" 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)


lewis5x // November 07, 2009 9:29:08 AM UTC

@Kimberly: Kimberly you are right, God does have plans for Gary. There are very few people these days that will openly confess God in there lives. Gary if you have a chance to read this know that God is with you on stage and off. I wished more musicians of your stature would profess thier belief in Christ. My prayer is that God will continue to work in your life and with the rest of the band. thank you for keep the music clean and rockin!!!

 Stat_freebird banner hangin' at the simple man saloon

mcskynyrd // November 07, 2009 2:55:20 AM UTC

Yo Gary! I want to thank you, Dale, Michael, Johnny, Sparky, Rickey, and our Brothers Ean and Billy for signing my banner in '07 (that "Toolbox" took care of it for me), and for giving me the honor and priveledge to get duplicates for ya'll, that "Toolbox" got to ya. Yes, I'm the one! Hopefully mysef & my wife Deb & Toolbox & Pete can all make it to the Freedom Concert on August 27th, next year, here in Salt Lake. Thanks for all the years of going, "Through It All"! Just keeping the faith alive here in Utah!


LS fan pembroke // November 05, 2009 10:14:11 PM UTC

Great interview, Gary your job has been to keep a true American Legend alive for your brothers who are now freebirds and your fans and what a job you do thanks from all of us and for another great album God and Guns. Skynyrd will always be #1


The world should be a Skynyrd Nation // November 05, 2009 9:18:58 PM UTC

Mr. Rossington,


I like the drive and outlook you have. I don't ever want to think about how great Lynyrd Skynyrd was or used to be... but how great Lynyrd Skynyrd is and always will be. Lynyrd Skynyrd isn't just a band or a group of people, it's a legend! And legends are forever. I really hope that the "torch" is passed on forever and Lynyrd Skynyrd is always a headline and music is produced for the rest of music's exsistance.


Swift // November 05, 2009 5:31:42 PM UTC

I too believe that God has a plan for you. I've been a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd for many years but didn't realize how y'all stood on political issues until recently. I like that new cd, God and Guns! Yes, God really does have a plan for all of you and it seems to be showing!

 Stat_freebird banner hangin' at the simple man saloon

mcskynyrd // November 05, 2009 10:10:30 AM UTC

So beautiful, what an interview! Keep'n the Suthyn Faith Alive and the wheels still a churnin' here in Utah! God Bless Lynyrd Skynyrd and the United States Of America! Total LOVE & RESPECT always!!


Skynyrdfan35 // November 04, 2009 10:49:25 PM UTC

Like i said before Gary Rossington is one the best southern rock guitar player ever. My Gary keep the Skynyrd sound going. SKYNYRD NATION CARRIES ON


NBwag // November 04, 2009 9:05:16 PM UTC

It is great to see that Gary gives credit where credit is due, GOD! May Gary continue to use his genious talent to keep Skynyrd rockin for years to come!!! God bless the Rossington family, and the entire Skynyrd family! NBWag


Kimberly // November 04, 2009 7:00:35 PM UTC

Hey Gary-
met U in Greenville recently (Rickey's friend/family)... anyway you are right Gary- GOD has always had a plan for your life- it is not crazy for you to say that. read Jeremiah 29:11...
You know Gary, He has kept you.. Know He loves you soooo much!
Anyway, I am glad to have met you- ya'll's music- well it has/is alway been a HUGE part of my life. ( I emailed Rickey pics of Greenville.)
God Bless you & Dale, your house & the rest of the band. And I live near you & Dale- in White County, near Helen. SHALOM!


dennis ray // November 04, 2009 5:37:12 PM UTC

Yes Gary god did have other plans for you. I my self survived a accident ten years ago that should have killed me, but I walked away with a few cuts. God works in wonders. Thank you, and all the other members, past, and present for keeping the music, and the legend of SKYNYRD going. I just love the new CD, hope more on the way in a couple of years or so. God bless you.

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