Freebird: Lynyrd Skynyrd: Part 2

By  | October 7, 2018 | Filed under: News

First, I want to apologize to the readers of the Quad Cities Daily.  I wrote the first part of this article with plans to finish Parts 2 and 3 shortly thereafter.  However, as most people know, Life happens.  I got sidetracked with other projects, other articles, etc.  Recently I decided I wanted to finish this series.  To refresh my memory, I checked the Quad Cities Daily Website.  It appears it has been longer than I thought.  The original article was published in July, 2017.

So, to catch everyone up, here is the link to the original article or Part 1:

http://quadcitiesdaily.com/?p=396555

In January of 1975, Skynyrd Drummer Bob Burns left the band and was replaced by Artimus Pyle.  The band began working on their third album called “Nuthin’ Fancy.”  This album was completed in 17 days.  This album had lower sales than the previous albums.

In January 1976, Cassie Gaines, Leslie Hawkins and Jo Jo Billingsly were added to the band as backup singers.  They were collectively known as the Honkettes.  The band’s next album “Gimme Back My Bullets” was released and again it did not reach the sales of the first two albums.  Van Zant and Collins believed that the band had lost its original sound by not having the “Three Guitar Attack” sound on the first two albums.  Cassie Gaines began to talk about her brother Steve as the addition for the third guitar.

Steve Gaines was invited to audition onstage with the band at a Kansas City Concert on May 11th, 1976.  Steve played several times with the band before being invited to join the band in June of 1976.  With Steve Gaines on guitar, the band produced a live album called “One More From The Road” .  This album was recorded at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia.

Over the Labor Day weekend of 1976, both Collins and Rossington were involved in separate car accidents.  Rossington’s happened one black from his home.  Rossington’s wreck became the inspiration for the song “That Smell.”    There is a lyric in the song about “crashing his car into an oak tree while on Ludes (Quaaludes).  Due to the injuries to both band members, recording on the next album was slowed down.  After this Ronnie began clean up his act in regards to alcohol.

 

Gary Rossington’s car after the wreck

That Smell    (Lyrics)

Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars
Oak tree you’re in my way
There’s too much coke and too much smoke
Look what’s going on inside you
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Angel of darkness is upon you
Stuck a needle in your arm
So take another toke, have a blow for your nose
One more drink fool, will drown you
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Now they call you Prince Charming
Can’t speak a word when you’re full of ‘ludes
Say you’ll be all right come tomorrow
But tomorrow might not be here for you (yeah you)
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Hey, you’re a fool you
Stick them needles in your arm
I know I been there before

One little problem that confronts you
Got a monkey on your back
Just one more fix, Lord might do the trick
One hell of a price for you to get your kicks
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you

Hey, you’re a fool you
Stick them needles in your arm
You’re just a fool, just a fool, just a fool

In 1977, the band released the album Street Survivors.  Steve Gaines stood out with his guitar playing and impressed Ronnie Van Zant.  The album had classic Skynyrd songs such as “I Know A Little, What’s Your Name and  That Smell.”    The band was about to embark on their biggest tour yet.   In November of that year, they were scheduled to play Madison Square Garden.

After a performance at Greenville, South Carolina on October 20, 1977, the band boarded a chartered Convair CV-240, headed for Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  The plane ran out of fuel.  The pilot attempted an emergency on the edge of a wooded area.  This was five miles from Gulfport, Mississippi.  The plane broke apart upon hitting the ground.

Sadly, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, Dean Kilpatrick (Asst Road Manager), Walter McCreary (Pilot) and William Gray (Co-Piolt were killed upon impact.  Band members Collins, Rossington, Wilkeson, Powell, Pyle, and Hawkins, as well as Ron Eckerman (Road Manager) and several of the road crew were injured.

It was not known at the time but help was already on the way.  A United States Coast Guard Center in New Orleans, Louisiana had learned about the plane crash from Air Traffic Control out of Houston, Texas.   The Coast Guard scrambled a team and helicopter to overfly the area.  This was approximately 7:00 PM.  At 9:00 PM, six more Coast Guard Helicopters were on scene to help the crash victims.  The Survivors were quickly rushed to surrounding Medical Facilities.    Thousands of people began to filter into the area to see the plane crash.  I was later discovered that items from the band members had been taken.

   The plane crash came after the album Street Survivors were released.  The original album cover had the band standing in from of flames.  Steve Gaines appeared to have a halo of fire around his head.   Out of respect of the band and the request of Steve Gaines’ Widow, the cover was redone with the band in front of a black background.  Interesting note:  30 years later with the CD was re-released, the original flame cover was used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Original and re-issued Street Survivors Album Cover

Street Survivors became the band’s second Platinum Album.  The band disbanded after the plane crash.  Some of the members would get together at certain events and play an instrumental version of “Freebird.”    Many people think that Freebird is in regards to the plane crash even though the song was published before the crash.

Freebird  (Lyrics)

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me
For I must be travelin’ on now
There’s too many places I got to see

If I stay here with you girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can’t change

Bye and bye baby, it’s been sweet love, yeah yeah
Though this feelin’ I can’t change
Please don’t take it so badly
‘Cause Lord knows, I’m to blame

And if I stay here with you girl
Things just couldn’t even be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change

Lord knows, I can’t change
Lord help me, I can’t change
Lord I can’t change
Won’t you fly high free bird yeah

 

    Bobby Inman is retired from Law Enforcement after 21 years of Service.  He is a Consultant for Southern Heritage Gun & Pawn in Tuscumbia.   He has articles published in Law & Order Magazine, Police Marksman Magazine, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement Magazine as well as several published ebooks on Amazon, Kobo Writing, as well as Nook (Barnes & Noble).  He is owner of Poopiedog, an Animal Rescue Dachshund, who is his constant companion.   He is a Senior Investigative Reporter for the Quad Cities Daily.  Bobby is the Photographer for Continental Championship Wrestling. 

 

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