How Drummer Michael Cartellone’s Musical Journey Took Him From Cleveland Bars To Skynyrd Stars

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Michael Cartellone told one Atlanta-based radio station in June 2015 that he just happened to be in “the right place at the right time” when Skynyrd needed a drummer in 1998. 

As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, Michael got his start playing in local bars. Even in high school, Michael found himself jamming out in a bar band, and he was playing some tunes that he’s now quite familiar with.

See, all those years ago, long before he ever joined Skynyrd, Michael spent his time playing the drums to some of their most recognizable songs. These ranged all the way from “Gimme Three Steps” to the iconic “Free Bird.” But never in a million years did Michael dream that he’d one day become a member of the band he had covered consistently throughout the start of his career.

Michael’s career took off, and he joined a band called Damn Yankees. They eventually crossed paths with Skynyrd in the 90’s, and Michael got the chance of a lifetime when lead singer Johnny Van Zant came to meet him:

“Johnny Van Zant came backstage and brought his two little daughters. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh this is really cool.’ And I was telling him how much I loved Skynyrd when I was growing up.” 

After crossing paths a few more times over the years, 1998 rolled around and Skynyrd needed a drummer. There Michael was,”one thing led to another,” and suddenly he was an official Skynyrd member.

Now, looking back on how his career got its start in Cleveland bars, the honor of being a star in Skynyrd is something Michael is extremely aware of.

“It’s not lost on me now how fortunate and blessed I really am that I get to do it with the real guys,” he said.

And Michael certainly makes Skynyrd proud! You can see the rest of his interview below, during which he also talks about his second passion…art. Then watch him jam out to “Free Bird” with the rest of the band!

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd & Second Helping Live’ is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats – it’s the perfect gift for the Lynyrd Skynyrd fan in your life. Buy it here on Amazon!

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