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“If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”
– lyrics from ‘Freebird’ by Ronnie VanZant

For many people, Ronnie VanZant was Lynard Skynard.

Ronnie grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods of Jacksonville, Florida’s Westside known as “shanty town.” Ronnie was good at three things: fighting, baseball and music. He had hoped that his baseball skills would give him a major league career and rescue him from poverty, but that all changed when he first heard the Rolling Stones, “You’ve got to have a good arm to play outfield, but we gave it all up when we got to like the Rolling Stones.”

Ronnie wanted to be a lead singer and had heard rumors around Lakeshore Junior High that a bunch of kids were putting together a band. Ronnie crashed their auditions and announced, “I’m your new lead singer.” They all knew Ronnie would and could beat them in a fight and Ronnie immediately became their new lead singer. They later claimed that it was the best thing that ever could have happened. The group named themselves Lynard Skynard, which was a mocking tribute to their cruel gym teacher Leonard Skinnerd.

They struggled for many years and were just about to quit music when they suddenly rose to fame in 1973. They opened for The Who’s Quadrophenia tour. Their next album had the hit song “Sweet Home Alabama” and the rest is rock n’ roll history.

By October 1977, Ronnie had a one-year-old daughter at home and was getting tired of what he called, “the rotgut life.” Being on the road was killing Ronnie and there were rumors that he was going to quit after the tour.

Lynard Skynard picked up some ribs, fried chicken at a local joint and hopped on their private plane for the next leg of their tour. Their plane ran out of gas and crashed in a forest near McComb, Mississippi. Ronnie VanZant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines died instantly. Lynard Skynard’s drummer, Artimus Pyle, recalls “Ronnie was killed by a single blow to the head by a piece of music equipment. It was kind of ironic.”

Artimus quit the band shortly after the plane crash saying it could never be the same, “it was Ronnie’s band.”

The Last Supper
Fried Chicken

Lynard Skynard