Investigation into airplane crash continues
A story originally published October 24, 1977, just days after the crash
Several of the survivors of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash at Gillsburg were reported in
improved condition today while investigators continued to inspect the wreckage of the
twin-engine aircraft that carried six persons to their deaths and injured 20 others
Thursday night. Rudolph Kasputin, director of the National Transportation Safety Board
team combing the crash site, along with investigators from the Federal Aviation
Administration, said the planes engines, fuel gauge and other equipment were removed
Sunday for inspection. Autopsies were performed Friday on the bodies of the pilots.
Investigators also asked to see complete records on the 30-plus-year-old Convair 240
and on both pilots, as efforts to determine what caused the crash continues. Kasputin
has said that the plane ran out of gas as a "distinct possibility." Rumors that drugs and
money were found aboard the plane are false, said Amite County Sheriff Norman
Travis.He said money and bottles of drugs were found "scattered in different places" at
the crash site. He declined to say how much money had been recovered. He added that
the drugs were "in bottles and weren't labeled, some was prescription medicine and
some was just old drugstore medicine.".....  Investigators spent the weekend
interviewing the survivors and witnesses who were on the ground at the time of the
crash. The plane carrying the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock group and their road crew, crashed
shortly before 7pm in a wooded area of Amite County. The pilot only moments before
had radioed the flight control center in Houston that he was having fuel problems and
had been told the nearest airport was at McComb. The plane crashed eight miles south
of the airports runway, minutes away from its destination in Baton Rouge. The group
was to perform at Louisiana State University Friday night. Of the survivors, five were
listed in improved condition today, six were stable, and two were expected to be
discharged soon, possibly tomorrow. Two of the survivors who had been hospitalized,
Mark Frank and Kenneth Peden, discharged during the weekend from Southwest
Mississippi Regional Medical Center. Still in treatment at Southwest hospital, all listed as
improved, were Leon Wilkeson, the groups bass guitarist, who was still in intensive care
but "doing better"; Joe Osborne, Don Kretzschman, Kevin Elson, Ron Eckerman, Steve
Lawler, Clayton Johnson, Craig Reed and James Bryce. At Baptist Hospital in Jackson,
guitarist Gary Rossington was said to be in stable but in intensive care, while Mark
Howard was moved from the intensive care unit to a private room and is listed in stable
condition. Bill Sykes and Bill Powell are expected to be discharged soon, a hospital
spokesman said. Four persons at University Medical Center in Jackson are all listed as
stable. They are vocalist Leslie Hawkins, guitarist Larkin Allen Collins, Gene Odom and
Paul Welch. Three members of the rock group, both pilots and another person died in
the plane crash. The dead included lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve
Gaines and his sister Cassie, a vocalist, and Dean Kilpatrick, assistant road manager
for the group. Two of the survivors, interviewed from their hospital beds Friday, said
they had almost refused to fly in the chartered airplane, owned by L&J Leasing
Company of Addison Texas. "There had been a lot of mistrust of that airplane since we
chartered it," said Clayton Johnson, the bands stage manager. Johnson said he and
several other passengers met shortly before boarding the piston-engine craft in
Greenville South Carolina, Thursday night to discuss the possibility of refusing to fly it
any longer. He said Cassie Gaines, who died in the crash, also had talked with him
about the possibility of riding in the equipment truck instead of the plane. Johnson said
there was no panic when the pilot announced a crash was imminent, but he said
everyone had expressions of disbelief, and that "several of them starting cursing the
airplane." Stage crewman Kenneth Peden was hesitant to fly also.
"Just before the last trip the engine almost caught fire.
The fuel mixture was wrong, and there was an explosion,
and a flame six feet long came from the right engine."
Skynyrd crewman nearly nixed plane
A story originally published October 25, 1977
Joe Osborne, a road crewman with Lynyrd Skynyrd, was so unnerved by an engine
flameout, before Thursday night's fatal crash in Gillsburg that he made reservations to
fly the next trip on a commercial airline. But at the last moment he joined his friends in
the band and the road crew on the old chartered Convair 240 in Greenville South
Carolina for the flight to Baton Rouge Louisiana. The band was to perform in concert
before an estimated 10,000 persons at Louisiana State University Friday night. The
plane crashed in thick woods near Gillsburg, eight miles south of the McComb-Pike
County Airport runway, killing three members of the well-known rock band and injuring
20 others. Osborne was on of the others. This morning he was to have facial surgery at
Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center. His wife Melissa said Osborne suffered
numerous small fractures in his forehead and around his nose and a brain concussion
when the plane crashed. The Osborne's, who recently moved to Dallas Texas, from
Little Rock Arkansas said in a letter to the Enterprise-Journal, addressed to the people
of McComb, that they "have been deeply touched by the kind reception we received
from everyone...  The only way to ever repay your kindness to us, is to pass on the love
we feel here in McComb to someone else in their time of need. "When we think of you
people this phrase comes to mind, "There will come a night when the morning does not
follow, and all that will be remembered of you is the love you gave out." Osborne and
the other survivors are expected to recover from their injuries, although hospital
spokesmen say some of the injured may be hospitalized for some time. Some survivors
have been discharged from hospitals, and Bill Powell, the bands pianist, was
discharged from Baptist Hospital in Jackson today. The cause of the crash is still in
question while federal investigators continue to check key components of the plane's
wreckage and probe the history of the plane and pilots, both of whom were killed.
Autopsies showed that both died as a result of the crash and that there were "no
pre-existing problems." The primary question still unanswered is how much fuel is
aboard the plane when it crashed just before 7pm Thursday. Rudolf Kasputin, director
of the National Transportation Safety Board team of investigators, said most of the
wreckage has been released to insurance investigators after federal officials completed
their work at the crash. Some parts of the plane have not been released including both
engines, the fuel and ignition systems, components and the propellers. These will be
subjected to additional examination and tests.  Also, still being checked are the aircrafts
flight record prior to leaving Greenville South Carolina, Thursday, the servicing
operations which had been performed on the plane, and the tapes of air traffic control
dispatches to the plane from Houston, Atlanta and Greenville. It was learned during the
weekend, Kasputin said, that 400 gallons of fuel were pumped into the planes tanks
before it left Greenville. But the question is how much was on board prior to refueling.
Kasputin has said there is a "distinct possibility" that the plane ran out of gas but he
said a number of other possibilities are being considered. Private investigators from an
insurance company representing owners of the plane also have been combing the
crash site, and said the companies investigation would not end for several weeks. While
the probe into the cause of the crash continues, rumors circulate that large amounts of
money and drugs were on the plane. There have been reports also that another body
was found in the wreckage during the weekend. "It's all false" said Amite County Sheriff
Norman Travis. "Just a pack of rumors" said Pike County Sheriff Robert "Tot" Lawson.
Both were among rescuers the night of the crash and both said they had seen bottles
of medicine and some money and checks. All was confiscated by Travis. Both said
reports of another body found are false. Travis said he and several guards have been
watching the crash site since Friday when National Guard troops left the scene, adding
that most of the money and personal items had been collected for storage at the
courthouse. There were a lot of loose bills all over the place the night of the crash, and
there's no telling what got carried away," Travis said. "But we haven't found any large
amounts of money, and to the owner, no one else.
PARTS OF MY
INTERVIEW WITH
JACQUELYN
COOPER
On October 20th 1977,
a twin engine plane
carrying the Rock 'N'
Roll band Lynyrd
Skynyrd crashed in a
remote section of
woods in near
Gillsburg, Mississippi.
The plane ran out of fuel
and crashed before
7:00pm, at the wooded
property.
Six lives were claimed
in the crash including
band members, Ronnie
VanZant, Steve Gaines,
Cassie Gaines,
Pilot Walter Wiley
McCreary, co-pilot
William John Gray,
and Dean Kilpatrick
(the assistant road
manager for the group).
Six other members of
the rock band were
injured, two hurt critically
and four hospitalized in
stable condition.
Survivor's listed in
critical condition,
included members of
the group's road crew
and a camera man.
The propeller-driven
Convair 240 skidded
across tree tops for
about 100 yards, then
slammed into a
swampy area and split
open. I interviewed
Jacquelyn Sturdivant
Cooper, a family
member of the property
owner. She has
collected family archives
including newspaper's,
photograph's, and
family stories regarding
the day the plane
crashed in the woods
behind there house.
She also consulted with
her mother Connie, who
was home at the time of
the crash, and tells her
story. Interview by
Pat Adams is the
webmaster of
www.tennesseeconcerts
.com, with over 1,000
Nashville Tennessee
area concert pictures.

The Interview
took place in 2006

Who owned the
property where the
plane crashed at?
The actual resting place
was on the corner's of
three different
properties. My
grandparents (Percy &
Delores Easley),
Johnny Mote, and
Fernwood Industries.
The house closest to
the plane crash belong
to my parents (Connie
Easley Sturdivant &
Griffin Sturdivant),
my Aunt Lola Easley,
and Johnny Mote.

Where was your
family's house
compared to the
plane crash?
Our house was
approximately a
quarter mile through
pasture and woods
to the crash site.

Who was at home
when the plane crash
occurred?
My mom (Connie),
my two sisters
(Natalie and Ashley),
and my Aunt Lola.
They were eating
supper at our house,
when they heard the
plane crash. The
windows were open
because it was a cool
evening, when they
heard a very loud sound
like "metal on metal".
My mom said the sound
lasted about thirty
seconds, then nothing.
They jumped in the car
and went out to the road
to see if they could find
a car crash, because
they had no idea it was
a plane.

How did they find
the plane crash?
My Uncle Dwain Easley
and his friend Wayne
Blades were hunting
close to where the
plane crash occurred,
and heard it. They took
off into the swampy area
looking for it, and were
the first ones on the
scene. My mother,
sisters, and Aunt Lisa
drove by Johnny Mote's
house, where they
found Johnny and crash
survivor Artimus Pyle.
They had called for help.
They went into the
woods and helicopters
were flying around with
big search lights,
looking for the plane.
Twenty-six people were
in the plane when it
crashed, and my Uncle
Dwain pulled each of
them out of the
wreckage.

Did anyone see the
plane before it
crashed?
A few miles away, my
Uncle Arthur (Williams)
saw the plane and knew
it was going down.  He
called it in, and thought
it went down close to
our house, which it had.

What have you been
told the crash scene
like?
It was swampy, thick
woods, and you had to
cross a twenty-foot
wide, waist high creek
to get to the plane.
It was a running creek
that was between
pasture and more
woods. A log was used
to cross over the creek
and get to the crash
site. There was total
chaos with helicopters
hovering overhead with
search lights to
illuminate the crash
scene. Clothes,
luggage, money, and
other items scattered .

How did help get
through the woods to
the scene?
They had to bring in a
bulldozer to cut a path
into the woods, then
cross the creek. Three
ambulances got stuck
in the pasture. People
began using pickup
trucks to transport the
crash victims. It took
three or more hours to
get the victims out.

What family members
later went to visit the
hospital?
My Aunt Lisa went.
She knew who Lynyrd
Skynyrd was, from
listening to their music.
She returned the late
Ronnie VanZant's
(singer) hat to his
wife Judy VanZant.

What did the National
Guard do at the crash
scene?
They were there to
secure the area, so
investigator's could
figure out what
happened. Their were
so many people coming
down there, and even
some of the rescue
people were taking stuff.
They brought in the
National Guard to stop
all that.

Who took these
picture's of the plane
crash, and when?
They were taken by my
Aunt Lisa, the day after
the crash.

Did any of the
survivors come back
the visit in the years
following following the
plane crash?
Yes, some of them
came back to my Aunt
Lisa's house, and to
the nearby campground.
They also went to
Johnny Mote's place, too.
What happened to your
family member's that
were involved?
They are all still in the
area, except my Aunt
Lisa. She died in a car
wreck in January of
1982, about a mile
from the plane crash.

You said Johnny Mote
moved, what happened
to him?
He is still in the area,
and owner of Parklane
Mini-Storage in
McComb Mississippi.

Are there any Lynyrd
Skynyrd tributes in the
area?
Not one. I don't
understand why not,
because there are
so many fans still.

You went to the
Southern Tribute
concert on Johnny
Mote's property in
2002 featuring Artimus
Pyle, Travis Tritt and
others. How was it?
It rocked! We enjoyed
everyone except
for country singer
Travis Tritt.

What are some of your
memories of the
Southern Tribute
concert?
The best part was when
Artimus Pyle got up on
stage and blasted the
ones who tried to stop
the "tribute" concert.
Headliner Travis Tritt
would not let the bands
play on his (so called)
professional stage
because he claimed
that they were not
professional enough.
I thought Artimus Pyle
said exactly what
needed to be said. We
stayed until the
thunderstorm ran
everyone off. They
played "Freebird"
with one of
Ronnie VanZant's hat's
on the microphone.
Two fifth-size bottles of
Jack Daniels Whiskey
were tossed out to the
crowd, to have a toast to
the victims of the plane
crash. It was very
emotional for everyone.
They rocked, even in the
thunderstorm for a while
before the show ended.
Artimus still has it!

Has Lynyrd Skynyrd
ever played in the
area?
No, that was the first
time any members have
played here. I wish they
would come back. I love
their music. I have been
able to relate much of
my life to the songs
Lynyrd Skynyrd sang.
They were, and will
always be legends to
me. As long as the fans
keep there music alive,
those band members
didn't die in vain. They
died, and with our help
the "bird will continue to
fly free".
Lynyrd Skynyrd
The Tragic Plane Crash Follow up News Reports
Plane crash questions lingering unanswered
A story originally published November 3,1977
Two weeks after the plane crash that killed three members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock
band and three others, questions remaining about missing money, missing personal
items and missing answers to what caused the crash. And what will happen to the
surviving members of the band and to other passengers on the plane, most of who
were employed by Lynyrd Skynyrd Productions Inc.? The twin-engine propeller-driven
Convair 240, said to be built in the 1950's, crashed near Gillsburg October 20 after the
pilot had reported fuel problems. There seems to be no doubt that legal action will be
taken by the survivors against the owners by the survivors against the owners of the
plane, L&J Leasing Company of Addison Texas. The wife of one of the injured persons
said several lawsuits were being prepared, but she noted several years could elapse
before final action of any of the suits is taken. According to the leasing agreement
between L&J and Lynyrd Skynyrd, the leasing company would provide a total of $2
million liability insurance in the amounts of $100,000 liability per seat and hull
insurance for the total value of the aircraft. The band had paid $5,000 in advance on
the lease, total amount of which was $15,034, the agreement said. One section of the
contract stipulated that the "lease shall hold lessor harmless in any event that drugs or
narcotics of any kind should be brought aboard this aircraft for any purpose." A local
attorney said the paragraph meant simply that if illegal drugs were discovered aboard
the plane and arrests were made, the leasing company would not face charges and the
plane would not be confiscated by authorities for having been used to carry such
drugs. Investigators at the crash scene October 20 said bottles of medicine were found
in the wreckage. The lease agreement was signed by L&J president Lewis L. May Jr
and Lynyrd Skynyrd tour manager Ron Eckerman. The advance check for the planes
lease was signed by Eckerman and the band's lead singer, Ronny Van Zant, who died
in the crash. It was Eckerman, who returned to his home in Florida this week after being
hospitalized in McComb, who said that $1,100 was missing from his briefcase after it
was recovered from the wreckage. Eckerman said he was carrying $88,743.58 in
checks and $8,000 in cash on the flight. All of the checks and $6,900 in cash were
returned to him by Sheriff Norman Travis in his hospital room last week. Several loose
bills, most of them apparently scattered when a poker game aboard the plane was
interrupted by the crash, were picked up by persons at the scene, but Eckerman said
his money was securely locked in a briefcase and that someone had to pry the case to
get the money out. That money was used to pay the group's travelling expenses while
on tour, he said. Meanwhile, group manager Mike Kinnamon is seeking the return of
several items allegedly taken from the wreckage. He specifically is looking for a
guitar in an oversized, white guitar case.

Above: Text and newspaper images from the Enterprise-Journal
in McComb Mississippi, USA October 21, 1977    
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Read about his achievements at the plane crash site. Unfortunately, he drowned a few years later
Walter Joseph Gorski - Hospital Corpsman Second Class - United States Coast Guard
Click on Image to enlarge & read about Walter Gorski's rescue efforts on this historic day in music history
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Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert, 2008
Background information
Also known as Skynyrd
Origin Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Genres Southern rock, hard rock, boogie rock,
blues-rock, country rock

Years active 1964–1977
1987–present

Labels MCA, Atlantic, Capricorn, SPV
Records, CMC International, Sanctuary,
Universal, Roadrunner Records/Loud & Proud

Associated acts .38 Special, Van Zant,
Rossington Collins Band, Allen Collins Band,
The Rossington Band, Outlaws
Website LynyrdSkynyrd.com

Members
Gary Rossington
Rickey Medlocke
Johnny Van Zant
Michael Cartellone
Mark Matejka
Robert Kearns
Peter Keys
Past members
Larry Junstrom
Ronnie Van Zant (deceased)
Allen Collins (deceased)
Greg T. Walker
Bob Burns
Steve Gaines (deceased)
Cassie Gaines-backup (deceased)
Artimus Pyle
Randall Hall
Ed King
Leon Wilkeson (deceased)
Billy Powell (deceased)
Kurt Custer
Mike Estes
Owen Hale
Hughie Thomasson (deceased)
Jeff McAllister
Kenny Aronoff
Ean Evans (deceased)
also see: List of Lynyrd Skynyrd band members

Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced /ˌlɪnərd ˈskɪnərd/
LIN-ərd-SKIN-ərd by band members but
sometimes pronounced /ˌlɛnərd ˈskɪnərd/ LEN-
ərd-SKIN-ərd[1][2]) is an American rock band,
formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. The
band became prominent in the Southern
United States in 1973, and rose to worldwide
recognition. Three members and one road
crew member died in an airplane crash in
1977; the band reformed in 1987 for a
reunion tour with lead singer Ronnie Van
Zant's younger brother Johnny as the
frontman. Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to tour
and record. Of its original members, only Gary
Rossington remains with the band as of 2011.
The band was inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006.
Early years
In the summer of 1964, teenage friends Ronnie
Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington,
formed the band "The Noble Five", which then
changed in 1965 to "My Backyard", when Larry
Junstrom and Bob Burns joined in Jacksonville,
Florida. In 1968, the group won a local Battle
of the Bands contest and the opening slot on
several Southeast shows for the California-
based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm
Clock.[citation needed]

In 1970, Van Zant sought a new name. "One
Percent" and "The Noble Five" were each
considered before the group settled on
"Leonard Skinnerd", a mocking tribute to a
physical-education teacher at Robert E. Lee
High School, Leonard Skinner,[4] who was
notorious for strictly enforcing the school's
policy against boys having long hair.[5][6] The
more distinctive spelling was adopted before
they released their first album. Note that almost
no Southern accent distinguishes between /ɛ/
and /ɪ/ before nasals, so the pronunciation of
Leonard Skinner's name would have been
/ˌlɪnərd ˈskɪnər/, which is why the 'distinctive'
spelling of the name would have made sense
to the band members. Despite their high-school
acrimony, the band developed a friendlier
relationship with Skinner in later years, and
invited him to introduce them at a concert in
the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.[7]

Skinner allowed the band to use a photo of his
Leonard Skinner Realty sign for the inside of
their third album.[8] Skinner died on
September 20, 2010, at age 77 after a battle
with Alzheimer's disease.[9]

In 1970, the band auditioned for Alan Walden,
who would later become their manager on the
newly formed Hustler's Inc. Walden worked with
the band until 1974, when management was
turned over to Pete Rudge. The band
continued to perform throughout the South in
the early 1970s, further developing their hard-
driving, blues-rock sound and image, and
experimenting with making studio recordings.

During this time, they went through a number
of member changes, with Van Zant, Collins
and Rossington remaining the only constants.
Burns and Junstrom left the band, and were
briefly replaced by Rickey Medlocke on drums
and Greg Walker on bass. In 1971, with this
lineup, they made some recordings at the
famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. By the
time they made a second round of Muscle
Shoals recordings in 1972, Burns had rejoined
the band and Leon Wilkeson had become Larry
Junstrom's permanent replacement on bass,
with Medlocke and Walker having left to play
with the southern rock band Blackfoot. Around
this time, the band occasionally played shows
with both Burns and Medlocke participating,
utilizing a dual-drummer approach similar to
that of The Allman Brothers. Also in 1972,
roadie Billy Powell became the keyboardist for
the band.

[edit] Peak years (1973–1977)In 1972 the band
was discovered by musician, songwriter, and
producer Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat, and
Tears, who had attended one of their shows at
a club in Atlanta. They changed the spelling
of their name to "Lynyrd Skynyrd",[10] and
Kooper signed them to MCA Records,
producing their first album (Pronounced
'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd). Leon Wilkeson left just
before the band was to record the album
(Wilkeson rejoined the band shortly thereafter
at Van Zant's invitation and is pictured on the
album cover).[citation needed] Strawberry
Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King joined the band
and played Wilkeson's parts on the album,
along with some guitar. King switched to guitar
after the album's release, allowing the band to
replicate the three-guitar mix used in the
studio. Released August 13, 1973,[11] the
album featured the hit song "Free Bird", which
received national airplay, eventually reaching
#19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and is
considered by many to be the greatest rock and
roll song ever.


Ronnie Van ZantLynyrd Skynyrd's fan base
continued to grow rapidly throughout 1973,
largely due to their opening slot on The Who's
Quadrophenia tour in the United States. On
their 1974 follow-up, Second Helping, the
band successfully avoided sophomore slump,
with King, Collins and Rossington all
collaborating with Van Zant on the songwriting.
The album was the band's breakthrough hit,
and featured their most popular single, "Sweet
Home Alabama" (#8 on the charts in August
1974), a response to Neil Young's "Alabama"
and "Southern Man". (Young and Van Zant
were not rivals, but fans of each other's music
and good friends; Young even wrote the song
"Powderfinger" for the band, but they never
recorded it.[12] Van Zant, meanwhile, can be
seen on the cover of Street Survivors wearing a
Neil Young t-shirt.) The album reached #12 in
1974, eventually going multi-platinum. In July
of that year, Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the
headline acts at The Ozark Music Festival at
the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia,
Missouri.

In January 1975, Burns left the band and was
replaced by Kentucky native Artimus Pyle on
drums. Lynyrd Skynyrd's third album, Nuthin'
Fancy, was released the same year. The album
had lower sales than its predecessor, and
Kooper was eventually fired. Midway through
the tour, Ed King left the band, citing tour
exhaustion. In January 1976, backup singers
Leslie Hawkins, Cassie Gaines and JoJo
Billingsley (collectively known as The
Honkettes) were added to the band, although
they were not considered official members.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's fourth album Gimme Back My
Bullets was released in the new year, but did
not achieve the same success as the previous
two albums. Van Zant and Collins both felt that
the band was seriously missing the three-guitar
attack that had been one of its early hallmarks.
Although Skynyrd auditioned several guitarists,
including such high-profile names as Leslie
West, the solution was closer than they realized.

Soon after joining Skynyrd, Cassie Gaines
began touting the guitar and songwriting
prowess of her younger brother, Steve. The
junior Gaines, who led his own band, Crawdad
(which occasionally would perform Skynyrd's
"Saturday Night Special" in their set), was
invited to audition onstage with Skynyrd at a
concert in Kansas City on May 11, 1976. Liking
what they heard, the group also jammed
informally with the Oklahoma native several
times, then invited him into the group in June.
With Gaines on board, the newly-reconstituted
band recorded the double-live album One
More From the Road at the Fox Theatre
(Atlanta, Georgia) in Atlanta, and performed at
the Knebworth festival, which also featured
The Rolling Stones.

Both Collins and Rossington had serious car
accidents over Labor Day weekend in 1976
which slowed the recording of the follow-up
album and forced the band to cancel some
concert dates. Rossington's accident inspired
the ominous "That Smell" – a cautionary tale
about drug abuse that was clearly aimed
towards him and at least one other band
member. Rossington has admitted repeatedly
that he was the "Prince Charming" of the song
who crashed his car into an oak tree while
drunk and stoned on Quaaludes. Van Zant, at
least, was making a serious attempt to clean up
his act and curtail the cycle of boozed-up
brawling that was part of Skynyrd's reputation.

1977's Street Survivors turned out to be a
showcase for guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines,
who had joined the band just a year earlier and
was making his studio debut with them.
Publicly and privately, Ronnie Van Zant
marveled at the multiple talents of Skynyrd's
newest member, claiming that the band would
"all be in his shadow one day." Gaines'
contributions included his co-lead vocal with
Van Zant on the co-written "You Got That
Right" and the rousing guitar boogie "I Know A
Little" which he had written before he joined
Skynyrd. So confident was Skynyrd's leader of
Gaines' abilities that the album (and some
concerts) featured Gaines delivering his self-
penned bluesy "Ain't No Good Life" – the only
song in the pre-crash Skynyrd catalog to
feature a lead vocalist other than Ronnie Van
Zant. The album also included the hit singles
"What's Your Name" and "That Smell". The
band was poised for their biggest tour yet, with
shows always highlighted by the iconic rock
anthem "Free Bird".[13] In November, the band
was scheduled to fulfill Van Zant's lifelong
dream of headlining New York's Madison
Square Garden.
Hiatus (1977–1987)

Rossington, Collins, Wilkeson and Powell
formed The Rossington-Collins Band, which
released two albums between 1980 and 1982.
Deliberately avoiding comparisons with Ronnie
Van Zant as well as suggestions that this band
was Lynyrd Skynyrd reborn, Rossington and
Collins chose a woman, Dale Krantz, as lead
vocalist. However, as an acknowledgment of
their past, the band's concert encore would
always be an instrumental version of "Free
Bird". Rossington and Collins eventually had a
falling out over the affections of Dale Krantz,
whom Rossington married and with whom he
formed the Rossington Band, which released
two albums in the late 1980s and opened for
the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987–1988.

The other former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd
continued to make music during the hiatus era.
Billy Powell played keyboards in a Christian
Rock band named Vision, touring with
established Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre
(who, like Skynyrd, had once opened for The
Who). During Vision concerts, Powell's
trademark keyboard talent was often spotlighted
and he spoke about his conversion to
Christianity after the near-fatal plane crash.
Pyle formed The Artimus Pyle Band in 1982,
which occasionally featured former Honkettes
JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins.

In 1980, Allen Collins's wife Kathy died of a
massive hemorrhage while miscarrying their
third child. He formed the Allen Collins Band
in 1983 from the remnants of the Rossington-
Collins Band, releasing one tepidly-received
album, but many around him believed that the
guitarist's heart just wasn't in it anymore. Most
point to his wife's death as the moment that
Collins' life began to spin out of control; he
spent several years bingeing on drugs and
alcohol. In 1986, Collins crashed his car while
driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville,
killing his girlfriend and leaving him
permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
Collins eventually pled no contest to DUI
manslaughter, but was not given a prison
sentence since his injuries made it obvious
that he would never drive or be a danger to
society again.
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