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If you’ve done your research as a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, then it shouldn’t surprise you that Ronnie Van Zant didn’t always sing vocals in the band’s early days. Way back in the beginning, vocals were sometimes performed by Rickey Medlocke, who is currently a guitarist in the band.
Steve Gaines was another Skynyrd member who took the lead on songs from time to time. In fact, he wrote a large number of the songs on the band’s album Street Survivors, and he sang lead and co-lead on some of the tracks.
But what fewer fans may know is that Ronnie liked to rest his voice during sound checks. That way, he would have plenty of power left so he could make it through an entire show.
So if Ronnie was resting his voice, the other members would all gather round and play their instrumental parts without him. But once Steve came along, he occasionally stepped in a covered Ronnie’s vocals during the sound checks.
Thanks to some audio from a 1977 sound check prior to a show in Sheffield, England, we get the chance to hear Steve sing lead on Skynyrd’s song “That Smell.” While we consider the song as one of the group’s classic tracks today, back then it was a brand new piece set to be included on Street Survivors.
This raw audio gives us an even greater appreciation for Steve than we ever had before. His vocal skills came naturally, and Ronnie clearly saw that. Otherwise, why else would he have trusted Steve to take the lead on some of Street Survivors‘ tracks?
We bet you’d like to hear how “That Smell” sounds with Steve singing lead, wouldn’t you? Well you’re in luck, because we’ve included that sound check audio below. You can also listen to the band engage in a pretty cool jam later on in the clip.
No denying it, Steve’s talent was something special. We sure do miss him.