I do not know how I ended up in this corner of the music world, but tonight I will look at Southern Rock. The two Southern Rock Bands I will look at were Rock/Blues combinations and I guess Skynyrd would be the heavier of the two.
Both groups were popular in the 70’s and both groups had terrible tragedies at the height of their Popularity. I did enjoy both groups, but was not a devoted fan.
In the case of the Allman Brothers, Gregg would loose brother Duane to a motorcycle accident in 71. With Lynyrd Skynyrd the Plane crash in 1977 killed six people.
The Allman Brothers Band combined deeply Southern strains of music — blues, country, and gospel — with boisterous rock & roll and their jazzy, jam-oriented style. Thus they created the “New South” sound, drafting a template to be used for decades by everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band to My Morning Jacket and the Drive-By Truckers.
Brothers Gregg and Duane Allman grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida, and played in various bands until 1963, when they formed the Escorts, which became the Allman Joys in 1965.
After their version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” failed as a single, the two brothers and three other band members went to L.A., where they signed with Liberty Records as “the Hourglass”. They recorded two albums (Hourglass, 1967, and Power of Love, 1968) before heading to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to record at Fame Studios. Liberty rejected the resulting tapes, and Duane and Gregg returned to Florida, staying in Jacksonville.
Soon after, the brothers joined the “31st of February”, whose drummer was Butch Trucks. After recording an album, Gregg went back to L.A. to make good on the Liberty contract.
Duane stayed in Jacksonville, where he began playing with the “Second Coming”, which included Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley, veterans of Tommy Roe and the Romans. But before Duane became an established member of the Second Coming, Fame Studios owner Rick Hall asked him to return to Muscle Shoals to play lead guitar for a Wilson Pickett session.
At Duane’s suggestion, Pickett recorded Lennon and McCartney’s “Hey Jude.” Duane became Fame’s primary session guitarist, recording over the next year with Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, and Arthur Conley, and signing with Fame Productions as a solo artist.
At the urging of Atlantic Records vice president Jerry Wexler, Phil Walden bought the Fame contract, with the notion to build a band around Duane for his upstart Capricorn Records.
Allman hired Jai Johanny Johanson, a Muscle Shoals drummer. He went back to Florida and reconvened Trucks, Oakley, Betts, and Gregg. Once assembled, the Allman Brothers Band moved to Macon, Georgia, where Walden was launching Capricorn.
The Allman Brothers Band, the group’s debut album, was well received, but only in the South.
After its release, Duane continued to play on sessions with Boz Scaggs, Laura Nyro, Otis Rush, Delaney and Bonnie, Ronnie Hawkins, and John Hammond. He appears with Eric Clapton on “Derek and the Dominos”‘ Layla. (His session work is collected on the two Anthology volumes.)
In March 1971, four shows at New York’s Fillmore East were recorded for release as a live double LP set in July. The album reached the Top 10 and Rolling Stone hailed the Allman Brothers Band as “the best damn rock and roll band this country has produced in the past five years.”
But on October 29, 1971, less than three months after At Fillmore East‘s release, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. The group played at his funeral and decided to continue without a new guitarist.
Their next album: Eat A Peach
Three songs on their next LP, Eat a Peach, had been recorded before Duane’s death, and with live material from the Fillmore East concerts, the double LP was released in February, entered the chart in the Top 10, and rose to Number Four. In 1972, Oakley was killed in a motorcycle crash three blocks from the site of Duane’s accident a year earlier.
Dickey Betts, by then the band’s unofficial leader, wrote and sang “Ramblin’ Man,” the band’s first and biggest hit single (Number Two, 1973).
Their next album, Brothers and Sisters.
Brothers and Sisters went to #1, with Lamar Williams, a childhood friend of Jaimoe’s, taking Oakley’s place, and Chuck Leavell on keyboards.
The first two albums, when reissued as Beginnings, more than doubled their original sales. The group returned to the road after two years. In Watkins Glen, New York, 600,000 people gathered in July 1973 for an all-day concert by the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, and the Band.
There was growing dissension in the group, however, as Gregg Allman and Richard Betts began to disagree over schedules and musical direction.In 1974 they each released a Top 20 solo album (Allman’s Laid Back and Betts’ Highway Call)
Allman formed the Gregg Allman Band with Johanson, Leavell, Williams, and others to tour and record The Gregg Allman Tour.
The subsequent Allman Brothers Band album, Win, Lose or Draw (Number Five, 1975), sold well, but it was four years before the next album of new material. The Road Goes On Forever, a compilation, and Wipe the Windows, a live collection, were released in 1976.
By 1975, Allman was involved in a tumultuous marriage to Cher (they divorced in 1979). They had a son, Elijah Blue, in 1977. Their 1977 LP, Allman and Woman: Two the Hard Way, was universally panned.
But the greatest blow to the group occurred in 1976, when Allman testified against Scooter Herring, his personal road manager, charged with dealing narcotics. Herring was subsequently sentenced to 75 years in prison (later reduced to two years on appeal). Allman’s action, the others said, betrayed the fraternal loyalty that had sustained them: They vowed never to work with him again.
The members pursued separate, but at times intertwining, paths. Betts formed Great Southern, duplicating the original Allman Brothers lineup with two guitars, two drums, bass, keyboards, and vocals. Only the group’s first album charted in the Top 100.
After Allman’s disastrous duet LP with Cher, he regrouped the Gregg Allman Band, with no help from any former Brothers, and put out Playing Up a Storm in 1977.
The other members also remained active: Trucks studied music at Florida State University for two years and formed an experimental group, Trucks. Leavell, Williams, and Johanson, with guitarist Jimmy Nails, formed the fusion-oriented Sea Level.
Later, Leavell returned to session work, notably with the Rolling Stones, with whom he has toured since 1989
In 1978, the Allman Brothers Band regrouped for the first time. After Allman, Trucks, and Jaimoe joined Betts and Great Southern onstage in New York in 1978, Great Southern guitarist Dan Toler and bassist Rook Goldflies also joined the new Allman Brothers Band.
Enlightened Rogues (Number Nine, 1979) was certified gold within two weeks of its release. Two years later Brothers of the Road gave the group a minor hit single, “Straight From the Heart.”
The group broke up again in 1980. In 1983 Lamar Williams, who served in Vietnam, died of Agent Orange–related cancer. Betts recorded an album with the Dickey Betts Band, and Allman released I’m No Angel (Number 30, 1987) with its Number 49 title track.
After its longest hiatus, ABB regrouped again in 1989 with core members Allman, Betts, Jaimoe, and Trucks, and took to the road. Dreams, a box set, compiles songs from 1966 to 1988.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the group’s albums and shows attracted a new generation of fans who came to appreciate the Allman Brothers as the root of much latter-day collegiate jam rock.
There was renewed critical respect, as well, especially for Allman’s singing and writing. Allman, who finally won his struggles with heroin and alcohol, has also acted, appearing in the film Rush and the syndicated TV series Superboy.
In 1995 the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and released 2nd Set. It received its first Grammy Award (for Best Rock Instrumental Performance) the next year, for “Jessica.”
Gregg Allman released his first solo recording in a decade with 1997’s Searching for Simplicity, which opens with a remake of the Allman Brothers’ classic blues “Whipping Post.” Allman’s solo anthology, One More Try, includes only eight previously released songs
A series of personnel changes, and the occasional intramural ruckus, have kept the band in flux. In 1996, Warren Haynes and Allen Woody left to work full-time with their own project, the blues-rock trio Gov’t Mule. Guitarist Jack Pearson, who co-wrote Gregg Allman’s epic “Sailin’ ‘Cross the Devil’s Sea,” and bassist Oteil Burbridge (Aquarium Rescue Unit) replaced them.
Pearson’s departure in 1999 made way for 20-year-old guitarist Derek Trucks, Butch’s nephew, to join a band he had been sitting in with for years. In June 2000, Betts was ousted via fax from the band on the eve of a summer tour. Soon thereafter, he put together a new eight-piece band, touring as the Dickey Betts Band.
Warren Haynes rejoined the band in late 2000, ushering in a welcome era of stability and productivity for the band.
In 2001, the city of Macon named a section of Highway 19/41 after Duane Allman.
In 2003 Warren Haynes, who was still recording and touring with Gov’t Mule, produced ABB’s 2003 album Hittin’ the Note, which won rave reviews and a 2003 Grammy nomination for “Instrumental Illness” in the Best Rock Instrumental category. In 2004, a live version of the same track from concert CD One Way Out, would be nominated in the same category.
In 2003, the band released Live at the Beacon Theater, a DVD documented the band’s annual run of shows at the venue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The band had done a “Beacon run” of shows every year from 1989 until 2008, when the band had to cancel so Gregg Allman could be treated for Hepatitis C. But they returned in 2009 with a run many fans consider among the band’s best, featuring appearances by Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Kid Rock, and members of the Grateful Dead and Phish.
The quintessential Southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd rose to prominence in 1973, full of regional pride and stressing cocky, boisterous hard rock as opposed to the Allman Brothers’ more open-ended blues. Their signature song, “Freebird,” complete with it fiery five-minute, three-guitar solo, is easily the most requested live song in existence.
The core members of Lynyrd Skynyrd first met in high school in Jacksonville, Florida. Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington formed the band “My Backyard” in 1965, eventually joined by Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell. Their later name immortalized a gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, who was known to punish students who had long hair.
The band, with original drummer Bob Burns, was playing in Atlanta at a bar called Funocchio’s in 1972, when they were spotted by Al Kooper, who was on a tour with Badfinger and also scouting bands for MCA’s new Sounds of the South label.
Kooper signed Skynyrd and produced its 1973 debut, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, adding session guitarist Ed King (late of Strawberry Alarm Clock).
The group’s initial hook was its three-guitar attack, topping the Allmans’ trademark two-guitar leads.
Skynyrd first got radio airplay with the lengthy “Freebird.” What had been written as a tribute to Duane Allman eventually became an anthem for Skynyrd fans and—when revived, without lyrics, by the Rossington Collins Band in 1980—a tribute to Van Zant.
The band hooked up with the Who’s Quadrophenia Tour in 1973 and acquired a reputation as a killer live act.
The 1974 follow-up LP, multi-platinum Second Helping, also produced by Kooper, reached Number 12.
It included another instant Southern standard, “Sweet Home Alabama” (Number Eight, 1974), a reply to Neil Young’s “Alabama” and “Southern Man.”
But Van Zant often wore a Neil Young T-shirt, and Young later offered the band several songs to record, though they never made it to vinyl.
In December, 1974, Artimus Pyle joined as a replacement for Burns. King quit a month later. The band’s third record, Nuthin’ Fancy, went to #9, but 1976’s Gimme Back My Bullets, produced by Tom Dowd, sold somewhat less.
Skynyrd regrouped in October 1976 with the double live One More From the Road (recorded at Atlanta’s Fox Theater), which went to #9, sold triple platinum, and featured new third guitarist Steve Gaines, plus a trio of female backup singers, including Gaines’ sister Cassie, called the Honkettes. The band became one of the biggest U.S. concert draws.
Street Survivors, the band’s sixth LP, was released three days before the plane crash of October 20, 1977.
Skynyrd was traveling in a privately chartered plane between shows in Greenville, South Carolina, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when it crashed just outside Gillsburg, Mississippi, killing three members.
The rest escaped with injuries.
When the band broke up in 1977, after Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines died in the plane crash, rock suffered a tremendous loss.
Ironically, the cover of the band’s last LP pictured the members standing in flames and included an order form for a “Lynyrd Skynyrd survival kit.”
There was also a Van Zant composition about death called “That Smell.” The LP cover was changed shortly after the accident, and the album (Number Five, 1977) went on to become one of Skynyrd’s biggest sellers.
The next year Skynyrd released First…and Last, which consisted of previously unavailable recordings from 1970 to 1972 (the band had planned on releasing it before the accident). It went platinum, and in 1980 MCA released a best-of called Gold and Platinum.
That same year a new band emerged from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ashes. The Rossington-Collins Band featured three of the surviving members plus female lead singer Dale Krantz.
Artimus Pyle, meanwhile, began touring with his Artimus Pyle Band in 1982. In 1986 tragedy struck again when Allen Collins crashed his car, killing his girlfriend and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Four years later he died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia at age 37.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the fatal plane crash, in 1987, Rossington, Powell, Wilkeson, and King put Lynyrd Skynyrd back together, along with guitarist Randall Hall and Johnny Van-Zant (the only one of the brothers who hyphenates his surname) on lead vocals.
The younger brother of Ronnie and Donnie (.38 Special) was a marginally successful solo artist, releasing five albums from 1980 through 1990.
Dale Krantz, who had married Gary and become Dale Krantz Rossington by then, sang backup for a 32-date Skynyrd reunion tour, which was chronicled on the following year’s double live album, Southern by the Grace of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour-1987.
In 1991, the same group (minus Pyle, and with “Custer” on drums) released a new LP, Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991. Both it and 1993’s The Last Rebel carried on Skynyrd’s musical tradition and were reasonably well received.
The band signed with Southern-rock stronghold Capricorn Records and released the one-off acoustic Endangered Species in 1994. Guitarist King left the band shortly after, and new guitarists Rickey Medlocke (formerly of Blackfoot) and Hughie Thomasson (formerly of the Outlaws) were hired as full-time members.
The 1996 concert documentary Freebird…The Movie captured the original band in its prime, on celluloid and an MCA soundtrack. The group’s next albums were released on North Carolina-based CMC International, a label that established a solid market niche reviving the careers of slumping arena-rock acts.
Sure enough, a 1997 “Behind the Music” special on VH1 aired while the band was in midtour supporting the album Twenty (Number 97, 1997), which marked the 20th anniversary of the fatal, fateful plane crash.
Wilkeson died of natural causes in July 2001. The band soldiered on with new bassist Ean Evans, releasing a new album, Vicious Cycle, in 2003, and hitting the road with Rossington and Powell, the only remaining original members. In 2004, this version of Lynyrd Skynyrd released Lyve: the Vicious Cycle Tour and performed with country music duo Montgomery Gentry on CMT’s Crossroads show.
In 2004, Thomasson left the band to reform The Outlaws. In February 2005, Lynyrd Skynyrd performed a Super Bowl party with the young band 3 Doors Down, country singer Jo Dee Messina and veterans Charlie Daniels and .38 Special.
The same year the band performed the Hurricane Katrina Music Relief Concert with Kid Rock on vocals, as Van-Zant recovered from throat surgery. Later that month, the group performed a Southern rock medley at the Grammy Awards with country stars Wilson, Tim McGraw, and Keith Urban.
In 2006 the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In September 2007, Thomasson died of a heart attack at his Florida home and in January, 2009, Powell died, also of a heart attack.
With Rossington the only original member left, Skynyrd kept on working. In September, 2009, the band released God & Guns and launched a tour of the U.S. and Europe. Fox News host Sean Hannity has embraced the album, often playing segments on his radio show, and the band agreed to headline in the 2010 Sean Hannity Freedom Concert series, which raises scholarship money for the children of disabled veterans.
On October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of Street Survivors, and five shows into their most successful headlining tour to date, Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s chartered Convair CV-300 ran out of fuel near the end of their flight from Greenville, South Carolina, where they had just performed at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, and were en route to LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Though the pilots attempted an emergency landing on a small airstrip, the plane crashed in a forest near Gillsburg, Mississippi.
Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray were all killed on impact.
Medical personnel arrived quickly and began to ferry out the injured and the dead. Victims were taken to the hospital in nearby McComb and Jackson by ambulances and other vehicles.
Guitarist Allen Collins suffered two cracked vertebrae in his neck, and both Collins and bassist Leon Wilkeson nearly had arms amputated as a result of crash injuries.
Wilkeson suffered severe internal injuries, including a punctured lung, and had most of his teeth knocked out. Guitarist Gary Rossington broke both of his arms, his right leg and his pelvis in the crash, as well as sustaining puncture wounds to his stomach and liver, and took many months to recuperate.
Backing vocalist Leslie Hawkins sustained a concussion (which led to ongoing neurological problems), broke her neck in three places and had severe facial lacerations.
Road crew member Steve Lawler suffered severe contusions and 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.
Keyboardist Billy Powell‘s nose was nearly torn off as he suffered severe facial lacerations (as well as deep lacerations to his right knee), and he later caused a controversy by giving a lurid account of Cassie Gaines’ final moments on a VH1 Behind The Music Special about the band, claiming that the backup singer’s throat was cut from ear to ear and that she bled to death in his arms. Powell also claimed that Ronnie Van Zant’s head had been smashed.
Powell’s version of events has been discounted by both Artimus Pyle and Judy Van Zant Jenness, who posted the autopsy reports on the band’s web site in early 1998 in order to set the record straight. Powell was castigated in print by Pyle and Van Zant Jenness for needlessly upsetting the Gaines family. Nevertheless, Powell remained on good terms with the remaining band members.
Drummer Artimus Pyle, the only band member who was ambulatory, crawled out of the plane wreckage with several broken ribs, and hiked some distance from the crash site through swampy woods with road crew members Kenneth Peden, Jr. and Marc Frank.
The three injured men finally flagged down farmer Johnny Mote, who had come to investigate. Varying accounts have Mote either firing a warning shot into the air (believing the bedraggled men to be escapees from a nearby penitentiary) or actually shooting Pyle in the shoulder — no report is completely reliable.
Pyle claimed in a February 2007 appearance on Howard Stern‘s Sirius radio program that Mote had shot him; Mote has always denied shooting the drummer. In 1996, Pyle called Mote to thank him for his help after the plane crash.
Notably, the third member of The Honkettes, JoJo Billingsley, was not on the plane and in fact was home sick; she had been planning to join the tour in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 23. She claimed that she had dreamed of the plane crash and begged Allen Collins by telephone not to continue using the Convair.
The Convair CV-300 itself had been inspected by members of Aerosmith‘s flight crew for possible use in the early summer of 1977, but was rejected because it was felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards.
Aerosmith’s assistant chief of flight operations Zunk Buker tells of seeing pilots McCreary and Gray trading a bottle of Jack Daniel’s back and forth while he and his father were inspecting the plane. Aerosmith’s touring family was also relieved because the band, specifically Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, had been trying to pressure their management into renting that specific plane.
|“The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this 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 “torching” and higher-than-normal fuel consumption.”|
|—NTSB Accident Report|
It was known that the right engine’s magneto — an ignition device that provides spark and timing for the engine — had been malfunctioning (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 traveling party arrived in Baton Rouge.
Cassie Gaines was reportedly so fearful of flying in the Convair that she offered to ride in the band’s equipment truck instead; Ronnie Van Zant had talked her onto the airplane on October 20.
It is possible that the damaged magneto fooled the pilots into creating an exceptionally rich fuel mixture, causing the Convair to run out of fuel. It was suggested on the VH-1 Behind The Music profile on Skynyrd that the pilots—panicking when the right engine failed—accidentally dumped the remaining fuel, instead of transferring it to the left engine.
Pyle maintains in the Howard Stern interview that the fuel gauge in the older model plane malfunctioned and the pilots had failed to manually check the tanks before taking off. In his book Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock, Gene Odom makes an unsubstantiated accusation that co-pilot William Gray was impaired because he had spent part of the previous night snorting cocaine; the toxicology reports from both pilots’ autopsies had found them to be clean for drugs and alcohol