In 1977, an ill-fated flight to Baton Rouge took the lives of a major chunk of the Southern band Lynyrd Skynyrd. This changed the course of American rock and left the band struggling to reunite again.
The original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd
On October 20, 1977, the Lynyrd Skynyrd boarded a Convair CV-240 which ran out of fuel and crashed into a wood near Gillsburg, Mississippi, claiming 6 out of more than 20 passengers, including three members of the iconic band. The founder and lead vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer as well as elder sister Cassie Gaines, were killed in the crash, along with the band’s assistant road manager, Dean Kilpatrick, and pilots Walter McCreary and William Gray.
The Sweet Home Alabama-band had just released their fifth studio album Street Survivors, with the cover showing the band surrounded by flames, just a couple of days before the ill-fated crash. But, to maintain sensitivity, the band’s album cover was changed post plane accident in order to honour the founding members of the band and their legacy. Ironically enough, Aerosmith had previously reviewed and rejected the same plane and crew for their American tour, before Lynyrd Skynyrd took it up.
The latter band was set to change planes at their very next stop. Alas, the day never arrived for them to change to their new, safer, more suitable vehicle. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report, the crash was probably due to “fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply.”
Sadly for American rock, the band would not perform for the next ten years before Van Zant’s brother Johnny Van Zant joined the band in 1987. The band finally made good on their missed promise to LSU, Baton Rouge, after 14 years. However, the band was honourably inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.