Lynyrd Skynyrd Pays Tribute to Gary Rossington in Emotional Return to Stage

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Gary Rossington (Photo via Lynyrd Skynyrd Facebook page, May 15, 2017)

Lynyrd Skynyrd returned to the stage on March 12, 2023, for their first concert since the death of their final original member, Gary Rossington, who had died one week earlier. And during their set at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, the band paid tribute to their legendary guitarist. Ten songs into their 16-song set, it was time for “Tuesday’s Gone” from their debut album of 50 years ago. The screen behind the band showed video clips and photos of Rossington from throughout his career. “Damon Johnson playing it pretty for Mr. Gary Rossington, up in rock and roll heaven,” said lead singer Johnny Van Zant. “If you believe in angels, sing aloud with us,” he added later. Watch a clip of that performance below.

“We felt you there with us last night, Gary,” the band wrote afterwards on their Facebook page. “Looking down from Rock N’ Roll Heaven and helping us get through one of the toughest shows of our lives. We felt you during the nuances of ‘Free Bird,’ ‘Tuesday’s Gone,’ ‘Saturday Night Special’. We felt you in the roar of the crowd as they cheered your name and stood up for most of the night. And we will forever feel you on any stage and in our hearts as Skynyrd’s music continues to move billions of people across the world. We love you brother.🦅” Watch the performance of “Tuesday’s Gone” on Skynyrd’s return to the stage on March 12.

In the days following his passing, Rossington was mourned by many fellow classic rock legends, one of whom called the guitarist “the last of the breed.” In their brief statement announcing his death, the band wrote, “It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today. Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does. Please keep Dale, Mary, Annie and the entire Rossington family in your prayers and respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼”

Former Skynyrd drummer, Artimus Pyle, wrote, “Gary’s place in music history is rock solid. He will be missed forever. Fly on fly high, our ‘Free Bird’ brother.”

Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top, who have toured with Skynyrd many times with another scheduled for 2023, wrote, ”Gary Rossington’s loss is especially profound to us as we’ve spent countless hours in his company on tour and elsewise. We facilitated getting Lynyrd Skynyrd on the bill with ZZ Top at a South Carolina date way back at the start of the band’s rise in ’73 and that was the start of an enduring friendship. Gary’s extraordinary ability as a guitarist was nothing less than inspirational. It’s an old cliché about somebody who has paid their dues to call them a survivor and in this case it is literally true. He was the last of the breed and will be missed.”

From Henry Paul of the Outlaws: “Gary was always supportive of both the Outlaws and the Henry Paul Band and I have many fond memories sharing the stage with him in both Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Rossington Collins Band. As the last surviving member of the group he helped form, I can relate to the impact it will have on the band’s fans everywhere. My sincere condolences to his family and bandmates.”

.38 Special wrote, “Remembering a legend! Gary Rossington. Rest in peace our friend. Sending our thoughts and prayers to your family and friends.”

From Neal Schon: “[Lynyrd Skynyrd] took us under their wings and the chemistry worked very well with their audience as we would always get strong  encores in front of them.  My sincere condolences to all family members of Gary Rossington. God Bless brother 🙏🏽♾️✝️🎶”

Gary Rossington and his wife, Dale

From Warren Haynes: “Gary was not only a great guitar player, he also composed a lot of the classic guitar melodies that Lynyrd Skynyrd is known for and he co-wrote so many of their timeless songs. Their unique blend of influences filtered through their own musical personalities created a style of music all to itself which became the soundtrack to millions of people’s lives. Gary was leading the charge. Not many bands can claim the domination of the airwaves like LS did in the seventies. Even fewer can boast the staying power that a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd has portrayed. Thanks to the advent of “Classic Rock,” which they were a huge part of, LS’s timeless songs permeated the airwaves decade after decade and continue to do so. Not only that, anyone who turns on a Modern Country radio station will only have to stay tuned for ten minutes before hearing Skynyrd’s massive influence on today’s country music. Having done quite a few shows together through the years, both with the Allman Brothers Band and with Gov’t Mule, I could never lose sight of how many classic songs they wrote. They could do an entire show filled with memorable tunes and still not cover them all. Although it is great party music, their songs have an emotional depth that will keep them alive for decades to come. If you don’t believe me — put on a recording of SIMPLE MAN and try not to get emotional. If you’re a whiskey drinker — raise a glass in toast to Gary Rossington!”

Bret Michaels wrote, “I send this with all of my heart, prayers & condolences to the family, friends & fans of Gary Rossington. On behalf of my family, he brought a lot of great music & many great memories to so many people. May he rest in peace.”

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2023

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. Chuck the Duck
    #1 Chuck the Duck 7 March, 2023, 12:54

    March 5th 2023, rest in piece dear brother, from another mother, Gary Rossington. This one cuts deep, as the last living, founding member of my all time favorite band, the legendary Lynyard Skynyrd passes and leaves another hole in my rock n roll heart. Love and prayers to the Rossington family, friends and fans. Many great memories of Skynyrd come flooding to mind. Went to see Joe Walsh concert at Tad Gormley Stadium, in New Orleans, it was around mid 1970s. Curtain opens, giant Rebel Flag as the backdrop. Out walks a smallish, long black haired guitarist, Gary Rossington; a dude in geans, tee shirt, bare feet long dirty blonde hair and top hat, Ronnie Van Zant and the rest of the legendary Lynyard Skynyrd. They opened with song, Working for MCA, then Gimme Three Steps and went on to rock that Stadium down. They close with Free Bird, of course, which simply blew everyone away and resulted in a ten minute stand ovation from all in attendance. Skynyrd blew Joe Walsh off the stage and the rest is history. I was fortunate enough to see the original band again a year or so later in the Warehouse, also in New Orleans, LA. One more sad note, I had tickets to see Skynyrd again in Baton Rouge, LA.; the destination of that sad, fateful night of the plane crash that took the life of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, recently added guitarist and back up singer, sister Cassie Gaines. Thank you Gary Rossington, Lynyard Skynyrd band for the memories; rest in peace brother.

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