login | Register

Celebration of Life Event, 2001

On the Road in Florida

Celebrating Life in St. Augustine

by Michael Buffalo Smith

November 1, 2001

The Celebration of Life memorial Concert and benefit was held on October 20, 2001 in the beautiful St. Augustine Amphitheater in St. Augustine, Florida. Organized by Artimus Pyle and his wife, Kerri Hampton Pyle, the event served as a memorial, exactly 24 years after the plane crash, to those Lynyrd Skynyrd members who died such untimely deaths- Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and Dean Kilpatrick, as well as fellow Skynyrd members who have passed on- Allen Collins, and most recently, Leon Wilkeson. The event also raised money to help renovate the amphitheater. The event raised $101,000 in in-kind sponsorship and cash donations, and the raffle for the American Red Cross raised $1,600.

The weekend for me began Friday afternoon, with my arrival in Jacksonville. I dropped by to visit some of the internet friends who dominate the Skynyrd Frynds Chat room on the web. They gather twice yearly in Jacksonville for the ultimate fan get together, and this October, the gathering was made even more special by the Celebration of Life event.

Friday night, we joined the frynds in the lounge of The Brampton Hotel, where they gather each year, for a magical jam session hosted by the band Kymystry. This band rocks, ladies and gentlemen, and various chatters and other musicians moved to and from the stage throughout the course of the evening, including yours truly. I was thrilled to play some Marshall Tucker with the band, and then sing "Gimmie Three Steps" accompanied by Sharon "LitlWing" Witten on vocals and tambourine. Wing would be performing with me during the big show, and it was a good opportunity to jam together a bit. The infamous "dueling tambourines" will be long remembered by those of us who caught a finger in between the slamming percussive instruments. But I digress. There were some real top drawer musicians playing that night, and I was told that the former guitarist for The Johnny Van Zant Band was onstage for a while. Pretty cool.

Following a late night jam, morning came way too early, and preparations began for the Celebration of Life. I will purposely leave out the details of my driving excursions in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Suffice it to say that I got lost more than once, including on the way to the event, where the directions said "Turn left onto the Bridge of Lions," and the Bridge was closed. As I drove by a street cop, with a decidedly panicked look on my face, i was like, "Where do I go now??' and in a stunning show of "I don't give a damn," the cop said, "Just keep moving, sir." So much for helping those in need.

We eventually ended up at the show, and what a show it was. I'll leave the actual review to Patti Seitz, but I do want to comment that rarely have I seen such a wide variety of genres and such an amazing line up of talent on one stage. From the Allman Brothers flavored boogie of The No Exit Band, to the Melissa Etheridge influenced acoustic solo performance of Lorna Bracewel, to the tight harmonies of Those Guys, and the kick-ass country of Lee Bogan and the Rockits, the music flowed like sweet honey. My, it was good.

One of the coolest bands of the day was The Fenwicks, an off the wall ska band who inject a lot of good humor into their theatrical rock show. Steven Schub- who told GRITZ he is a professional actor besides being one helluva musician- pushes the buck time after time, whether swaggering like Mick Jagger, or screaming like Johnny Rotten. What an entertainer. Schub proudly announced that Artimus Pyle was responsible for bringing him into the lime light, and then brought Arti out to sing an old APB classic, "My Whole World's Upside Down." Surreal is a good word. Arti's son Chris plays drums in the band, and his other son, Marshall Pyle, joined in the jamming as well. Later in the evening, Marshall and his band- his other band- Tribolotomee, wowed the audience with some reggae flavored pop/rap music that was laced with heavy and meaningful lyrics. Now, both bands are as eclectic as can be, and prompted a few stares of disbelief from a few of the freebirds in the audience. Still, both were overwhelmingly successful in capturing the attention of the audience. Yours truly ran through an acoustic set, which was highlighted by an appearance by LitlWing, who did backup guitar and vocals, and stepped into the spotlight to deliver her own original music as well.

More outstanding music was made by Kymystry, who were another obvious crowd pleaser, and Shelton Irwin, who's "Curtis and The Kid" is possibly the best song ever written about Ronnie Van Zant. The Artimus Pyle Band took the stage by storm, now featuring Skynyrd alumni Randall Hall and Tim Lindsey, playing some excellent Lynyrd Skynyrd music. Then Arti invited the excellent Miranda Louise onstage for a few smoking blues tunes,before bringing all of us, or at least a bunch, onstage for the finale.Yours truly joined most of the days band members for a hot run through "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird." It was just about as close to heaven as you could hope to get. One frynd commented, "I still can't believe it. We did the two biggest Skynyrd hits onstage with Artimus. And on October 20th!" I can dig it, frynd.

The event was a spectacular coming together of Southern musicians. Like Artimus said from the stage when he spoke while I was playing. "Southern rockers, coming together to help others." I love it. If success is measured in sheer volume of heart, then The Celebration of Life was a Southern Rock "Live Aid."  My plans to attend the Saturday night jam back in Jax were thwarted by my inability to get back to the Brampton. I won't bore you with the details, but by the time 2 am rolled around, I decided to cut my losses and head back to my hotel in St. Augustine.Sorry guys! I hear I missed a mac-daddy jam. Man!! All in all, it was quite a fun weekend that I will not soon forget. Thanks go out to Artimus and Kerri for all the hard work, and all of the musicians and other friends who helped to make this an awesome event.

related tags


Currently there are 1 comments. Leave one now!

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.
Copyright 1998-2018 by Swampland Inc. All rights reserved.