streaming services limit how many songs you can have and since I’ve also included Blackfoot and Blackberry Smoke and a couple of other artists in my playlist, my limit has been reached.
What are my favorite songs on my playlist? The shortlist is Sweet Home Alabama, Free Bird, All I Can Do Is Write About It, Four Walls of Raiford, Skynyrd Nation, That’s How I LIke It, Pick ’em Up, Floyd, Ready To Fly, Simple Man, You Got That Right, Needle and the Spoon, and well, I could go on for days.
As for recommending where a new Lynyrd Skynyrd fan should start, I would say the box set that come out in 1991 and the Muscle Shoals album are two good places to hear an amazing mix of everything that is Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you want a feel for what you would here live right now, The Vicious Cycle Live DVD or the Live from Freedom Hall is a good place to start. These days, you can go on YouTube and watch full concerts from overseas, too.
From there you should listen to both the classic Skynyrd records and the last two records that have been released. It will give you a good mix of everything that encompasses Lynyrd Skynyrd. The last three records are among my favorites – Vicious Cycle (2003), God & Guns (2009) and Last of A Dyin’ Breed (2012). Of the classic line-ups I love the compilation sets of the Muscle Shoals recordings and the 1991 box set. (Links are to Rhapsody.)
Here are some YouTube videos –
The best way, in my humble opinion, to enjoy Lynyrd Skynyrd is live. No matter what line-up you have seen live, they put on a killer show. They love what they do, put 500% into every show every night. They have more energy than any other band I’ve ever seen live and you can’t help but fell that energy.
There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd song for every mood, every day, every occasion and for everyone. The songs are about real life, the human experience. You can relate to the songs, you can dance to the songs, you can laugh, you can cry and everything in between.
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.
The biggest reason I am a die-hard Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, is my friend and my boss, Mr. Bret Michaels. He is the biggest Skynyrd fan I know (personally, that is) in addition to being frynds with the guys in Skynyrd. Anyway, Bret touring with Skynyrd in 2010, opened the floodgates for me personally in everything Skynyrd – I’ve gotten a lot (not all, yet) of the music, read a few books and scoured the Internet for old photos and information about Skynyrd and their music. My roommate will tell you I’m obsessed, but I love Skynyrd’s music and listen to it everyday.
This summer, Bret is releasing an album with lots of special guests on it. Today, two digital singles became available on iTunes, one of which is Bret’s version of Sweet Home Alabama. I am a fan first, so I don’t like to bring my job to this board, but I really dig this version of Sweet Home Alabama. It’s different from the original. I ain’t gonna lie, my favorite parts of the song are the parts the Rickey Medlocke and Gary Rossington play on their guitars and that Peter Keys and Bobby Capps are on the tune as well. I love this version, it’s not the original, but I do love it.
I have had the chance to listen to it for quite a while, but I am very excited that the world gets to hear it.
It is on iTunes today, other services will follow, hard copy CDs later this summer.