Greetings sports fans and welcome back for yet another thrilling episode of Vegas Valley Sports Beat that crazy little column that is heavily medicated for your protection. This episode as always is brought to you by me, your sports post host without the most, Charles Ramos Jr., Mark Satorre and our tireless commitment to bringing you the best of Las Vegas even if only every now and then :c) It is a hot, windy day here in the Las Vegas valley region but then again this is the desert and the last day of July so you pretty much had to see it coming didn’t you? And speaking of what’s hot and coming.
Let us turn our attention now to a legacy that I am sad to say is reportedly coming to an end after 41 memorable years when the legendary supergroup Lynyrd Skynyrd takes the stage in Las Vegas for the last time at 8:00 pm on Friday, August 16th at the T-Mobile Arena. What began in Jacksonville, Florida more than four decades ago is still rocking stadiums in 2019 but it seems the band has decided it is time to spend more time on family and fishing which sounds like a good an idea. Good as any I can come up with and I wish them all the best forever and then some.
I was a high school freshman in Ola, Arkansas in 1977 when my Cousin, Shirley asked me if I wanted to go to Little Rock with her and her fiancee to catch Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert to which I could not say yes fast enough. I was a big fan and very familiar with their body of work even then but I would have to wait many years before I would get the chance to see them in concert.
The group was en route from a Wednesday night concert in Greenville, South Carolina flying in a twin-engine Convair 240 aircraft and had one more stop to play before an expected crowd of 10,000 persons at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge on Friday night. And then from there, they would be flying to Little Rock but their plane failed to make it to Baton Rouge and crashed into the woods just outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi.
Three of the original members including lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister Cassie Gaines who sang vocals were killed in the crash along with Dean Kirkpatrick, the assistant road manager for the band, the pilot, Walter Wiley McReary, and his co-pilot William John Gray were also killed. The Enterprise-Journal reported that 20 others were injured in the crash. Including Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant who now fronts the band.
When I finally did get to see Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert it was in Roanoak, Virginia . in the ’90s. Paul Rodgers had just rejoined Bad Company who opened for them ahead of Driving And Crying. Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant was singing for Lynyrd Skynyrd and he was still on crutches and showing the long-term effects of the crash but in my estimation, he has done Johnny and the band as a whole very proud,
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band is now comprised of Johnny Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Rickey Medlocke, Mark “Sparky” Matejka, Michael Cartellone, Johnny Colt, Peter Keys, Dale Krantz Rossington, and Carol Chase. Their music catalog includes 60 albums that have sold over 30 million copies worldwide, two million downloaded ringtones, and the band has been on many tours to play for their adoring fans all over the world.
This is their second tour with Bad Company, something I am just now finding out by the way, as they close the curtain on the Last Of The Street Survivors Farewell Tour and the band stands unbroken. “People may say, ‘they need the money,’ well I don’t think any of us need the money,” Van Zant says. “It’s just that we love the music, it’s bigger than the money, it’s not even about that anymore. We have to make a living, sure, but it’s about the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what it stands for, what the fans are all about. There’s nothing like getting out there playing a great show with Skynyrd and seeing people love this music.”
“We’re still standing, still keeping the music going. We wanted to do the guys who aren’t with us any more proud, and keep the name proud, too.” Gary Rossington chimed in.
Indeed it can hardly be imagined that any of them need the money. Speaking only for fans like myself who for years only dreamed of ever hearing their music live I want to say to them that I still treasure the memory of that night and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. After you all left the stage there in Roanoake, Virginia that night a huge man in bib overalls and a beard down to his chest walked up to me with the biggest smile on his face and said, “Damn I needed that!”
I could never have said it better myself.
If you are in or plan to be in Las Vegas on August 16th you would be well advised to see them for the first time or even if it’s for the 10th time it might very well be the last chance you will ever get to see a spectacular classic rock and roll band with as much southern style as Lynyrd Skynyrd or hear Freebird, Sweet Home Alabama, and Simple Man played live ever again. Don’t miss it.