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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977

Lynyrd Skynyrd is my most favorite band of all time. I loved all the Southern Rock bands like Charlie Daniels, Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers, etc. But Lynyrd Skynyrd was my favorite with "Free Bird" being their ultimate work in my opinion.

In 1977 I graduated from high school, met my future husband, got engaged and we got married that Fall. Being newly married, we couldn't afford tickets to their last concert in Greenville, SC (only about 30 mins away from us). Later that night we heard the news about their plane crash and I was devastated. I just couldn't believe it and I've always regretted not seeing their last concert. I did see them in concert before, and we have seen them once they got back together.

In 1977, one of my uncles, was employed as a professor to teach American servicemen in the Orient. He was in Japan in 1977 and had met a young woman named Yuko. They were on their first date when this story happened

"One could stumble across well known people with and without your knowledge in areas like Tokyo's Akasaka Mitsuke district. There were lots of night clubs both big and small - even a Shakey's Pizza, all within an easy walk from the Sanno Hotel. In January 1977 on a Saturday I took my girlfriend Yuko to lunch in the Akasaka Mitsuke area at an Indian restaurant called, I think, "The Taj" which was run by RV Pandit, an Indian I met in my Japanese language class in 1975. After two years in the FED I was use to seeing foreigners in this part of Tokyo who looked like they were members of an American rock band. There were many bands recruited from the US West Coast who toured small nightclubs in the major Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka, and the smaller cities for the lesser known ones. Back to the Taj. After our lunch arrived I noticed that there were four or five members of what appeared to be one of these touring bands along with their Japanese girlfriends du jour at a couple of nearby tables. It seemed that they couldn't figure out what to dip in what sauce so one of the them asked me for help, and seemed because of my extensive foreign food knowledge (who was sitting next to me), Yuko, we helped them out. I remember the next sentences almost perfectly:
James: "Are you guys an American band on tour in Japan?"
One of the group: "Yep."
James: "What's the name of your band?"
One of the group: "Lynyrd Skynyrd."
James: "Which one of you is Leonard?" (No joking, I didn't know them from Adam.)

............................................................................My husband and I that Fall not long after we got married.



My Uncle and the family always made cassette tapes to send each other instead of just letters and postcards (we did that too). He told me about this story on one of his cassette tapes and I freaked out. I immediately made a response cassette tape where I told him all about them, their names, and even a medley of their songs. He never forgot that and even still has my cassette tape. I forgot it long ago but he reminded me this week. Don't you just hate hearing yourself on tape? I'm very Southern and can't help that I sound like a Southern Belle who gargles in syrup. I'm not really apologizing but I sounded so young, silly and Southern! And I was so excited that he met my favorite band!

Lynyrd Skynyrd was an iconic U.S. Southern Rock band from the 1970's. They were led by the lead vocalist and primary songwriter, Ronnie Van Zant. The band was named after Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher/basketball coach for some of the members at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Florida. They were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 3/13/2006. Their most famous songs were "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama".

Late in 1977, after a concert in Greenville, SC, the group boarded their plane to head for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of their accident was fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply. Contributing to the fuel exhaustion were inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in higher-than-normal fuel consumption. It was known that the right engine's magneto - a small power generator that provides spark and timing for the engine - had been malfunctioning (Billy Powell, among others, spoke of seeing flames shooting out of the right engine on a trip just prior to the accident), and that pilots McCreary and Gray had intended to repair the damaged part when the travelling party arrived in Baton Rouge. It is possible that the damaged magneto fooled the pilots into creating an exceptionally rich fuel mixture, causing the Convair plane to run out of fuel

The crash killed Singer/Songwriter Ronnie van Zant, Guitarist/Vocalist Steve Gaines, Vocalist Cassie Gaines, Assistant Road Manager Dean Kilpatrick, Pilot Walter McCreary and Co-Pilot William Gray. Other band members were injured, some seriously

Drummer Artimus Pyle crawled out of the plane wreckage with several broken ribs, but was ambulatory, as were Road Crew members Kenneith Peden Jr. and Mark Frank. The three injured men hiked some distance from the crash site, through swampy woods, and finally flagged down farmer Johnny Mote, who had come to investigate. Varying accounts have Mote either firing a warning shot into the air or actually shooting Pyle in the shoulder - no report is completely reliable. Pyle claimed in a February 2007 appearance on Howard Stern's Radio Program that Mote had shot him; Mot has always denied shooting the drummer. Video of a bare chested Pyle at the 1979 Volunteer Jam does not show evidence of a gunshot wound.

Medical personnel arrived and began to ferry out the injured and the dead. Allen Collins suffered two cracked vertebrae in his neck and both Collins and Leon Wilkeson nearly had arms amputated as a result of the crash injuries. Wilkeson suffered severe internal injuries, including a punctured lung, and had most of his teeth knocked out. Gary Rossington broke both his arms and both his legs in the crash, and took many months to recuperate. Lelie Hawkins sustained a concussion, broke her neck in three places and had severe facial lacerations. Security Manager Gene Odom was seriously burned on his arm and face and lost the sight in one eye as a result of an emergency flare on board the plane that was activated during the crash. Victims were taken to the hospital in McComb, Mississippi by ambulances and other vehicles. Road Crew member Steve Lawler, who suffered severe contusions and facial lacerations, was taken to the hospital in a pickup truck with a camper top. Pianist Billy Powell survived but his nose was nearly torn off and he suffered severe facial lacerations.

The band disbanded after the plane crash. In 1987, they reunited for a full scale tour with crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle and Former Guitarist Ed King. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new Lead Singer and primary songwriter. Due to Collin's paralysis, he was only able to participate as the Musical Director, choosing Randall Hall, his former band mate in the Allen Collins Band, as his stand-in. Collins was stricken with pneumonia in 1989 and died 1/23/1990. Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd's Bassist since 1972, was found dead in his hotel room due to liver/lung disease 7/27/2001.
-This info culled from Wikipedia

Here is some more info

PERSONNEL: May 1976 to October 20, 1977
Ronnie Van Zant - Lead Vocalist and primary songwriter
Allen Collins - guitars
Gary Rossington - guitars
Steve Gaines - guitars
Billy Powell - keyboards
Leon Wilkeson - bass
Artimus Pyle - drums

Their schedule in January 1977
LIVE SHOW: January 1, 1977 San Diego, California (pl
LIVE SHOW: January 2, 1977 Los Angeles, California (pl
LIVE SHOW: January 5, 1977 Honolulu, Hawaii (pl
LIVE SHOW: January 14, 1977 Tokyo, Osaka, Japan (pl)
LIVE SHOW: January 15, 1977 Tokyo, Osaka, Japan (pl)
LIVE SHOW: January 16, 1977 Tokyo, Osaka, Japan (pl)
LIVE SHOW: January 18, 1977 Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan (pl)

Some of their songs
Workin’ For MCA
I Ain’t The One
Saturday Night Special
Whiskey Rock-A-Roller
That Smell
Travelin’ Man
Ain’t No Good Life
Gimme Three Steps
Call Me The Breeze
T For Texas
Sweet Home Alabama
Free Bird


Since James and Yuko met the band on a Saturday around noon, the exact date must have been January 15, 1977, the day after their first Tokyo performance on Friday.

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