Lynyrd Skynyrd Continues to Tour Despite the Death of all Original Members

How many members need to be in a band for it to be the same band? Lynyrd Skynyrd grappled with this question.

Alex West - Author
By

Feb. 23 2024, Published 6:32 p.m. ET

Ed King and Gary Rossington are the original guitarist in Lynryd Skynyrd when they performed at the World Arena
Source: Getty Images

Ed King and Gary Rossington are the original guitarist in Lynryd Skynyrd when they performed at the World Arena

The iconic "Free Bird" band Lynyrd Skynyrd will forever be an important treasure in music history. Sadly, while the band remains touring, all of the original members have passed away.

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There have been long-running debates about what constitutes the band itself, especially as the number of original members dwindled and it faced some legal disputes. However, the band vowed to continue touring in April 2023 following the death of original guitar player Gary Rossington.

Lainey Wilson, Johnny Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Elle King perform on stage
Source: Getty Images
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What happened to Lynyrd Skynyrd?

American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in 1964 with five key members, Ronnie Van Zant, Garry Rossington, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom, and Bab Burns.

They originally formed their band under the name My Backyard, but later changed it to Lynyrd Skynyrd as a dig at an old teacher. Leonard Skinner reportedly disparaged long-haired students, giving them disciplinary notices. However, the hairstyle was important for the "hair bands" at the time.

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Mr. Skinner wasn't impressed by the excuse, but the band took off, anyway. Later on, he made amends with the band and reportedly said: “I just went along with the flow. There was not much I could do about it.”

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That original band of quirky high school boys toured together off-and-on with various line-up changes at times. In 1977, the band came to a screeching halt after the death of three members of the touring band.

Did Lynyrd Skynyrd get into a plane crash?

While on a charted private jet, the plane went down in a freak accident. Following the catastrophe and injuries of the remaining members, they stepped away from performing.

Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot John Gray were killed in the incident. While they saw success for their recently released album, Lynyrd Skynyrd still disbanded before getting back together in 1987.

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Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, and Artimus Pyle reunited. They were joined by Ed King who had previously left the band years before the crash. Johnny Van Zant and Randall Hall joined the band to fill in some missing roles.

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Allen was paralyzed in a car accident that took the life of another. He pled guilty to DUI manslaughter but was uniquely able to go on tour and avoid prison by getting on stage at every show and taking accountability for what had happened as a warning to others. While he wasn't able to return to his former spot in the band, he did contribute to the team as a musical director.

More members continued to come and go, but the band had the bug for performing and touring. Over time, they went on a variety of different farewell tours to the point where fans would joked about their prolonged goodbye and rarely believed it would ever truly be over.

In many ways, the fans have been proven right since, even after all of the original members died, the legacy continued. Lynyrd Skynyrd has yet to announcement any sort of formal disbandment and plan to continue touring together albeit with a whole new lineup.

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