( Find part one here ) Even as the band traveled abroad to London for the first time on the infamous 1975 “Torture Tour”, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington explains in this week’s classic rock interview that lead singer/ lyricist Ronnie Van Zant found it hard to outrun his own shadow. As eldest son of Van Zant patriarch Lacey, a truck driver and former professional boxer, Ronnie had a notorious reputation in the band’s Jacksonville Florida hometown as a street fighting, straight razor-toting brawler. As undisputed band leader, Ronnie dealt out intraband discipline in a similar manner and, according to lead guitarist Ed King (below right), as the pressures of recording and touring increased after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third album Nuthin’ Fancy, the violence escalated. “There was abuse in ‘the family’ “, Ed King explains on why he quit the band abruptly midway through that tour. And following their first UK shows, original drummer Bob Burns likewise bailed on the boys from the cabin in the swamps on McGurd’s Creek, leaving the remaining four to face their first major defections from more innocent times.
This week’s In The Studio is particularly melancholy, as the interviews underscore the continued loss of dear hearts and enormous musical talents from Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as the pride and fierce determination of the survivors. For example, original bass player Leon Wilkeson appears here in what turned out to be his last radio interview before dying in late July 2001, teaming with Gary Rossington for insights into how Ed King’s departure plus a different producer affected the next album, Gimme Back My Bullets. And the late pianist Billy Powell makes a cameo here, as well, with his endorsement of our third guest, singer Johnny Van Zant.
The story behind surprise hit live album One More From the Road , and the stopgap time it afforded them to integrate guitarist Steve Gaines into the fold whiles writing some of their strongest material ever for Street Survivors , concludes this part two. –Redbeard
(Ed King (l), Gary Rossington (c), Johnny Van Zant in Dallas 1991)