" I believe that God had plans for me" - Gary Rossington

By Julie Rosenbaum-Engelhardt
Evansville Courier & Press

EVANSVILLE -- To lead guitarist Gary Rossington, it wasn't fate that saved his life when he was a passenger on the plane that went down in 1977, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and two other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"I believe that God had plans for me and it wasn't my time to go," said Rossington, the lone original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Roberts Stadium. "I believe there was a reason for me being here. It sounds crazy, but that's what I really believe."

Unlike many bands who once enjoyed megastardom, Lynyrd Skynyrd isn't content to just play old hits. They recently released their new CD "God and Guns," from which they performed "Simple Life" on several late-night talk shows.

"This band has a lot of talent and we had a lot to say," Rossington said. "We're very happy with the response 'God and Guns' is getting."

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Rossington stood in front of a mirror with a broomstick, pretending to be Elvis Presley. When he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, he decided he wanted to get a Silvertone guitar.

"I was raised by my momma," Rossington said. "We didn't have much money, so I got a paper route and paid a $1.60 a month until my $8 guitar was paid for."

Playing Little League baseball, Gary met up with Ronnie Van Zant.

"Ronnie couldn't sing, but he acted like he could and we put a little band together and he sang Beach Boys and Stones songs," said Rossington, who barely knew any chords at the time.

Eventually, Lynyrd Skynyrd became one of the most admired bands of the 1970s and "Free Bird," along with Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," and Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," became an anthem for the entire decade.

Dale Rossington, Gary's wife, and a backup singer for Skynyrd, recalls that the Georgia phone book published their phone number and address.

"I can't tell you how many kids called about learning to play 'Free Bird' on their guitar and school projects," said Dale, an Angola, Ind., native who still considers herself a Hoosier. "One even sent up a screenplay. It was wild."

Gary donated his guitar, Berneice, named after his beloved mother, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Skynyrd was inducted into the Hall in 2006.

After the plane crash, the band went on hiatus and Rossington formed the Rossington-Collins Band. Dale Krantz, who had been a backup singer for .38 Special, which was fronted by Donnie Van Zant, joined Rossington-Collins as lead vocalist. She and Gary were later married. "The love story is still going strong," Dale said.

While Rossington was conducting this telephone interview, his two little grandchildren came down to show him their Halloween outfits. One of his grandchildren is named Jackson, after Jackson Hole, Wyo., which Gary says: "I've been to so many places in this world and I've never seen anything as beautiful or as close to heaven as Jackson Hole."

In 1987, Skynyrd did a reunion tour with Johnny Van Zant, the youngest of the three brothers, as lead vocalist and they've been going strong ever since. Johnny has fond memories of Ronnie, who was also Skynyrd's primary songwriter.

"My brother is probably up in heaven, fishing and laughing at us for having to work so hard down here," Johnny said.

Within the last year, tragedy struck Skynyrd once again. Keyboardist Billy Powell died of an apparent heart attack in January and bassist Ean Evans died of cancer in May. But as the song from "God and Guns" says, they're still "Unbroken." When tragedy hits them like the legendary Phoenix, Skynyrd continues to rise above the flames.

By Julie Rosenbaum-Engelhardt
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Posted by Lynyrd Skynyrd in Site News November 04, 2009 1:14:56 PM UTC |

Leave a comment (23 Responses)


luckymitzi // December 03, 2009 4:56:41 PM UTC

God works in mysterious ways.

If you're serious, God will help you.

God has a plan, Gary accepted that plan.

It's that simple.


frankieguns // November 19, 2009 3:53:56 PM UTC

I'am glad the lord has plans for Gary and the rest of the Band.Just like his plans for Me to be able to listen to them.I remember the day the crash happened just like the Day Elvis past on.I was so happy to hear that Rossington and Collins was formed and got to see the guy's live and enjoyed every minute of it.They have been knocked down so many times and back on their feet to be able to perform without missing a beat. They are the best that Music has to offer. God Bless all of them. I hope to get to meet them some day. Thanks Frank


peterg93 // November 15, 2009 11:39:15 AM UTC

Gary, you are so correct. It wasn't your day to die. I can relate to that very closely. My son was impaled onto a piece of steel after being hit by a backhoe at work. For all intense purposes he should be dead, however, the good Lord had other plans for him, as he has had other plans for you, your family, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
As for the new CD, it is OUTSTANDING! I personnally believe it is one of LS best. Great music and excellent lyrics.
Keep the music coming and never say never.


Bob Price // November 14, 2009 11:29:29 PM UTC

To Gary, will Dale step up to the mike anytime soon to sing a song from say, love your man? She still has a large group of fans who were left wondering
will she ever get a chance to.
Johnny, could you get a little more personal with the fans at concerts?
I used to kinda know a little squirt back in "Shantytown" and that little guy could talk up a storm; so how 'bout it?
The new Album is a major pump up for the fans I talk with; Gifted Hands is a fav. Could you guys put out more music,new, sooner than 6 years?
Could you help me out? I'm still looking for the book on "the Misterious death of Leon Wikeson" ?
Guys, just keep pumping out the major monster hits that only you can and teach the other bands on how you got the RESPECT they are tring to get.
thanks from ShantyTown


God's Girl // November 11, 2009 7:57:17 PM UTC

Oh yes...I believe it too...God had other plans and still has other plans for you, for many years to come, Gary! There are many, many times your precious life could have car wrecks, with health issues...the list goes on and on, as you are well aware. I believe you are a living testament to the glory and grace of a good God!! We love you, brother and all the Skynyrd family...God bless you and yours!


RIVERDOG // November 11, 2009 3:40:28 PM UTC

SKYNYRD is the best! I have 3 kids from age 8-16 that all know & love tons of SKYNYRD music.... they will live on for all time!!!
I'm glad SKYNYRD isn't content to just play their greatest hits for all time.... God & Guns rocks!!! Southern Ways might just be my favorite track - the Mrs loves Unwrite That Song.....
Keep it comin' boys!!!!


Kysunrize // November 10, 2009 3:18:27 AM UTC

Just returned from Lynyrd Skynyrd Concert in Evansville, was great as always. I took my 32 year old son with me. I raised him up listenin to Sknyrd, but he had never been to see them live. I can't explain what it was like to be standing next to my only son and seeing the look on his face when Skynyrd broke out on Free Bird it was priceless to me. When my best friend of 34 years passed away 4 years ago from cancer, he wanted to hear Free Bird and wanted me to be holding his hand. He got his wish Free Bird was playing and I was holding his hand when he flew from this world on the wings of that Heavenly Free Bird. Thanks for some wonderful memories with a gal's best friend and her only son that I have tried to raise up Like A Simple Man.


gbraves // November 09, 2009 9:08:40 AM UTC

great idea to explain the beginning of the news songs . That record is just of their best : there's no weak song in it . I love them all ;

Hope to see LYNYRD SKYNYRD in Paris soon . real soon ;


cub1062991 // November 09, 2009 3:23:58 AM UTC

I went to see the show Nov. 6 in Evansville IN, It was my frist time to Skynyrd in person. It was a great show, And I would go again. Gary you are the man. Fan forever Doug!


muleskyn // November 08, 2009 8:22:23 PM UTC

Gary has more lives than a cat. Thank god he is still doing what he and we love....making southern rock and roll music.

During the "RVZ years", Gary was my favorite guitar player in the band. I loved the poses and stances he would strike while looking across the stage at Allen. Bending backwards with his legs spread apart.....classic! The cover photo on One More From The Road shows Gary in my favorite stance. Gary is my guitar hero, a tough son of a gun and a blessed survivor.

Turn it up Gary!

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