login | Register

It Was 30 Years Ago Today: Last Flight of The Free Bird

Posted: Oct 19, 2007

I only saw Lynyrd Skynyrd, the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, in concert one time. It was October 19, 1977, and sadly, it was to be the very last concert for Ronnie Van Zant.

I was backstage the night of Skynyrd’s final concert. One of my teachers in high school knew Artimus Pyle, and had introduced us, and I used that leverage to worm my way backstage. The concert was a benefit for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign, and Artimus, being a former Marine, was very excited, running around backstage at the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium, introducing people.

That night I met all of the band members. They were all great guys. Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, Leslie Hawkins, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson, Artimus and of course, the iconic Ronnie Van Zant.

Among the fondest memories of that evening are the few minutes I spent speaking to Ronnie. I told him that I expected him to be some sort of rough neck hell raiser, judging from the stories in the press. He said, “Michael, I am a peaceful guy. I only fight when someone messes with me, my family or my friends.”

Allen Collins was very nice to me that night as well. We sat and talked for just a while, and he was busy trying to introduce me to Gary Rossington, who was surrounded by beautiful girls at the time. I would have to wait over 25 years to finally get some serious face time with Gary, when I interviewed him and his wife Dale Krantz for GRITZ.

People often ask me what Ronnie Van Zant was like. Judging from my brief meeting, all I can say is that he was a good Southern boy with a heart as big as Dixie and more talent than almost anyone I ever knew.  If he had lived, I am certain we the world would have enjoyed many more years of his great song writing and singing. I would have loved to have seen how his plans to do a country album with Merle Haggard turned out.

When I heard the news of the plane crash the next day, I was shocked. At first, we all thought the entire band was dead.  I was upset and shaken. Just three months earlier on August 26, the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis had died. Now this tragedy. Even to this day I find myself unable to shake the feeling that came upon me after hearing the news that the Free Bird had fell to the ground. A few years ago I was called upon to appear on a CMT special called Country’s Most Shocking: Outlaw Country and Southern Rock, helping to tell the stories about Marshall Tucker and Lynyrd Skynyrd. As I sat in the studio being interviewed on camera, I had to fight back the tears, even after all these years.


A few years ago, I sat down with Artimus Pyle and asked him to recount his memories of the events leading up to the tragic airplane crash for an as of yet unpublished book about the old Greenville Memorial Auditorium. Here, for the first time, are his responses.  

“I remember the night before, my wife Pat had fixed this big vegetarian spaghetti dinner, and we were gonna have everybody come over. All of the limos were going to bring everybody over to my little place in Campobello (SC) for this major dinner. Well, nobody made it because everybody had hangovers. A few guys in the crew came over and made that beautiful drive from Greenville, through the country side - you know Michael how beautiful it is. We ate vegetarian spaghetti and this great salad. I sent the limos back to the plane, and I drove my Jeep over to the airport. I was the last one to get there, and I drove up on the tarmac - because I could- and I drove right up the plane - because I could. I stepped directly from my Jeep onto the back stairs of our airplane. I kissed Pat goodbye and she drove off in the Jeep. 

“Two hours later I called her after I had gotten out of the plane crash and found that farm house. I called her from Johnny Mote’s farm house, and I said “Pat, we had an airplane crash, and there were people killed. I am alive. Tell the kids I love them. I have got to go.” And Pat was crying. The whole conversation took less than 30 seconds. And she said “Okay honey I understand.” I walked back out of Johnny’s house and there were all sorts of rescue vehicles coming up to the site of the crash. Johnny put me in his truck and we drove through his fence and through his field until we got to where I had come out of the swamp.”

Artimus recalled that Ronnie and many of the other band members had fallen asleep after some post-concert partying.

“Ronnie was asleep behind the bulkhead. They had the cockpit, and then there was a little area where the galley was, which was the kitchen in our airplane. Then began the first quarters. So Ronnie was sleeping behind the bulkhead. You could shut the cockpit door and the door to the lounge and the kitchen was completely dark. And it was daylight when we were flying, so Ronnie went up into that area and was sleeping. Also, when we flew at 10,000 feet, the floor was cool. It was like an ice box in there, it was so cool, that aluminum aircraft metal. And it was October. So Ronnie slept on that because it was like sleeping on a slab of ice, and he was all hung over, so it felt good. (Laughs) Instead of having an ice pack on your head, he just put the plane on his head. I’m sure it felt great.”

Artimus Pyle today remains vigilant and tireless in his efforts to keep the memory of Ronnie Van Zant alive and well. There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t speak Ronnie’s name with love and respect, and if you ask for his autograph, nine times out of ten, Artimus will draw a bird with R.V.Z. somewhere beside his name. At every show, be it the APB or other groups he is sitting in with, Artimus always takes time to remember his fallen brother. Now that is a true friend.

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of that sad day. As Lynyrd Skynyrd fans the world over pay respects to the memories of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines and Dean Kilpatrick, we at GRITZ and Swampland remember these great Southern musicians with the utmost love and respect. Ronnie sang the words, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” Well brother, it’s been 30 years, and your memory is more alive and well than ever.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.


related tags

South Carolina,

Wireless from AT&T



Costume jewellery has been part of pandora bracelets culture for almost 300 years. pandora charms The golden era of this pandora beads jewellery began in the middle pandora earrings of the 20th century. This pandora rings was popularized by pandora necklace some of the most pandora beads uk remembered names in fashion pandora charms bracelets jewellery include: Crown pandora uk charms Trifari, Dior, Chanel, Monet, Napier, pandora charms sale Corocraft and Coventry. A significant silver pandora charms factor in the popularization of costume jewellery was the Hollywood movie.

freenike says...

Should Nike Free 5.0youNike Free 7.0carefullyNike Free Run evaluate the popular boots in recent times, Nike Free Everyday winter trend tendencies, then you may acquire, the UGG boots deservedly namedNike Free 3.0 probably the most preferred styles and also the hottest stars from the boots.

danniu says...

Das ist Ihre alles über Reiseführer für pandora, pandora schmuck Reize kennen und pandora schmuck online, pandora schmuck günstig und pandora anhänger und sogar ein wenig Geschichte. pandora schmuck armband begann als Ehemann und Ehefrau Import-Geschäft im Jahr 1982. Sie würden nach Thailand pandora schmuck berlin aus Dänemark reisen auf der Suche nach dem passenden Edelsteinen. Da ihre Nachfrage stieg sie verlagert ihren Schwerpunkt auf eher ein Wholesale-Geschäft von Schmuck. pandora schmuck christ Ein paar Jahre später eröffneten sie ihre eigene Fabrik in Thailand und gehalten, pandora schmuck münchen um eine stärkere Konzentration auf das Design Aspekt pandora armband leder des Schmucks sie gesammelt hatten. Jetzt, 27 Jahre später, hat diese kleine Zeit Juweliergeschäft in eine internationale globalen Marke, Pandora, mit einem Team von 35 Personen am Hauptsitz in Kopenhagen, Dänemark, ein Team von über 100 Mitarbeitern den pandora armband nordamerikanischen Region gewachsen, und 1.000 Arbeitnehmer bei der Pandora Productions, sein Werk in Thailand. Heute hat pandora schmuck ringe beiden wichtigsten Designer, die den kreativen Zeug diese Reize, pandora ringe, Halsketten, Ketten und Perlen inspirieren. Beide sind ausgebildete Goldschmiedin ist das wissen die Ins und Outs der aktuellen Avantgarde in der Mode Schmuck-Design. schmuck pandora armband| schmuck pandora christ| schmuck pandora günstig| schmuck pandora style| schmuck pandora ähnlich| schmuck pandora| pandora schmuck armband| pandora schmuck berlin| pandora schmuck christ| pandora schmuck dänemark| pandora schmuck günstig niederlande| pandora schmuck günstig| pandora schmuck katalog| pandora schmuck ringe| pandora schmuck usa| pandora schmuck| pandora schmuck box| pandora schmuck dusche| pandora schmuck elemente| pandora schmuck forum| pandora schmuck kasten klavierlack| pandora schmuck kasten| pandora schmuck koffer| pandora schmuck kästchen| pandora schmuck reiniger| pandora schmuck ständer| pandora schmuck wäsche| pandora anhänger auto| pandora anhänger berlin| pandora anhänger billiger| pandora anhänger für armband| pandora anhänger gold| pandora anhänger gravieren| pandora anhänger günstig| pandora anhänger günstiger| pandora anhänger kette| pandora anhänger silber| pandora anhänger sternzeichen| pandora anhänger| pandora schmuck online bestellen| pandora schmuck online shop| pandora schmuck online| pandora schmuck onlineshop| pandora schmuck günstig kaufen| pandora schmuck günstig niederlande| pandora schmuck günstig| pandora schmuck günstiger| armband pandora anhänger| armband pandora günstig| armband pandora style| armband pandora ähnlich| armband pandora| silvery necklace| take jewellery| fashion join| hi jewellery| jewellery hello| jewellery hi| jewellery join| jewellery kids| jewellery women| jewellery womens|

gaolin says...

service -- $1,172 rather lv wallet rather than $629, plus $16 per mile louis vuitton damier graphite canvas mile rather than $11.After a decade of

lv sandals

of spiraling weight problems in America, hospitals

lv monogram multicolore

hospitals across the country are responding with


with bariatric specialized care -- from floor-mounted

シャネル ピアス

floor-mounted toilets to

xiaohe says...

ne jewelry repair sh links oF london jewelry replicas ne jewelry repair sh tiffanYs


In the modern age, when we can find the time on every laptop computer, microwave, cell phone, dashboard and other electronic gadget, we still need the fake Esq watches.After all, even with all those other methods of telling time, we still reflexively check our wrists when we're running late, waiting for a friend, or heading to a meeting.A replica watches is for more than just telling time, too.Depending on the Rolex Yachtmaster watches replica, you're saying a lot of different things about you.Finely crafted, beautiful replica Rolex Explorer watches are an indicator of your taste and sophistication.They're one of the few fashion accessories that a man can use to Bedat and co replica reveal personal style, especially if he needs to dress appropriately for work.Women can wear Brm watches fake like jewelry.A quality Giordano replica with sophisticated movements is a good choice.That's because these Montblanc watches replica will last a long time.Some fine U-boat watches fake are passed down, generation to generation, and there are lots of stories to tell about them.There are plenty of fine replica Piaget makers out there.Breitling is arguably one of the finest, a true work of art and craftsmanship.When we think of Breitling, we will link it with mens Zenith replica for professional divers, pilots, and astronauts. This is a brand that has a track record for about 120 years and with a long Baume and Mercier watches replica standing association among many professional sports and aviation. Founded by Leon in 1884, it has many outstanding achievements under its name. In 1915, the son, Gaston, founded invented the fake Cartier watches chronographs for pilots. Then in 1923, the independent chronograph pushpiece was patented. It registered another patent in 1926 with the 1/10th of a second counter.Their most significant patent thereafter was the Hamilton watches fake chronograph with seconds return-to-zero function. This was created by Leon’s grandson, Willy. It was in 1952 that they launched their international trademark mens Bvlgari watches – the Navitimer. It was a hot favorite among the pilots around the world then. The reason is this replica Invicta has the capability to measure speed as well as fuel consumption levels. Ten years later, 1962, the fake Franck Muller watches Cosmonaute was developed. It is a chronograph with a 24 hours dial instead of the usual 12 hours dial. It was replica Rolex Milgauss tested by astronaut Scott Carpenter when he brought it to for an orbital flight on board Aurora 7. In 1969 the Caliber 11 Chronomat mens DeWitt watches fake which has a self-winding movement was produced by the company, Heuer, and Hamilton-Buren.In 1995, the company made an amazing development with the replica Aigner. This is a replica Tissot for pilots that has not only chronometric functions but also incorporates a minuscule transistor that is able to send out distress signals with international frequencies during accidents. Indeed this very Rolex Air king fake saved 13 lives aboard the raft Mata-Rangi. During the 50th anniversary of the Navitimer, the company created an updated version of the original.If you're looking for a great investment that will instantly tell the world of your taste, class, and sophistication, a valuable Croum watches replica might be the perfect choice.The company offers a broad array of fine timepieces for any collector, and there are Zenith fake also fantastic vintage pieces on the market.Take a few moments to see what's out there. You'll be stunned by the beauty and function of these fine Longines watches.Shouldn't your Daniel Roth watches fake be the best? Invest in a Concord replica and enjoy everything that comes with a beautiful Ferrari watches replica.A great site to begin your search for an fake Hublot watches is the replica Cartier Shop. You will find a large selection of new and used men’s and women’s Audemars Piguet watches replica as well as information on fake Bell and Ross watches and product reviews.--The writer operates a website selling Breitling and other top quality Alain Silberstein watches fake, fake Rolex Daytona watches Shop and one selling Gucci watches fake, Bargain replica Versace.

alilia says...

Your post will be rather good, and I'm sure some will find it interesting because it's about a topic that's as widely discussed as others. Some may even find it useful. I have learned a significant amount of useful information from your post. Thanks so much for your post. Keep sharing. Replica Bags Coach Bag Coach Outlet Store Coach Bags Gucci Backpack Gucci ugg boots on sale ugg classic boots on sale cheapest ugg boots, at the same time the blog theme is unique and perfect, ugg bailey button sale great job. Good blog, I have bookmarked it for future references.

singing says...

Louis Vuitton sale tiffany jewelry tiffany co tiffany The program airs weekly spotlights on remarkable contemporary artists that include interviews, indelible venue histories and live performancesLouis Vuitton Handbags Louis Vuitton Louis Vuitton bags Louis Vuitton uk LV Handbags LV bags LouisVuitton

Gus says...

Mr. Smith: I enjoyed your article on Skynyrd in Gritz. I have every book out there on the band and I must tell you I had never heard the story about the planned dinner at Artie's house after the show that night or why Ronnie liked to sleep on the floor of the plane. From a big Skynyrd thank you for sharing your stories.

Gus says...

Wouldn't the world be a beter place if that plane crash hadn't happened! Think of the music they could have made. I saw the original band twice, the last time 6 monthe before the crash. Ronnie ask us in "Freebird" if we would remember him, with a sad heart today, I say hell ya, we still remember ya brother. God Bless all we lost that day and bless Allen and Leon also.

Please login or you can to leave a comment.

If you aren't registered, Register Now to start leaving comments.

Copyright 1998-2018 by Swampland Inc. All rights reserved.