Lynyrd Skynyrd carries on musical tradition as band
Today's Lynyrd Skynyrd includes only one musician — guitarist Gary Rossington — who was with the original band and played on all five studio albums that preceded the 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of singer and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer (and Gaines' sister) Cassie Gaines.
Guitarist Ed King left Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996, nine years after the band re-formed in 1987. Drummer Artimus Pyle left in 1991, and the other members who rejoined the re-formed Skynyrd — guitarist Allen Collins, bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell — have passed away.
So, in a way, it's tempting to view today's Skynyrd, which performs July 19 at First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown, as a band that is its own entity and really can't be considered to have that much of a direct line back to the 1970s-era original.
But Rossington doesn't view today's band that way, and very much considers today's group a continuation of what the original band started. And with the current Skynyrd CD, “Last Of A Dyin' Breed” (released last August), he can say today's band took another step to further that connection to the original group. In a word, Lynyrd Skynyrd went back to the way the band used to make records.
“We wanted to go back to the original roots of the old band, write a song and then figure out, everybody have their own part to fill in and play it all together (in the studio) like we used to,” Rossington says. “The only things we came back and overdubbed were some vocals and lead guitar here and there.
“Even the keyboards were live. We just went out and played it all together. It feels better that way, and it feels like the older records we did and the older style of the songs.”
Rossington said the last album Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded primarily live in the studio was “Street Survivors,” the 1977 album finished shortly before the tragic plane crash.
“It was stuff like we used to do, rehearse a little bit and then cut it,” he said. “It was a great way to cut it. It was a fun album to do. Most of the time, (making) albums isn't fun, but this one was.”
Rossington said a couple of new tunes will be included in Lynyrd Skynyrd's live set most nights alongside the classics fans want to hear. And having found worthy replacements for Ean Evans, the band's bassist from 2001-09, and Powell in bassist Johnny Colt (a former member of the Black Crowes) and keyboardist Peter Keys, Rossington says today's Skynyrd feels especially solid. The other band members are singer Johnny Van Zant, guitarists Rickey Medlocke and Mark Matejka and drummer Michael Cartellone.
Lynyrd Skynyrd performs at 7 p.m. July 19 at First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown. Bad Company is the opening act. Tickets are $25.50 to $106. Details: 800-745-3000 or www.livenation.com
Alan Sculley is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.