If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd (2018) - full transcript

This authorized documentary will explore the music and backstory of the legendary American band. With the songs from the first six Skynyrd albums driving the narration, the film focuses on ...

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

- There's a whole new
generation of people

that they don't know

what the breadth and width
of Skynyrd is,

and I say, "Have you heard
Lynyrd Skynyrd?"

and they said,
"Yeah, yeah, 'Free Bird,'

'Sweet Home Alabama.'"

And I said,
"No, I mean anything else?"


And I'd sit them down,
and I'd play them stuff,

and they'd go, "Wow,
that's great,"

like that.

- One, two, three.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

- ♪ Well, I'll tell you
plainly baby ♪

♪ What I plan to do ♪

♪ Because I may be crazy
woman ♪

♪ But I ain't no fool ♪

♪ Your daddy's rich, mama ♪

♪ You're overdue ♪

♪ Now I ain't the one, baby ♪

♪ Been messing with you ♪

♪ Got bells in your mind,
lady ♪

♪ Ain't it easy to see? ♪

♪ I think it's time for me
to move along ♪

♪ I do believe ♪

♪ ♪

♪ I must be in the middle of
some kind of conspiracy ♪

♪ ♪

♪ Oh, no ♪

♪ Ooh ♪

- Three members of
the Lynyrd Skynyrd band

were among the six persons
who died in the crash

of that twin-engine plane near
McComb last night.

The plane apparently
was running low on fuel

and tried to make
an emergency landing,

clipped some treetops
and crashed into a swamp.

I just want to straighten out

that there's not a person
by the name of Lynyrd Skynyrd,

for those who are not
so informed,

and therefore
that person cannot die.

Ronnie Van Zant
was the leader

and the vocals you usually
heard from Lynyrd Skynyrd,

and he was one of
the six killed in the wreck,

and that's about the latest
we have on it right now.

- Ronnie, he called himself
the Mississippi Kid.

I never understood that
'cause I'm from Mississippi,

and I asked him
about that one time.

I said, "Ronnie,
you know, wh--"

and he said, "I don't know,"

but he died in Mississippi.

See? His songs
were really prophetic.

Everything he ever wrote
was true.

It was a true story,
or it came true later.

Ronnie Van Zant,
he's a prophet.

♪ ♪

- Man, a lot of this
I haven't been to.

- Well, it's all changed
in this area.

- I miss the moss.

There's no moss
in Jackson or Atlanta.

I never see it, anyway.

I love moss.

It's crazy, man,
how long it's been.

- I know.

- The stories from the original
band was 52 years ago.

Most people can't remember
that far back,

let alone rock-and-rollers.

♪ ♪

So we came down to a baseball
game here to watch Ronnie.

He was on a baseball team
called the Green Pigs.

Ronnie got up and went bam
and hit a line drive

right to Bob Burns' temple.
Boom, it hit him.

- Looked like a aspirin
coming straight to me,

and I wheeled around to--
to turn, try to miss it,

and it caught me right behind
the shoulder blades

and took every breath
I ever had in my whole life,

and I think Gary said
it hit me in the head,

but I--maybe it should have.

- So everybody running over.

"Oh, you killed this guy.
It's go--"

you know,
we thought he was dead.

- And Ronnie walked up
and looks down there.

He got this Mona Lisa
type grin, you know?

Like, a, "Well, I'm trying
to act serious,

but actually,
I think it's funny as hell,"

kind of look, you know?
And he went, "Sorry, kid."

- It came up that I had
a guitar,

and Bob played drums,

and we said,
"Ronnie, we know you sing.

Why don't you come
sing a song with us?"

and he went, "Yeah, let's go,"

and we went down to Bob Burns'
carport and played, I think,

"Time Is On My Side"
that day after the ballgame.

We went, "Wow, this is great.
Let's start a band," you know?

- ♪ Like to tell you all a
story ♪

♪ About a friend of mine ♪

- And I was just still
learning the chords and stuff.

We said, "Let's get somebody
that's got a guitar."

It didn't matter who, just
that they owned the equipment,

and Allen Collins
was in a band called the Mods.

He had a amp and guitar,
so we went looking for him,

and he was riding his bike,
and he saw Ronnie in the car

and went riding his bike
through the woods

and climbed a tree way up tall
so we couldn't get him.

He thought we were gonna
beat him up, or Ronnie was,

and Bob had a little bit
of a reputation too, you know?

And we said, "No, no, Allen.
Come down.

We want you to play
in a band," you know?

- Ronnie kind of raised
Gary and Allen.

Their fathers was gone.

- So we kind of were a family,
and I mean,

Ronnie kind of taught me
and Allen how to drive.

He was three years older,
so he taught us all that stuff

you learn when you're
14, 15, 16,

driving and girls.

- He took care of the band

just like a father would
a family, you know?

- And I wasn't real athletic,

and I ended up playing
in the school band, clarinet

and then later saxophone,

and I got tired of marching
around all football fields,

and one Friday night I decided
I'd rather play teen dances,

and that's when I got
with Ronnie and the boys.

Besides Bob Burns, Allen was
the next-craziest person

on the face of the earth.

- We all wanted
Allen's bellbottoms.

His sister made them.
He was so tall and skinny,

they looked good on him.
If we would have tried them,

they'd have been way too big
and looked goofy on us.

Allen was really loud,
and when he came in the room,

you knew it.
He'd knock stuff over.

- He used to sniff glue
when we first met him.

We could put a model airplane
together with his breath.

- Everybody took speed back
then, little uppers.

It was hard keeping a
girlfriend or going to school

or anything, learning stuff,

'cause we just wanted
to play guitar all night.

Allen and I used to talk.

We wished we could get thrown
in jail with a guitar

so that's all we could do,
is play.

Seventh, eighth grade,
and we were just playing

to teen dens and garages
for people at school.

They'd throw weekend parties,
you know?

And I quit sports,
and we quit baseball,

and just music, music,
guitar, guitar, guitar,

that's all we thought,
you know?

- We used to be called The 1%.
Here's our first band card.

It says the 1%.

That's--was made in '64 or '65.

- That was our home
phone number.

- Most everybody went
to the high school here.

I just went to tenth grade.

- Then Leonard Skinner
kicked me out.

After gym every day
you'd be getting dressed,

and he'd walk through
the dressing room

checking your hair.

If it touched your eyebrow

or touched the top of
your ear, it was too long.

That was the rules,
and he'd see that,

and he'd kick you out
to go get a haircut,

and finally one day
I just said,

"I ain't coming back."

- There was a song called
"Camp Grenada."

- ♪ Hello muddah,
hello faddah ♪

♪ Here I am at Camp Granada ♪

- ♪ Camp Granada ♪

- ♪ You remember
Leonard Skinnerd ♪

♪ He got ptomaine poisoning
last night after dinner ♪

- That's where I heard
the name from; it's in there.

I laughed my ass off.

A door would blow open.

Nobody's there.
"What the hell is--"

"That's Leonard Skinnerd."
They'd start laughing.

They picked up
on it a little bit,

and they'd use it.
Somebody's on the phone.

Nobody's talking, see?
Leonard Skinnerd.

A noise over there, and there
ain't nothing over there,

it's Leonard Skinnerd.

The dangedest thing happened.

A year and a half later

Gary got Leonard Skinner
as a gym coach,

and he was making them
cut their hair,

and here we were trying
to be rock legends, see?

Ronnie decided it was time
to change the name

'cause some of the people
were saying 1% talent,

and it pissed him off, so when
we were thinking of names,

I said, "Leonard Skinnerd."
They said, "Where?"

I said,
"No, Leonard Skinnerd."

They said, "Well, where, Bob?"

"Name of the band!"

and they--everybody
just busted out laughing,

and Ronnie said,
"By God, that's it.

You know, that is it."

♪ ♪

- I was in this band,

the Strawberry Alarm Clock,
west coast band.

We had a number-one record
in the fall of '67.

I had been to the South before
with the Beach Boys,

but you don't really see much

when you're just going
from hotel to gig,

and I really liked
what was going on down there.

It was a lot more real
than L.A. was.

It just seemed, like,
really down to earth,

and I figured if there was any

real good rock music

it probably had
to be down there.

When I saw Skynyrd play
the first time,

and I really liked them,

particularly the lead singer,

He was just so charismatic,

and music just seemed
to flow out of him,

and I said, "Well, you guys
got to keep on writing,"

you know, and a couple weeks

he called me at my hotel room,
and he said,

"I want you
to come down to this club

"called the Comic Book.
We're rehearsing down there.

We wrote a new song,
want you to hear it."

So I went right down,
and they played me this song

called "Need All My Friends,"
and a chill went down my back.

It just--I was seeing it,
you know?

- ♪ It's been so long
since I've been gone ♪

♪ Lord, I'm tired,
and I want to go home ♪

♪ My throat is raw
from singing the blues ♪

♪ Need all my friends
to talk to ♪

♪ Now, yes, I do ♪

♪ Need all my friends
to talk to ♪

- I said,
"I know you got a full lineup,

"but if you ever need another
guitar player or bass player,

please give me a call 'cause
I'd love to play with you."

- This pictures,
this is my mother

and my father
and my sister and Ronnie

in my mother's house
up in Georgia.

After I graduated
from high school, I left home

and ended up down here,

and I was ready to get out of
Waycross, Georgia,

and I met Ronnie,
and we were together,

like, nine years.

When I met Ronnie,

he was working at Morris
Auto Supplies as his day job.

As you can see in the picture,
he has on a wig

'cause you couldn't go to work
with long hair.

Dean Kilpatrick
was my roommate,

and I went over to the
Comic Book Club with Dean.

I met Gary first and then
hung out with Gary and Dean,

and then I met Ronnie,
and, you know,

after that was it, you know?

- ♪ Woman of mine ♪

♪ Can't let her go ♪

- I know they were good,

and I knew
that they were passionate,

and, you know, that's kind of

why I told Ronnie
to quit his job,

and I worked, and he got to do
what he needed to do.

Musicians are a rare breed.

It's, like, you know,
it gets in their blood.

They have to just go after it.

That's Dean in drag.

Dean was a character.

- I guess so.

- Dean actually dressed better
in--like, in the band,

and he looked like
the rock star.

He took--personally
took care of everybody.

Dean was
the personal assistant.

I guess that's
a good title for him.

- He was from New York City
and kind of wild

and knew all the ins and outs
of city life

that we didn't know.

He was, like,
a bartender roadie

where he took care of us
really good, you know?

Anybody who was sick or needed
a little more attention,

you know,
he was just there for you.

He was like the big brother
and sister and your mama

and everything.

I got a picture of him
I keep out over there.

I put it away recently

'cause some--certain times
I start missing people,

and it's hard to see them
every day without crying,

and he was just
a real great guy.

- As far as Ronnie,
I go back

before Gary and Allen and Bob

We used to play
a lot of sandlot

and hang out at the racetrack.

I mean, what's better
for 12-year-old kids

than having a racetrack
in your neighborhood, you know?

And we were what
you called west side.

We called it shantytown.

It was woods and swamps.

People were blue collar,

and a lot of people
didn't get out of high school.

There was a lot of people
we grew up with

didn't probably get out
of junior high school.

- ♪ Have you ever lived down
in the ghetto? ♪

♪ Have you felt
the cold wind blow? ♪

♪ ♪

♪ If you don't know
what I mean ♪

♪ Won't you stand up
and scream ♪

♪ 'Cause there's things
going on that you don't know ♪

- Look down here.
The damn buzzards

are in the road.

Look there. Look at them.

- This is Johnny's

and Ronnie's old house.
- Yeah.

Y'all need to lock
your cars out here.

- Ha ha!
- Wow, it freaks me out, Gary.

- I know.

I ain't been over here
in I don't know when.

- It just don't seem the same.
- Yeah, I know.

This is the old trophy room
where daddy had

all the gold records,
and everything was in here.

- Daddy loved the music stuff,

but my mom didn't care two
bits about it. She was like,

"Oh, them damn boys.
When you gonna get a real job?"

- "They'll just play that music
for a while. They'll grow up."

Growing up in the west side,
it was a bad area of town.

There was a lot of rednecks,
and, you know,

being in a band
and having long hair,

people didn't like us,
and they would come to fight

and see who could
beat each other.

Ronnie was quite the choice
before he got into music.

Ronnie was into kicking ass.

- He wasn't scared
of situations, you know?

If there was ten guys
coming at you with clubs,

he just walked right to them.

Jacksonville's got, like, five
or six different navy bases,

so we'd play a lot for

Now, what does a sailor want
to do besides be with a chick?

Fight. So we had to fight
our way out every night,

and Ronnie would always win.
Yeah, he was a great boxer.

- You know, it's not manly.
When you went to school,

you know, the athlete guys
and stuff didn't do poetry,

but Ronnie started
making up poems about sports.

He used to put them
in a three-ring binder.

He used to have that
under his bed.

I remember spending
the night under there,

and he'd have
his poetry in there.

I can't say I knew another guy
that was writing poetry

when I was in high school,
you know? I mean.

- We tried to write
common songs,

well, com--for common people,
for the street people,

and all the guys
in Lynyrd Skynyrd are nothing

but street people,
stay off the streets,

Skid Row,
the whole works,

and it's very easy for us,

you know,
to relate to that, you know?

We relate to that much more
than anything else.

- Lynyrd Skynyrd's home,
of course, was not Alabama.

It was Jacksonville,

and the group did not become
a success overnight.

In the beginning,
back in the early 1960s,

there were no fancy recording
studios or gold albums.

The group did a lot
of their rehearsing right here

in this field
in Green Cove Springs.

- You ever come out
to the Hell House much?

- Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I remember it was
a piece of crap.

- Yeah, it was horrible.

Well, see,
I don't see the slab.

It should have been
right arou--about here.

- Right here.
- Yeah.

- Right in here.

- Our road manager,
Dean Kilpatrick,

he knew of a cabin on the creek
that was for rent,

and he said
we could rehearse there.

We asked permission
to rehearse,

so that started
the whole thing right here.

Hey, we wrote "Free Bird'
here, you know,

and all the so-called hits.

People used to come up in

and come in and steal mikes

or--not big things
but little things.

And then one day we came in,
and a window was knocked out,

and there was a whole
amp gone,

so we started staying out here
with guns

to protect our equipment
every night,

and whoever had to stay,
you know, it was, like,

their day in the barrel
or something.

It was terrible
'cause the mosquitoes

would bite you
all night.

Roaches were everywhere,
and gators,

and there was rattlesnakes,
water moccasins,

anything you could find,
you know?

We didn't have any money
or food or drinks or nothing,

so it was hell,

and we called it
the Hell House.

♪ ♪

I bet you still catch fish
down here easy.

- Oh, hell, yeah, you can.
You can have a little--

- Well, something
just turned right there.

♪ ♪

- Barry walks in and plays me
this tape,

and I listened to it--you know,
just a little bit of it,

and I just immediately,

the second I got
the opportunity, I said,

"I want to work
with this band."

♪ ♪

This band was so

We taught them how to count
off the song, you know,

so they--"Count off the song."
They said, "What?"

They didn't know--have a clue
on how to do that,

but they were so good
and so disciplined

and so rehearsed

that I've never seen
the likes of them since.

- We'd go back and forth
all year,

record, like, two songs
and leave

and come back
a few months later.

We'd have to go tour
to get the money up, you know?

'Cause we were paying for it.
Everything was new to us.

I mean, we'd never been out
of Jacksonville ever,

you know, never.

Maybe to go camping out
in the woods somewhere,

but that wasn't out of town.

- We took our tapes, and we
shopped it every way we could,

ev--to every record company.

Believe it or not,
Lynyrd Skynyrd was turned down,

and this is after hearing
"Free Bird,"

now, turned down by nine
major record companies, flat.

They were like, "No.

We don't want them, period."

- So we were traveling around,
riding on amps,

having no money,
having empty bellies,

just trying to make it, man.
It was just hard times.

- Everybody was young
and stupid back then.

I was struggling.
I didn't have a job.

I was hurting,
so I packed up and left.

- Leon was in a band called
the King James Version.

It was a Christian band,

but they weren't
really doing Christian songs.

- The first time I saw them,
they were just real,

you know, sort of a born
losers type image,

you know, the underdogs.

♪ ♪

- Well, Leon could just play
any bass part;

you'd never have
to show him anything.

Any song you could start
playing he'd play,

and he was funny and goofy,

and he was just
a great addition.

- Noted musician and producer
Al Kooper remembers

the night he first discovered

Lynyrd Skynyrd playing
in a sweaty bar,

what else, in Atlanta.

- The thing that caught me
first was Ronnie.

I hated him, and I liked him
at the same time.

I said, "This guy is weird,
you know?"

He got me into it first
before anything else.

I just couldn't take
my eyes off him.

He was a very weird front man.

- We loved Al Kooper's music,
and he had just played

with Hendrix
on "Electric Ladyland."

He did all the organ,
you know, and would sit

and tell us all the stories
about how they recorded

and what Jimi Hendrix did,

and he had
one of his black Strats.

We'd just sit there
and hold it, me and Allen,

and just say, "Wow."
It was mind

- I made a deal
with MCA records,

a label deal,
and I called my label

Sounds of the South,
and I signed Skynyrd,

and we set to work.

♪ ♪

- That right there is
an example

of the people--you know,
The Beatles.

They're--they are
the first people

that really changed
my style of music

from a technical knowhow
to a little bit of feel

and a little bit
of boogie-woogie.

- Billy Powell,
our piano player,

he used to be our roadie,

and we didn't know
he play--he'd said,

"Oh, I play piano,"
but we didn't care, you know?

We were guitars.

He liked Yes and Emerson,
Lake, and Palmer,

and we didn't at the time,
but one night Billy said,

"If I ever played 'Free Bird,'
this is how I'd play it,"

and we weren't even
paying attention,

and he started out
with his--everybody

in the room kind of went,
and he played it all,

and we were just going,
"Oh, my God, Billy.

We didn't know
you were that good,"

so we fired him as roadie
and hired him as keyboard.

- I was playing a nightclub
in Greenville,

North Carolina,
with just a bar band.

We didn't do any originals,
but we really did

some great cover tunes.

Well, one night
out of the blue

I got a call from Ronnie
at the bar.

He said, "Look, you said
you wanted to join up.

You know, can you come down?"

I said,
"No, I don't have a car.

Can you come up and get me?"
He said, "I'll be right up."

So yeah, they came up
and picked me up,

and I think we started
rehearsal the next day.

It was a real pleasant setting

out in the middle
of a pasture,

but my either induction or

for joining the band

was to spend a whole week
out there at night by myself.

I mean, for me
growing up in L.A.

and you say touring
with the Beach Boys

and some of the people
I had access to

is a completely
different environment.

I wasn't sure if I was

to survive in this

but I was willing
to give it a shot,

and everything was
real strange to me.

What can I say?
I just felt so out of place.

I think I felt out of place
the whole time,

but that first day
I really felt out of place.

♪ ♪

- You know, there was all
those cows at the Hell House,

so every morning
we would go out

and get
psilocybin mushrooms

from all the cow patties
and make tea,

so we had a big pot of tea
on the stove all day,

mushroom tea,
and if you'd take a few sips,

and you'd be tripping,
you know?

The keyboard
would be floating,

or I watched the notes
coming out of my amp.

We would just talk and feel
each other's stuff come out,

you know?

- Well, when I joined the
band, the music is the thing

that really threw me
more than the people.

They had really come up
with such original tunes.

I didn't expect them
to have progressed that much.

♪ ♪

- ♪ I was cutting the rug down
at a place called the Jug ♪

♪ With a girl named
Linda Lou ♪

♪ Well, in walked a man
with a gun in his hand ♪

♪ And he was looking
for you know who ♪

- The day rehearsal would be
pretty much like this.

Everybody shows up,
puts on a guitar,

and Ronnie'd go,
"Well, you have any ideas?

Anything come to you
last night?"

The chances were real good
that one of us

had something on any day.

That was the one advantage

to having three
guitar players.

We'd just keep playing till
we found something he liked.

Once he'd write a lyric,
well, there you go.

Our work's cut out
for us for the day.

- Each line of each song
we knew,

and we'd break them down
at the Hell House,

and me and Leon would just
play it, then me and Bob,

then Leon and Bob,
then me and Allen.

We'd play all day
the same song

over and over
and over and over.

- I mean, what musicians
do you know would get up

at 7:30 in the morning
and be out there by 8:30?

Nobody, but we would, you
know, and that was the thing

that Ronnie was able
to pull together,

was guys that just really
wanted to work.

It was really productive.

It was the most fun part
about being in that band,

was going out there
in the heat in Hell House

and writing these tunes,
'cause you never knew

what you were gonna write.

I mean, for the musician
that just loves to play

it was a dream job,
even with the heat

and everything,
sweating all over your guitar.

It was perfect.

Hell House
was the reward, really, yeah.

- Patrol's at the crash site
now trying to determine

why a plane carrying
the Lynyrd Skynyrd entourage

crashed near McComb
last night.

At 7:47 Eastern Daylight Time,

the aircraft disappeared
from the radar scope,

and they lost radio contact.

The FAA's Jack Barker
says the thick woods

made the crash site difficult
to both find and get to.

- If you dig around right here
right now in this general area,

you're gonna find something,
I promise you,

just scrap pieces that have
been here, and it's aluminum.

It won't rust, so it's lasted
forever, you know?

Holy smokes, look at there.
Look what I found, boys.

Mm, here we go.
Now--good lord.

That's a piece of the plane.
Look at that. That's it.

- Yeah, that's it.
- It's got the rivet hole.

It's gotten a little corroded.
Man, look at that.

- Somebody, we don't know who,
put a marker here for--just

last--on the 20th,
I understand.

It just happens to be that
is the spot

where the plane--the nose
of the plane hit right there.

Most people don't know
where the plane crashed.

- Right.
- Very few can tell you.

They just come this way
and start asking.

We're 40 years past it now,

and I was 11 years old
and three hours north of here,

but I knew what had happened,
you know?

Well, I just always wanted
to find the story, the plane,

the site, the whatever,
and the next thing I know

I've talked to 20, 30 people
and gotten all their stories

that were here that night.

- You just don't forget it.

I mean, it's something,
you know,

tragic that's gonna be
in your mind always.

See, by the time they got
to the--right in here,

this point, they didn't have
any wings anymore.

- They broke them
off back there.

- It was just fuselage,
and that was it.

Big split came down like a--
and went across this way,

and when I pulled it up
like that,

you know, just a big space,
and then somebody on the ground

gave me a big,
long stick to prop it up.

I shined my flashlight
up in there,

and my first thought's,
you know,

"What's a bunch of hippies
doing on an airplane?"

'cause back in those
days hippies

usually didn't have any money.

You know, they were broke.

But the playing cards

was just--covered everything,
you know?

And people were moaning,
you know, "Get me out of here,"

and, you know,
we was just farm boys.

We didn't know
what we were doing, really,

but we just got them out.
I mean, it's just that simple.

- Dwayne's sister,
one thing she told me,

that all up in the trees--
she said,

"From their suitcases
busting open

and all that stuff,
there were socks."

She said, "Just socks went
everywhere," you know?

It was like Christmas,
like tinsel.

- The boys walked up to me and
told me,

they said, you know,
"You know who this is?"

I said, "No, hmm-mm."

He said,
"It's the Lynyrd Skynyrd band."

I thought he was lying.

They did a pretty
dang good job.

It's the best thing
you can ever say

for just a group
of come-together farmers

and loggers and ranchers
and stuff like that

and then a little volunteer
fire department.

They saved 20 lives.

Let's give them
full credit for that.

You know, the band wouldn't
have still be going on today

had they not done
what they did.

It's just an old memory now,
you know?

♪ ♪

- ♪ Train roll on ♪

♪ On down the line ♪

♪ Won't you please
take me far away? ♪

♪ ♪

♪ Now, I feel the wind blow ♪

♪ Outside my door ♪

♪ I'm leaving my woman
at home ♪

♪ Oh, yeah ♪

♪ Tuesday's gone
with the wind ♪

- Do people literally knock
on your door?

- Oh, yes.
- "Hey, I heard Skynyrd

recorded here?"
- Yup, they do.

A couple times a year they'll
come in, and we'll show them

and just walk them over
to the warehouse and,

"This is where it was."

- Can't do that now, but you
kind of came through here

and just opened up the door
to the control room,

and you walked up these steps,
and you were there in the room.

Besides Al Kooper, I was
kind of the main engineer

for that first album.

We really got lucky on sound
'cause when we started

the acoustics of the room,

it was really a great space
to record guitars

because where it was the sound
like a live room.

- Any studio, to us,
was cool as hell

because it was
a recording studio.

We were really loose in there.

It was real laid back,
and we'd all sit in

and listen to every part
of every song of every mix

'cause where was
the cooler place to be,

the hotel sitting
or at the studio?

- ♪ Daddy was a Cajun, baby ♪

♪ Raised on Southern land ♪

♪ And so my kinfolks tell me ♪

♪ Was a street fighting man ♪

- Over the course
of the album,

I learned how they worked.

They had
an amazing methodology.

They had that rehearsal place
out in the swamp,

and there was
no improvisation whatsoever

once they left the swamp.

Now, as a producer,
that's a godsend.

All the guitar solos
and keyboard solos

were always played
exactly the same.

I never heard of such a thing,
and they were great solos.

♪ ♪

- I remember back
to doing solos

with Allen Collins,
and when he got through

I cried,
it just was so emotional.

I mean, the way he performed,

you know, his whole body
was into it and everything.

- We all kind of helped Billy.

He wasn't no rock and roll
piano player.

He was trained classical,
so we had to say,

"Don't play all that there.

Just go

He'd go, "What? I can't just do
that the whole song,"

but that would be great,
really fit.

- Really,
it was a piano record

much as it is
a three-guitar army record.

That's what made them Skynyrd,

was them having different
styles in the band.

- The first album cover
shows me standing there

all by myself
on the far right-hand side,

and that was the last shot
of a all-day photo shoot,

and there's a lightning bolt
going right through my head.

- ♪ Drank ole poison whiskey ♪

- And right after that,

Gary got up
and threw up on the curb.

- ♪ Don't you drink it, boy ♪

♪ Play guitar ♪

- We are about to take
an interview

of Ronnie Van Zant,
singer, songwriter,

and lead redneck of the pride

of Jacksonville,
Lynyrd Skynyrd.

- We play exactly what we like
to play, and personally,

we did like to play country
and blues, stuff like that,

but Lynyrd Skynyrd's a rock

and roll band
and boogie-woogie.

That's what we get paid to do,
and this--we like that too.

- Ronnie, his writing
has seeped

into my sad blues guy
kind of voice.

When I first picked up guitar
when I was 14,

I would go up
into my dad's music room.

I'd play guitar to a bunch
of Allman Brothers records,

and that's kind of
how I fell into that, like,

'70s Southern rock world.

♪ Mama told me ♪

♪ When I was young ♪

♪ "Come sit beside me ♪

♪ My only son" ♪

I was hanging out
with a buddy of mine,

and he was like, "Yo, man,

"if you like
the Allman Brothers,

you've got to listen
to Lynyrd Skynyrd."

He showed me a video of Gary
just ripping a slide solo

as he had, like,
a cigarette in his hand.

I'm just like, "What is
this dude"

- ♪ And be a simple ♪

♪ Kind of man ♪

♪ Oh, be something you love
and understand ♪

♪ Baby, be a simple ♪

♪ Kind of man ♪

♪ Oh, won't you do this for
me, son, if you can ♪

♪ Oh, yes, I will ♪

♪ ♪

- We played "Simple Man"
and Al Kooper,

he didn't like the song.

He said, "That's boring, man.

It doesn't mean nothing,"

but Kooper, we'd call him
a Yankee slicker.

He was totally different
than us.

We were all from simple
Southern home-cooking

mamas, you know?

And so we thought
it was a great song.

- And so Ronnie takes Al
out to the car,

and he opened up the door
to the--Al's Bentley

and put him in the car
and shut the door,

and Ronnie stuck his head
into the window, and he says,

"When we're done cutting it,
we'll call you,"

and that's the way it was.

- He was the boss.

I feared him.

- I've tended to write
about places

I've seen and things
that I've done, normal things,

things that
you've done, really.

I think if you write it
really simple,

then you can reach
more people that way

because more people's
gonna understand

what you're talking about
and what I mean.

- I guess I showed up
to rehearsal a little bit

after everybody else,
'cause when I got there

Gary was playing
a riff sort of like this.

It went...

[playing slow,
descending melody]

♪ ♪

You know?

And I walked in
and picked up my Strat

and just bounced that--
mine off of his.

♪ ♪

And Ronnie's sitting over
in his--on the couch

where he always sat,
and he kept going like this.

That means don't stop.
Just keep running it,

running it, running it,
you know?

So within about 15 minutes
he started writing the chorus,

so we had a verse
and a chorus.

Then he says,
"Well, I'll see you later.

I'm going down to go fishing."

So we stayed up there,

and we're working on the music.

He's listening down there
'cause the music traveled down

the creek really well,
and he comes back, I guess,

in about an hour
and a half and grabs a mike,

and he sings all the verses.

He always wrote in his head,
he never wrote anything down,

so we were able
to kind of arrange it.

- The week that first album

was being pressed

Ronnie called me up,

and he said,
"We have a new song.

"I love it
the way it is right now.

"I'm scared it's gonna change

by the time
we do the second album."

They hadn't even toured
the first album.

It wasn't even on
the street yet.

He said, "I want to come up
and record it now,"

and they drove
up and played me

"Sweet Home Alabama."

I said, "I'll see you
in the studio tomorrow.

This is a hit record."

♪ ♪

- ♪ Big wheels keep on
turning ♪

♪ Carry me home to see
my kin ♪

♪ Singing songs
about the Southland ♪

♪ I miss ol' 'bamy once again,
and I think it's a sin ♪

- We used to do clubs
and teen dens

and stuff all around Alabama,

and driving
through the country,

it was beautiful
and great people,

and if you had trouble,
they'd come out to help you.

- ♪ Well, I heard Mr. Young
sing about her ♪

♪ Well, I heard ol' Neil
put her down ♪

♪ Well, I hope Neil Young
will remember ♪

♪ A Southern man
don't need him around anyhow ♪

- We just love the South
attitude and the people.

That was our first experience,

is playing
all the Southern states

'cause we weren't known
anywhere else.

We couldn't afford
to drive it,

and we really weren't booked
anywhere else,

and then Neil Young had wrote
"Southern Man" and "Alabama."

- ♪ Southern man better
keep your head ♪

♪ Don't forget what
your good book said ♪

♪ Southern man ♪

- We didn't like him
cutting down

Southern guys, you know?

♪ ♪

- ♪ In Birmingham they love
the governor ♪

♪ Boo, boo, boo ♪

♪ Now, we all did
what we could do ♪

♪ ♪

♪ Now, Watergate
does not bother me ♪

♪ Does your conscience
bother you? Tell the truth ♪

- It was right at the time
that the Wallaces were out,

and there was all this race
riots and stuff,

and a lot of people believed
in segregation and all that.

We didn't,
so we put the "boo, boo, boo"

there so it was saying
we don't like Wallace,

but I don't know.

There's a lot of
different interpretations.

I'm sure if you ask
the other guys

who are not with us anymore
up in rock and roll heaven,

they have their story
of how it came about.

- ♪ Alabama ♪

♪ ♪

- "Sweet Home Alabama,"

probably one of the strongest

and most controversial
musical statements

ever about the South,
was really the first

sweet taste of success
for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

- We knew that by doing
that song

and writing those lyrics,
we knew in the beginning

that we'd get a lot of heat
from it, you know?

And, you know, I did attack
Neil Young in that song.

He says, "What are you
talking about, you know?

From what I'm told, you was
born in Canada," you know?

- Before the first album
came out,

I bumped into Pete Townsend.

I knew him quite well.

I'd played on some Who things.

I said, "What are you doing?"

and he said, "Well, we're
going out on a big tour."

He said,
"Do you know a great act

we could use for an opener?"

I said, "You know,
it's funny you say that."

♪ ♪

- Let's pick it up!

- The first night
we played with the Who,

we were used to playing
clubs and dances

at maybe 100, 200 people
at the most,

so we were opening
at the Cow Palace

the first night
for 18,000 people,

and we looked out
and we were freaked out.

We had to have a drink before
we could go out and play.

We was so nervous.

They only gave us some nights
20 minutes and others 30.

So we'd do "I Ain't the One,"
"Poison Whiskey,"

and another song
and then "Free Bird."

That was it, you know?

- ♪ Oh, help me,
I can't change ♪

♪ Lord, I can't change ♪

- "Free Bird," it's just
a simple little love song

about leaving a girl.

Allen came up with that riff
in high school.

We wrote it as a slow song,

and we didn't have the end
lead early in our career,

but we were playing clubs.
We'd play "Free Bird,"

and we would jam on it
so Ronnie,

we could rest his voice,
so the first time was,

like, a minute,
and then it'd be four minutes.

Then it would be
six minutes or eight.

Then it got to be 20 minutes
at the end.

♪ ♪

I mean, Allen did that solo
at the end of "Free Bird,"

when he was 17, 18.

People just weren't playing
like that then, you know?

Clapton was maybe.

- We played an audience,
and they'd flip out,

go wild, you know?

Just gives you chills
all over, you know?

- Something magical
about that song

'cause when it gets
to the peak,

it's sort of almost becomes
like a force of nature.

Even playing it, you
can feel the force in that.

♪ ♪

- One night we got better
reviews than The Who.

We didn't like that.

We thought
they were the guys, not us.

- We hit it every night.
We had a job to do,

and we knew it.
We weren't gonna lay back.

Our job was really to blow off
stage the band following us.

Ronnie made that clear.

It's a competition, and
whoever we're playing with,

we're gonna
blow that band away.

- The Who tour did a lot,
and "Free Bird,"

it was not a hit single,

it was better

'cause it sold albums,
not singles.

- To me there's nothing freer
than a

Just flying wherever
it wants to go,

and I don't know,
that's what this country's

all about, you know?
Being free,

and I think everybody
wants to be a free bird.

- We did The Who tour,

played in front of tens
of thousands of people, man.

Then we still went back
to clubs and 100 people here

and 50 people there,
and oh, my God.

- Well, we'd stay at Days Inn
and get two rooms.

I mean, just we had basically
four people in a double bed,

and trying and sleep with
Ed King

with four people
in a double bed, 'kay?

♪ ♪

- ♪ Oh, seven years
of hard luck ♪

♪ Coming down on me ♪

♪ From the Florida border ♪

♪ Yes, up in Nashville,
Tennessee ♪

♪ I worked in every joint
you can name ♪

♪ And for every honky-tonk ♪

♪ Along comes a Yankee
slicker saying ♪

♪ Maybe you're what I want ♪

♪ Want you to sign
your contract ♪

♪ Want you to sign today ♪

♪ Gonna give you lots of money
working for MCA ♪

- When we did the second
album, I wanted to do it

in Los Angeles.

They were not happy
about that.

- ♪ They're gonna take me out
to California ♪

♪ Gonna make me a superstar ♪

♪ Just pay me all my money so
maybe you won't get a scar ♪

- We didn't have much money.

Everything we got
we had to spend,

so we were playing
the Whisky a Go Go at night,

and then
we'd go record all day

and then sleep where we could
here and there, you know?

- We were all in hotels,
and it was a new thing.

The surroundings
were even more evil

'cause it was Hollywood,
you know?

There's just too much
going on here, you know?

It took them out of their
comfort zone, and, you know,

they wanted to just go
into a room and just record.

You know,
it was a record plant.

You walk out the door,
and, you know,

there's Joe Walsh
and Jackson Brown

playing pinball,
you know, a big room

that Stevie Wonder was in,

and then one day
we're sitting there,

and John Lennon
and May Pang walk in.

We couldn't play
the rest of the day.

- It was work.

It was really work
pulling that record together.

- One night we went into
the studio to record,

and they had power trouble,

and we went down
and saw "The Exorcist."

Bob Burns just had, like,
a mental breakdown.

It freaked him out, man.

Really, it--he thought
his wife was the devil,

and he thought this cat
was the devil.

There were a lot of things
going on.

A wife would get pregnant,
or somebody'd break up,

or there was, you know,

all those complications
and being away from home,

and we were still
in your early 20s.

You don't know
what's happening, really.

Didn't really take time off
much at all, you know?

- ♪ Well, it's true
I love the money ♪

♪ And I love
my brand-new car ♪

♪ I like drinking
the best of whiskey ♪

♪ And playing
in a honky-tonk bar ♪

♪ But when I come off
the road ♪

♪ well, I just got
to have my time ♪

♪ 'Cause I got to find a break
in this action ♪

♪ Else I'm gonna lose
my mind ♪

♪ So don't ask me no
questions ♪

♪ And I won't tell you no
lies, that's right ♪

♪ ♪

- When I joined the band
that first time,

I was the drummer.

We spent a lot of time

in Muscle Shoals
going back and forth,

but I said, "The drums are just
really not for me," you know?

I missed playing guitar,
and I left the guys.

Less than a year later,
in '73, "Pronounced"

came out, and they were off
and running.

It really wasn't meant for me
to be there then.

It was meant for me
to be here now.

I was raised by a great
musician, my grandfather,

Shorty Medlocke.

He pretty well much was
a delta blues bluegrass player

and a solid foundation in music
around this town anyway.

Ronnie would come over here
and sit on the porch

watching my old man
play his Dobro.

My old man would sometimes
be out here at 2:00 a.m.

in the morning playing.

Me and him both would
stay out here for hours.

Ronnie had taken the influence
of my old man

doing that coupled
with the fact that he loved

Son House, the blues guy,

and out of it was born
"Curtis Loew."

- ♪ Play me a song, Curtis
Loew, hey, Curtis Loew ♪

♪ I wish that you was here
so everyone would know ♪

♪ People said you were
useless ♪

♪ But then people all
were fools ♪

♪ 'Cause Curtis,
you're the finest picker ♪

♪ To ever play the blues ♪

♪ ♪

- We heard about this band

the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.

They were kicking it up
and tearing it down,

and we were booked together

on a string of dates,
and I played with them.

That's the first time
I remember meeting them.

With this guys, it was like
working with family,

which it was not always
like working with family

with a lot of other people.

Southern boys played blues.

There's no two ways about it,

but Ronnie Van Zant,

he was a master at doing
redneck, working men's lyrics.

♪ ♪

- I figured you'd have some
moonshine laying around, Coop.

What is that,

some of no--northeast Georgia
mountain water, is all that is.

- I've listened to Skynyrd
ever since

they actually started,
pretty much.

- This is where I really got
broke in on Skynyrd, I'd say.

He had a old tape
that he used to put in there.

- An old cassette tape
was one.

- And it stayed on,
I mean, nonstop.

- I gave that--that cassette
to Brantley.

I said, "Here, you need
to learn these songs,"

and it wasn't two days
he was back over here.

He had, like, two
or three of them nailed.

Like, "Damn, I hear ya,

- I have a line in one
of my songs that says,

"There's always some drunk guy
in the back

screaming out 'Free Bird!'"

Every show you play, somebody
wants you to play "Free Bird,"

but I always felt like that was
a song you ought not touch.

- Yeah.
- You know, I fell in love

with guitars,
with big sound,

and you know what the songs
were about, you know?

It's about the South.
I could relate to it.

Me and all my friends.

You know, that was our music.

It puts you out here, you know?
- Yeah, kind of like

a hometown band to us.
- Yeah.

- Yeah.
- Yeah.

- Georgia peach.
- I think it's good.

- I did.

- Welcome to drink.

- All right.

- Put the camera down!

He said, "Fuck it."

- One, two, one, two, three.

- "Saturday Night Special"
is a song that deals

with a very real and dangerous
subject in today's America.

Our interview of Lynyrd
Skynyrd focuses on this now.

- ♪ Oh, yeah ♪

- "Saturday Night Special,"
we'd just known some friends

that a friend shot
another fiend

'cause they were
drunk playing poker.

- ♪ Handguns are made
for killing ♪

♪ They ain't no good
for nothing else ♪

♪ So why don't we don't
we dump them, people ♪

♪ To the bottom of a sea ♪

♪ Before some old fools
come around here ♪

♪ Want to shoot either
you or me? ♪


- I have a old gun,
a 1874 Springfield,

but it's old flintlock gun.
It hangs over the fireplace.

- Oh.
- I've been shot myself,

and I don't want
to get into that,

but that happens,
you know, every day.

I mean, if you watch, where I
come from, the 6:00 news

every night,
just look at homicides

every night because of that.

I don't--I really
don't like them.

♪ ♪

- I love people.
I love talking to all people.

I love black people.

I love Chinese people,
Japanese people, German people.

I love gay people.
Do I live in fear?

No. Do I have a gun?

There's not a gun
in this house.

I hate guns.
I'm trained marine.

You know,
they call us trained killers.

I've never had to kill
anybody. I never want to.

I am a left-wing
liberal hippie.

I always will be.

I love this picture of Ronnie.
He's got his Shoco shirt on,

and there he is kind of
looking down from heaven,

"Keep it real, Artimus,"

and--and just this little space
here is,

if nothing else, it's real.

I was living in Spartanburg,
South Carolina.

We called it Sparkle City,

and Bob was having
some medical problems.

So Ronnie calls me up,
and he goes,

"I just want to know
if you can play.

Everybody says you can."

- Artimus was badass.

He was a tough ex-marine,
you know?

He was the only one that
could actually throw Ronnie

around a little bit,

but he was different
than us too.

He was from the Carolinas.
He was a vegetarian.

That was way different than us.

We were barbecue boys,
you know? He liked vegetables.

- What I do for Lynyrd Skynyrd
is purely physical,

so having my health
is very important.

Usually on the road
I live on yogurt and nuts,

and the people that come up
to me

and say, "How do you do it?"

It's just something
that I do every day,

and if you do something
every day,

you're bound to get good at it.

- Artimus could play
on the stuff he wrote

with the band very well.
It's one of those things,

but he had trouble
picking up Bob's feel,

so that's when you had
to go to Europe,

and we had to take Bob
to Europe,

and things didn't go well.

- Every damn country
we went to,

about the size of Georgia.
Nobody spoke English.

I was in France,
ordered a ham sandwich.

They brought me
back a Marlboros.

- Bob had a nervous breakdown
about two weeks into the tour.

- And we were at a hotel, he
went nuts, so they all said,

"Hey, go in there
and talk to Bob."

They were scared to go in.

Even Ronnie was, you know,
behind the curtain going,

"You go in there,"
and I went in.

He had--all the stuff
was rearranged

and changed and weird,

and he was talking
in this weird voice.

- He was really kind of going
through a devil possession

type trip, and it was not fun.

- I don't remember ever being
fired from Lynyrd Skynyrd,

and I never quit.

I just got taken over
with some illnesses that I had.

They just kind of
broke reality for me,

but, you know, when I think
of Lynyrd Skynyrd,

I just think about
some outrageously fun times,

you know?

♪ ♪

- by 1975 the world

was paying lots of attention
to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Their powerful
three-guitar attack,

Ronnie Van Zant's
blatantly honest lyrics,

and the band's reputation for
increasingly nasty behavior

had endeared them to millions.

♪ ♪

- When I came to town
to record the third album,

they weren't ready at all.

- We only had a few songs

and then some of them we had
to write right in the studio.

We'd wake up and go,
"What are we gonna do?

Somebody come up with an idea,
and we'll work on it."

- ♪ I dropped off a boxcar
down around Tennessee ♪

♪ ♪

- There was girls
and just problems

coming around,
and my teeth were all hurting,

and I had four wisdom teeth
taken out.

There's a lot about that
record I don't even remember

'cause of the pain pills
and the drinking we did.

- They didn't all know
the songs,

so I was very upset.

The key ingredient was missing
from that album,

which was the rehearsing
at the swamp.

We had to do
a rush job on that.

- Why couldn't you buy them
more time?

- Because there was none.

They were going back
on the road again.

♪ ♪

- ♪ I'm headed down
a highway ♪

♪ Got my suitcase by my side ♪

♪ A blue sky's
hanging over my head ♪

♪ I got 500 miles to ride ♪

♪ I'm going down to Memphis
town ♪

♪ To play a late-night show ♪

♪ I hope the people
are ready there ♪

♪ 'Cause the boys
are all ready to go ♪

♪ Well, I'm a whiskey
rock-a-roller ♪

♪ That's what I am ♪

♪ Women, whiskey and miles
of traveling ♪

♪ Is all I understand ♪

- All you did was rehearse,
write new stuff,

and then go tour.
We were always working,

but that's all we knew
and wanted.

We finally made it,
and people were coming,

so we wanted to play.

We just never quit.
It was torture.

- You've just completed
a European tour.

You're about to set out again
to conquer the United States,

and you're really
a touring band.

Does it get to you
after a while?

- We get a lot of publicity
about busting up a place

and being really mean
or something like that,

but you just get really tired.

You're about to just flip out
and go over the deep end

and just say,
"To hell with it. I quit."

Well, instead of doing that,
we just liable to knock

a hole in the wall
or anything--any way

to let--to let energy off,
you know?

It's also a tax write-off.

- Nobody, no band or no human
thing lived on this earth

partied like Lynyrd Skynyrd
partied, okay?

Nobody did.

- Let's just admit it.
I mean, it was the '70s,

and there was lots of cocaine,
pills, alcohol.

Promoters would always
backstage provide

cases of scotch and whiskey
and beer and cartons

of Winstons and Marlboros and,
you know, a big food spread.

But my boys, I think they felt
they were supposed to smoke

every cigarette and drink
everything provided and eat

what they wanted and throw
the rest against the wall.

- ♪ Women, whiskey
and miles of traveling ♪

♪ Is all I understand ♪


- That was our
road manager's duty,

to carry a briefcase
with probably $250,000 cash

to buy the band members
out of jail,

to pay off really mad
hotel owners

that were upset
over destruction.

- But the road with Skynyrd
was always

just a absolute clusterfuck.

- Billy and Leon used
to put cigarette butts

into each other's hair and--

- Billy had very curly hair,

and Leon would call it
his briar patch,

so Leon would take these
huge drags off a cigarette

and then waft it into
Billy's briar patch,

so it looked like
Billy's head was on fire.

- They'd put lipstick on each
other while they were asleep,

and if you do that
on a commercial flight,

they wouldn't like that.

- In Europe you leave
your shoes in the hallway.

Leon thought that it would be
a really good idea

to take a number two
in some guy's shoes

that were outside of his door.

I don't even know want to know
how he did it.

Anyway, this man starts
to slip on his shoes.

He's goose-stepping up
and down the doggone hallway

at the top of his lungs,

and now, of course,
everybody in the hallway

is looking out their doors,

and so it's not obvious
to this man

which long-haired
hippie nutcase did it.

Of course, later, you know,

"Heh-heh-heh. I did it."

- I think the whole
demolishing of the hotel room

is so childish.

If life was bad enough
on the road where you

couldn't get any sleep,
at least like to have

a nice bed to sleep in
once in a while.

♪ ♪

- Ed King has a total
different mindset

than Southern country dropouts

who weren't very literate,
and he was college educated.

He didn't really fit in
as your brother on the road.

He would stop and buy $100
worth of Slim Jims,

you know, and have them
in his briefcase,

and then you're driving
for an hour or two and hungry,

so he'd sell them to us,

but he'd double
or triple the price.

"I'll give you this Slim Jim
for $1.50 instead of 25¢."

You know? A lot of times
he was stingy with his drugs.

- We were in New York City,

and I was doing LSD.

I was tripping.

I didn't trip a lot,
but every once in a while

I'd get my hands
on some windowpane,

some owsleys, you know,
lysergic diethylamide,

and we were having
a photo session.

This monkey roller-skates
in across the dance floor.

He jumps up on the table.

Allen hands the monkey
the bottle of Jack Daniels,

and the monkey just turns it up
and starts drinking,

and Allen's looking at me
with this big smile like,

you know, and I'm going,

"There's a monkey
drinking jack Daniels

"that just roller-skated
into the room.

Okay, okay, I'm good."

- There was one place
in Waterbury, Connecticut,

I'll never forget it,
and we had our first bus.

Somebody had
left the brake off,

and the bus had careened
through the parking lot,

over a sports car,
through the gas station,

and lodged into the bank,

and I thought
that was hilarious,

and that was,
I'm sure, on purpose.

Okay, so I'm a hypocrite.

So I thought some of
the destruction was funny.

- We went to England.

They acted like
we were the Beatles...

- Thank you!

- And we couldn't believe it.

We were looking at each other

"God, can you believe this?"

They'd never heard
of a Southern music

or Southern bands.

Over there, anybody
from America's a Yankee.

They call you Yankees,

but we said, "No,
we're from Southern America."

"Yeah, you're a Yankee."

We didn't like it

'cause it was like California
was a different scene,

and New York was a different
scene, and the South,

and that's where
the flag came from.

- ♪ Sweet home Alabama ♪

- It was a gimmick for us
at first, you know?

A Southern band, and MCA made
that a gimmick, a hype thing,

and then Southern band,
you know, and hard rock

and rebels and drunken
fighters and all this stuff,

and then they put out
that publicity and hype.

That's what it is,
nothing but hype.

- Yes, it was
the record company

pushing a Southern band.

No, it didn't bother me to
play in front of a rebel flag

because I know how I feel.

I didn't think about it
that deeply then.

I have since,
and look what they've done.

They've taken the flag
down on a lot of things

because it does
represent hatred.

- It's like the flag
got kidnapped by the KKK.

They carried it,
and all these evil people

use the Confederate flag
as a hate thing.

It's them against
the world kind of.

We never, ever one time meant
the Confederate flag

to offend anyone,

but I know it's naive
to say that, too,

'cause it does hurt people,

and it does remind them
of the war and slavery

and all that,

but we weren't into it
for that.

We were just showing where
we were from, Southern music.

♪ ♪

- ♪ Sweet home Alabama ♪

♪ Where the skies
are so blue ♪

♪ Sweet home Alabama ♪

♪ Lord,
I'm coming home to you ♪

♪ ♪

- The Southern culture,
it means community.

Yeah, it means unity,
but it's also ever-growing,

and it's always changing.

♪ ♪

- Cheers, Ronnie, cheers.

- Well, good evening,

I'm Jim Ladden.
Tonight "Interview"

goes to Dixie for
a shot of that good ol' boy

brand of rock and roll,

so I hope you're in the mood
to get drunk,

get loud, get dirty,
and get into Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Everybody thinks we're a bunch

- Ronnie was short in stature,

and you would think
he'd wear stacked heels

or cowboy boots on stage,
but he wore nothing.

He was barefoot.
I loved the fact

that he doesn't
hoochie-coo around on stage.

He stood there and held
that mike and planted himself

out on the front
of that stage.

What you saw was what you got.

You know? Here I am.

- People always ask me what
was Ronnie really like,

and I always tell them,

"Just go listen to any six
songs he ever wrote.

And that'll tell you.
Doesn't matter which six."

♪ ♪

- ♪ 11 times
I've been busted ♪

♪ 11 times
I've been to jail ♪

♪ Some of the times
I been there ♪

♪ Nobody could go my bail ♪

♪ Well, it seems to me, lord ♪

♪ That this old boy
just don't fit ♪

♪ Well, I can jump in
a rosebush ♪

♪ And come out
smelling like sh-- ♪

- When he would get a certain
level of drunk, he'd get mean.

It was like a Jekyll and Hyde.

He was a badass, and he would
attack you with all he had

and try to hurt you
if he could.

I'd see him do interviews

where he'd start out
real nice,

but we'd be drinking,

and by the end of the
interview he'd slam and go,

"Let me ask you a question.

How the fuck you think you're
gonna get out that door?"

- ♪ Double trouble ♪

♪ That's what my friends
all call me ♪

- ♪ Double trouble,
double trouble ♪

- ♪ I said
double trouble ♪

♪ T-R-O-U-B-L-E ♪

- ♪ Double trouble ♪

- Wow!

- Ronnie's hands were not big,

but when they made a fist,

it was, like, a big fist,
and it was flat.

He hit me a lot of times,

We would fight.
He was terrible.

We were in Hamburg, Germany.
He got real drunk on schnapps.

We'd never heard of schnapps.

Ronnie got in
one of his bad moods

and hit one guy in the head
with a bottle.

Of course, it broke.
Then he came over to me,

and he took that bottle,
and he went,

"You're never gonna
play guitar again,"

and he cut my hands here
and there,

so the next day we played,

and I had these Band-Aids
all on my hands,

and they would bleed,
and the headline said,

"Bloodbath in Hamburg."

- Ronnie throws me up
against the wall,

gets the lamp from the corner
table and breaks it,

and holds it up against
my throat with all this

jagged glass coming out.
After he's done with me,

he picked Allen up by the hair
and threw him across the room.

When Ronnie was drunk,
he was a strong one, man.

- ♪ T-R-O-U-B-L-E ♪

♪ ♪

- I'm the hippie from
Southern California, man.

I'm--you know, I'm not
digging the violence part.

There was one night
in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ronnie was thrown in jail
along with my guitar roadie,

changed my strings.

I don't know what they did
to these cops,

but the cops
threw them in jail.

Anyway, my roadie and Ronnie

didn't arrive
to the Pittsburgh show

until, like, ten minutes
before we went on.

I had to play on old strings.

That night I broke two strings
during "Free Bird,"

which I never do,
and after the show Ronnie

was just on my ass
all the way, you know?

"You don't amount to a pimple
on Allen's ass."

Well, I said,
"You might be right there."

He was just riding me,
and I just said to myself--

a light went off in my head,

and I said, "That's it,"
you know?

So I went back to my room
that night,

and I packed up all my stuff,

and I left,

and I didn't look back.

- We were right in the middle
of a tour,

and all of a sudden we woke
up, and he was gone,

and we had to play that night,

so me and Allen
had to get together

and work out his parts
and who started what,

and we were pretty mad.
All of a sudden he walks out,

"Fuck you. I'm just leaving."

We'd been up in the circuit

playing with all the big boys
for a year or two.

It's hard to get to the top,
but it's harder to stay.

- ♪ Life is so strange when
it's changing, yes, indeed ♪

♪ Well, I've seen the hard
times ♪

♪ And the pressure's
been on me ♪

♪ But I keep on working like
a working man do ♪

♪ And I've got my act
together ♪

♪ Gonna walk all over you ♪

♪ Gimme back,
gimme back my bullets ♪

♪ ♪

- That's Lynyrd Skynyrd from
their cuckoo current album,

and all the giggling
is Gary and Ronnie,

and they've just grown
in popularity.

Do you still live
in the South now?

- Yes, yes, we do.
- And your lifestyle's

the same?
Nothing's changed?

- Well, our houses are
a little bit better.

- Yes.

- We got a better boat,
fishing boat. That's about it.

- The lure of the big city
doesn't turn you on?

- We're just country boys.

♪ ♪

- Never forget the first time
I met Ronnie Van Zant.

He had his feet propped up
on the table.

Yeah, I walked through
the door, and he said,

"She'll do just fine."

He hired me on the spot.
I never had to sing for him.

He treated us like gold.
He really did.

He was awesome.
He was such a gentleman.

- Ronnie wanted
background vocalists.

To have girls on stage
was kind of cool, you know?

There wasn't too many bands
that had that yet.

♪ ♪

- Ronnie, he called us

'cause he'd always call me
Honky for some reason.

I never understood that.

- JoJo was the whiskey voice,
you know,

"Hey, baby," you know?

Leslie Hawkins
was Ronnie's songbird.

He had his soprano
with Leslie,

and Cassie, she had that
Broadway voice.

She looked like
a German milkmaid,

the way she did her hair.

- Cassie Gaines was real
spiritual and cosmic

and listening to new Zen music
and far-out stuff.

- We get to our hotel,
and, you know,

we'd always go down
to Cassie's

and smoke a big, fat doobie.

With a few scarves
and maybe a shawl,

she'd make the room
into her own, you know?

It was like being home.

- Cassie was involved
in I-Ching and meditation

and things like that,
and see, I'd never seen

anything like that
before in my life,

and over here I'd be grabbing
the Gideon bible,

you know, shooting shotgun
prayers up there,

you know,
hoping something would stick.

- Cass and I were close.

Jo was a little younger,

you know, a little wilder
than Cass and I were.

Jo had a hard time, I think,
dealing with the fame.

Actually, toward the end
Jo got

a little too far out of hand

and left the band in August
before the crash,

which was lucky for her,
you know?

I mean, it was great
to be in the band,

but, you know,
if you had a crystal ball,

you'd be happy
that it happened.

♪ ♪

- Me and Allen,
for a year or two

we would just play alone
with no third guitar.

Cassie kept talking about
her little brother.

"Oh, he's a great
guitar player,"

but everybody used to tell us,
"Oh, man,

you should hear this guy," or,
"My cousin, you'd love him.

He's great,"
and we'd go, "Yeah, yeah."

♪ ♪

So finally we were
playing in a town

where he had a band
called Crawdaddy,

so he came to
our show that night,

and he brought his guitar
'cause he was going to a gig.

We said, "Why don't you come
play on 'Mr. Breeze' with us?"

- ♪ Change in the weather ♪

- And he was great.

He played the shit out of it.

- He was so tremendous that
I just told Ronnie and Gary

that night, you know,
"Hey, he's the one."

Steve Gaines
was gonna fit back there.

- The first week or two,
all's we'd do all day

and night was show him stuff,

and we worked him
into all the songs

so he could go play the live
album in a couple weeks.

- Live from the Fox Theater,
Lynyrd Skynyrd!

- Uhh, let me tell you
about this gentleman

that's playing with us

It's a new member
of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

His name's Steve Gaines
over here,

and he's from Oklahoma,
and he's a Okie.

Watch out.
I'm gonna sic a Okie on you.

♪ ♪

Well, this might
sound egotistical,

but I think right now

I have a guitar player
with me named Steve Gaines.

- This man.
- Who is probably

the most underestimated
guitar player

on the south side
of the Mason-Dixon line.

- Steve had all these songs
that he'd already written

and he brought in,

and then we would
Skynyrd-ize it

and make
one of his songs ours.

Me and Allen weren't offering

probably as much as
we could have at the time.

We were so burnt,
we kind of got uninspired.

We knew something was missing,
and Steve was it.

It was like he found us,

brought a spark back
to everything.

He made us get serious again,

and we would rehearse more
and work up guitar parts more.

- Steve could grow excellent,
like, tomatoes.

I wouldn't call him
a farm boy,

but he could grow some bud.

- When I get on the stage
and a Skynyrd crowd are there,

it just means everything
to me.

It's all I've wanted
to do up till now.

Now I'm trying to figure out

what I can do from here,
you know?

- Well, we were doing great
in Europe.

Skynyrd was as big there
as America,

but we couldn't believe

we were gonna open for
the Stones.

Nothing could be bigger.

- It was the biggest show
we ever did, you know?

Just people everywhere.

- And we were way early
to make sure

you could get to the stage
through all the people,

so we started drinking
a little,

and Cassie had a little pot,
I think, but we looked up,

and walking through the door
is Jack Nicholson.

"I smell something in here.

So it got crazy, and we were
getting feisty and drunk,

and we went out
and had a great set.

I don't know, when you're
young and adrenaline hits you,

you kind of shake off stuff.

♪ ♪

We started "Free Bird,"

and the whole crowd
was really rocking.

You could see
they were all into it.

♪ ♪

When we started the end,
Ronnie directed Allen

to go out front,
and Allen was kind of hesitant

'cause there was a rule
not to go out on the tongue

'cause the tongue was
the Stones--you know,

that was gonna be
their whole look,

so Ronnie walked us all
the way down

just to defy that order.

Allen went out all the way
till his cord stopped,

and Leon, he went till his
cord jerked him back around,

and Mick Jagger was mad.

It took their breath away
to see how well we went over

and how we broke
their only rule,

don't go out on the tongue.

♪ ♪

- I tell you what,
it's a dream.

Everybody's still
living the dream.

It's still amazing to see
how the people out there

just go crazy, you know?

♪ ♪

- Nine years of hard work,

rehearsing, recording,

That's what it took
to become Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Now their finest achievement,
"Street Survivors."

- ♪ What's your name,
little girl ♪

♪ What's your name? ♪

♪ Oh ♪

- This is, like,
the sixth album.

I don't know what the "Rolling
Stone" will say about it.

I don't know what "Creem"
will say about it.

I know for a fact it's the
best album we've ever done.

I'll slap leather with anyone.

- Where do you see Lynyrd
Skynyrd going from here?

- Well, we'll go to hell if
we don't change our ways.

♪ ♪

- There was a saying back
in the day,

"There's the smell
of death around him."

It was like a smell around
whatever was gonna die.

♪ ♪

- ♪ Whiskey bottles
and brand-new cars ♪

♪ Oak tree,
you're in my way ♪

♪ There's too much coke
and too much smoke ♪

♪ Look what's going on
inside you ♪

♪ Ooh, that smell ♪

♪ Can't you smell
that smell? ♪

- I'm just going to a club
somewhere with a girl.

I think her name was Sandy.

I think we ate a Quaalude
or something,

so I was out of it,
and we were going back home,

and I kind of sped around
a curve and lost control

and hit a oak tree.

I busted all my teeth out.

I just came up with those
lyrics about me stupid,

drunk, and crazy.

I made a bad mistake,

but we got
a good song out of it.

- ♪ Now, they call you
Prince Charming ♪

♪ Can't speak a word
when you're full of 'Ludes ♪

♪ Say, you'll be all right
come tomorrow ♪

♪ But tomorrow might
not be here for you ♪

- ♪ Yeah, you ♪

- Everybody was trying
to clean up

their act some, you know?
It just got too wild,

and Ronnie had decided
he was gonna clean up his act

because he and Judy
had just had Melody,

and, you know, he realized
that he wasn't gonna live long

if they didn't
straighten it out.

♪ ♪

- ♪ Seems so long ♪

♪ I been out on my own ♪

- ♪ Travel light ♪
and I'm always alone ♪

♪ Guess I was born
with a traveling bone ♪

♪ When my time's up,
I'll hold my own ♪

♪ You won't find me
in a old folks home ♪

♪ You got that right ♪

- After all those years,
12 years Gary and I

and Allen have been together,

it finally paid off in just

something that
you believed in,

that you could do it,
you know?

That fact that we proved it,
you know,

that really makes me happy,
and you know, just everything

seems to be going
pretty good for me right now.

I'm probably happier
than I ever have been before.

I mean, it could end tomorrow,
you know?

I mean, Lynyrd Skynyrd
could be gone tomorrow.

- The one thing that I want

the world to know about
my band

is how bravely my band
met their death.

We spiraled in
from 9,000 feet.

Everyone knew
it was gonna end badly.

There was no panic, no chaos.

Everybody was in prayer,
in deep thought,

and I admired that about them,

that they met their death
that way, and they did.

- Things were going wrong
with the plane a little bit,

nothing serious
but enough to notice

it wasn't flying

We were about
to get maintenance on it

and put it in the shop

because a engine
was sputtering.

It needed a tune-up, I guess.

I wasn't really worried
about it myself,

but I'll only speak for me.

I know before we took off
and stuff,

some of the girls and Allen

and some of the guys
didn't want to fly,

and Ronnie was the one
who said,

"When it's our time to go,

you can kiss my ass good-bye,"
you know?

But he didn't know,
and he said,

"We got a plane here
to take us to our hotel

"and to do a show tonight.

Get on, or get
your own way there."

I was with Ronnie saying,
"Let's just do it,

get it fixed tomorrow,"

but it never happened.

Everybody was playing poker.

I remember Ronnie did have
a little hangover,

so he just threw a pillow down
and was laying on the floor,

and all of a sudden you could
really feel

a little sputtering
and spitting.

- I was in the cockpit
in the navigator jump seat

in between the pilot
and the copilot.

I looked at Walter McCreary,
and I said,

"We can fly
on one engine, right?"

He looked at me with fear
in his eyes, and I saw it.

His eyes were bugging out.

He said, "Artimus, you better
go back

and strap yourself in."

- The pilot sent the copilot
back to say,

"Hey, we're gonna make
a landing

"and try to see
what's happening here,

"so it might be a little

so put your heads
between your legs,"

like back in the Cold War
when the schools said,

"There's a nuclear bomb coming.
Just get under your desk.

You'll be fine."

- Ronnie walked to the rear
of the plane,

and I thought to myself,
"Good idea,"

and then he came up the aisle
and stopped right by me.

We shook
the old hippie handshake.

He smiled,
and then Ronnie walked back

to the front of the plane.

I'll never forget the smile
that he gave me,

that beautiful
Ronnie Van Zant smile.

- We started hitting
the treetops real--

you could hear them,
and it got louder and louder


until it just got
so overwhelming, loud,

and bumping that that's when I,
I guess, got knocked out.

- It felt like a thousand
baseball bats

being beaten on the fuselage.

So the plane started
coming apart,

and I'm looking
out the window.

The left wing comes off.

- I woke up on the ground.

I thought a plane door
was on me

'cause I couldn't move
and get up.

In reality, I was so broken,
all my bones and legs

and everything,
I just couldn't get up.

And I said,
"Dean, get this door off me.

Dean, come here,"

and I swear to God, to me,

he came over
and pushed the door off me.

Later on, one of the doctors
said that he couldn't have

done that,
the way they brought him in.

He was too far gone, you know?

But I saw him do it.

- My friends were bleeding
to death.

I knew that the only thing
that was gonna help my friends

was to get to a farmhouse

and bring help back
to that crash site,

but we stopped so fast,
my boots had come off,

and I couldn't bend over
because of my chest injuries,

so I'm walking through
the briars and the brambles,

and it was getting
darker and darker.

- I remember waking up to the
helicopters that were hovering,

you know, and they were shining
lights down into the swamp.

It was like Vietnam
in my head.

I only seen it on TV,

but the helicopters
and your buddies screaming

and yelling in pain
and dying around you.

- Last night in woods
near McComb, Mississippi,

a chartered
airplane crashed,

and with it went the rising
hopes of a popular rock band,

Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Survivors said the plane
was so rundown,

they'd been considering
not flying in it again.

- The next thing I remember
was waking up in the hospital,

and both arms were broken
and both legs,

and this leg got cut off except
for a little bit of skin,

and they put it back on,
and I had some ribs broken,

my pelvic
and all--everything, man.

- The band was traveling from
a concert in South Carolina

to another one
in Louisiana,

part of a four-month tour
that just started.

As victims and survivors
were brought to hospitals,

no one could say for sure

how many people
were aboard the plane,

but by dawn six passengers
were known dead.

20 others,
many of them technicians

and friend of the band,

were listed as injured,
many critically.

- It was--had to be
the next day

'cause my mother had
gotten there, and I asked her,

"Did anyone die?"
and she wouldn't tell me

for--it seemed to me
for a long time.

I said, "Please tell me,"

and she started right off
with Ronnie,

and that really freaked me out
'cause he was the tough guy.

I thought if he died,
everybody else did.

- Those dead
are Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer

Ronnie Van Zant,

guitarist Steve Gaines,

and his sister Cassie,
a backup vocalist,

assistant road manager
Dean Kilpatrick,

the plane's pilot
Walter McCreary,

and copilot William Gray.

- There was two benches
in the front of the plane.

Ronnie was here,
and I was between him and Dean,

and Allen was right across

on that little bench
in front of me,

and he was between
Cassie and Steve,

so all those people died,
and Allen and me didn't,

and after it
we freaked out a bit.

Why did we live
and didn't die?

- ♪ Just the other day ♪

♪ I heard my friend say ♪

♪ Life was oh so bad ♪

♪ And love was all they had ♪

♪ You know, all day long ♪

♪ I sing sad songs ♪

♪ Got the blues feel ♪

♪ Things no doctor can heal ♪

♪ You know, that's okay ♪

♪ I'll never change my ways ♪

♪ And maybe I am wrong ♪

♪ But I'll soon be gone ♪

- Guitarist Gary Rossington
is in stable condition

after surgery this morning
at Baptist Hospital.

Pianist Billy Powell is in
stable condition at Baptist.

Guitarist Allen Collins
is undergoing surgery

at the University
Medical Center now.

Bass player Leon Wilkeson
is in critical condition

in Southwest Medical Center
in McComb,

and drummer Artimus Pyle

is in good condition
at a hospital in Magnolia.

This is Randy Bell,
ZZQ News.

- A lot of flowers came in,

and they set them
all around the room.

For days I remember
the faces of Ronnie

and everybody who died.

I could see their faces
like a shadow in those plants.

I could look up at them.

I even said, "Don't you
see them up there, mama?

and it was just me, I guess.

I think they were
there helping, you know,

in those flowers
for about a week.

Then they went away.
The spirits went away.

- Mama was the first one
buried here,

and then whenever they tried
to break

into Ronnie's grave
and Steve, moved out--

- Just all out of here.
- We brought him out here.

This is where Daddy
wanted him at in the beginning.

- Yeah, I know.
I must be over here.

You're gonna be right there.

- I'll be spitting
range from you.

- My wife and I just bought
that right over there.

- It's all marked out too.
- Yeah, I know.

- It's all marked out.
Let's walk over there,

or do you want--
- I don't really want to.

I don't want to yet.

Too sacred ground.

- Hey, look, there's money
on it,

on top of his tombstone there.

You know, people put things
out here.

- They come and have a drink,

a lot of beer cans and

- Yeah.
- It's an honor, really.

- Yeah, it is. It is.
They loved the music, and,

"Hey, I'm gonna have a beer,
what the hell?"

I'm sure Ronnie don't mind.

- No.
- You know, he don't mind.

You go,
"Why did it have to happen?"

But I always say I kept a lot
of questions I have to ask,

you know, when I go on.

When I go on, so I hope
I can get some answers.

- I think if we're
gonna get them, that's when.

- Yeah, exactly.

♪ ♪

- ♪ If I leave here tomorrow ♪

♪ Would you still
remember me ♪

♪ ♪

♪ For I must be
traveling on now ♪

♪ ♪

♪ 'Cause there's too many
places I've got to see ♪

♪ ♪

♪ And if I stayed here
with you, girl ♪

♪ Well, things
just couldn't be the same ♪

♪ ♪

♪ 'Cause I'm as free
as a bird now ♪

♪ I swear I am♪

♪ And the bird
you'll never change ♪

♪ Oh ♪

♪ The bird you cannot change ♪

- In '87
we did a tribute tour,

and then after that tour

they wanted us
to come to their town too,

and so we said,
"Yeah, let's do it again,"

and we kept catching on,
and we kept touring.

Being in a band,
that's all we know.

I can't do anything
but play guitar and fish,

and I couldn't
do anything else.

Now we got Ricky Medlocke
playing his guitar.

Johnny didn't think he could
fill his brother's shoes.

Of course,
Ronnie never wore shoes.

You ain't got to
fill his shoes.

You're not gonna.

I used to say he was spanked
by the same daddy

and ate the same food
just like Ronnie.

It's 30 years later,

and it's still going,
and people come,

and the younger
generation learns.

It's not about us.

It's about the feelings
of that music

and the stories they tell.

That's what I feel
I'm here to do now,

is speak for the band
Lynyrd Skynyrd

from the beginning
till the very end, you know?

It's the music that lives on.

- ♪ Lord help me,
I can't change ♪

♪ ♪

♪ No, I can't change ♪

♪ Won't you fly, fly ♪

♪ A free bird ♪

♪ Yeah ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

- One of the great ones,
Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Let's hear it for them.