Decades ago, a group of friends gathered in Jacksonville, Florida to make some music together. This group formed a band, which went through several name changes until they finally picked one that stuck...Lynyrd Skynyrd.
While Skynyrd branded themselves as a Southern rock group, their music blended elements of rock, blues, soul, and country. This, along with their signature triple guitar attack, resulted in the creation of a unique sound that made them stand out from the pack.
The added key to Skynyrd's success was the songwriting genius of its lead vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant. Along with his Skynyrd bandmates, Ronnie was responsible for penning songs that have since been labeled as timeless: "Sweet Home Alabama," "Free Bird," and "Simple Man," just to name a few.
Over the course of just a few short years, Skynyrd managed to dominate the music scene during the 1970s. But in the midst of their great success came great tragedy.
In 1976, the plane that was carrying Skynyrd from South Carolina to Louisiana ended up crashing. The crash claimed the lives of backup singer Cassie Gaines, her brother and Skynyrd guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, and Ronnie Van Zant.
Following the crash, Skynyrd went on what at the time, seemed like an indefinite hiatus. But they eventually reunited in 1987, with Ronnie's younger brother Johnny Van Zant leading the charge as the head vocalist.
Many members of the pre-crash lineup rejoined the band, which embarked on one tour after another and continued to craft new albums. Over the years, the band mourned the loss of various members, including keyboardist Billy Powell and bass player Leon Wilkeson.
For some time now, the only surviving member of the original band in Skynyrd's lineup has been guitarist Gary Rossington. The 66-year-old has been dealing with some serious health issues in recent years, which is perhaps a huge part of the reason why Skynyrd made a career-changing announcement on Thursday morning (January 25).
Via a press release, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers announced that they are embarking on their farewell tour in 2018. Called the Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour, the venture will kick off in May in the group's native state of Florida.
The tour is set to take Skynyrd all over the country, with stops in states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Missouri. As of right now, the final tour date is scheduled for September 1 in Atlanta, Georgia.
After decades of working with the band, Gary says he can't believe how much of an impact their music has left on the world:
"It's hard to imagine, after all these years, the band that Ronnie Van Zant, [late guitarist] Allen Collins and myself started back in Jacksonville, would resonate for this long and to so many generations of fans. I'm certain they are looking down from above, amazed that the music has touched so many."
Johnny also spoke about his feelings concerning the tour, saying, "It's been a true honor to try and fill in my brother's footsteps for the past thirty-one years, keeping the music and his spirit alive."
A number of famous friends are set to join Skynyrd for various tour dates, including Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr., and the Charlie Daniels Band. Tickets to the farewell tour go on sale starting on Friday, February 2 at 10 AM local time.
We wish Skynyrd the best of luck on their final tour!
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