" 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)


fretboard78 // November 04, 2009 5:13:46 PM UTC

You know..., Gary's right. God did have a plan for him..., And, still does. I was home today,playing Skynyrd tunes on my guitar, like i have been for some twenty five years. And it was because of Gary and Allen,and Steve, and Ronnie, and that blistering Guitar attack that i heard way back in "77" when i was just a kid in sixth grade, that inspired me to pick up the Guitar and never stop learning and playing and beliving that Where all here on this earth for a breath of the Good Lords Second, Its very inspireing to know that Gary and all the guys and gals in Lynyrd Skynyrd are still pushin, still belivin, and still playin like they allways have ben.I Love the New Disc, And its nice to know that after all this band has ben through over its' Life time, There still that disire to make new music!!!!!!!! God Bless you guys!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the Hartfelt Crunchin Rock-n-Roll!!!!!!!!

 Stat_my fire picture

tammy s. kerr // November 04, 2009 4:18:05 PM UTC

What a great interview.
I'm so glad that Gary is keeping Lynyrd Skynyrd going for the generations to come.
Love the new CD "God & Guns".


racefan4ever // November 04, 2009 2:29:57 PM UTC

outstanding article,just recently picked up guitar magazine with a great article about the band,very enjoyable reading,big supporter in their beliefs

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