Lynyrd Skynyrd – Saturday Night Special

The riff in this song is ominous sounding. As usual Van Zant’s lyrics fit the music perfectly. This song seems strange knowing that many members had guns and were widely known as a wild band.

This song is about the cheap guns you could buy on the street for 20 bucks called Saturday Night Specials. Van Zant was advocating more control over the illegal ones that were so easy to get.

Lynyrd Skynyrd weren’t against legal guns. Many of them had them. Leon Wilkeson, the bass player, actually took to wearing a holster and a real gun onstage but it was only loaded with blanks. On one tour they were opening for Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island. Black Sabbath fans apparently didn’t like them and rushed the stage with taunts.

When one fan got too close, Wilkeson drew his pistol and fired a blank over the heads of the crowd. Everybody immediately backed off and the show completed without any more trouble. Yep…they were a wild bunch.

The song peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100 and #63 in Canada. It was off of their Nothin’ Fancy album released in 1975. The album peaked at #8 in the Billboard Album Charts and #43 in the UK. It would be their last album produced by Al Kooper.

For this song, drummer Bob Burns had to take a break from touring and Artimus Pyle was brought in to replace him. Pyle was given just a couple of days to rehearse the song in a rented Atlanta club before they hit the road again.

This was the last album that Ed King appeared on with the original band. Ed was from Southern California and the only non-Southerner in the lineup. He said he felt like an outsider in the band. He was originally in the Strawberry Alarm Clock and joined Lynyrd Skynyrd just in time for their original album and played bass on that. He would soon switch back to electric guitar and would help write Sweet Home Alabama.

One night on tour in Pittsburgh King was fed up and left in the middle of the night. They had 4 weeks remaining on the tour.

Ed King: We had a show in Pittsburgh one night. (May 26, 1975) Ronnie and my guitar tech got thrown in jail the night before in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were really late getting to the show. My guitar strings weren’t changed for the show. By the end of the night, I had broken two strings. All the way back to the hotel Ronnie was just raising hell about it. When we got back to the hotel, I just said that this is just really screwed up. This came at the very end of all kinds of stuff on that tour. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Despite this…. some people forget just how good live they were. They could go toe to toe with the Stones or any other touring band at the time.

Mick Jagger laid some ground rules at the 1976 Knebworth Festival for Lynyrd Skynyrd…they could do what they wanted except walk down the prop tongue part of the stage. That was a stupid thing to tell this band…they did exactly that.

The Stones played later but the day belonged to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Gary Rossington: “It was a strong message that Ronnie was conveying, Those cheap handguns were no good for hunting or anything else – they were just made to kill people. And those guns were easy to find. We came from a rough part of town, the west side of Jacksonville. There were a lot of bad people there, and every week you’d hear that somebody got shot or killed.”

Although the song didn’t hit the top 20, it has remained a staple on classic rock radio for years.

This is a live version in 1976 at the Knebworth Festival after Ed left the band and Steve Gaines took his place. Gaines was probably the best guitar player they ever had.

Saturday Night Special

Two feet they come a creepin’
Like a black cat do
And two bodies are layin’ naked
Creeper think he got nothin’ to lose
So he creeps into this house, yeah
And unlocks the door
And as a man’s reaching for his trousers
Shoots him full of thirty-eight holes

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Big Jim’s been drinkin’ whiskey
And playin’ poker on a losin’ night
And pretty soon ol’ Jim starts a thinkin’
Somebody been cheatin’ and lyin’
So Big Jim commence to fightin’
I wouldn’t tell you no lie
Big Jim done pulled his pistol
Shot his friend right between the eyes

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Oh, it’s the Saturday night special

Hand guns are made for killin’
They ain’t no good for nothin’ else
And if you like to drink your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why don’t we dump ’em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some ol’ fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Mr. the Saturday night special
And I’d like to tell you what you could do with it
And that’s the end of the song

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “Lynyrd Skynyrd – Saturday Night Special”

  1. Yeah this is a tricky song, as for as the lyrics and how they comport with the image of the band. I’ve always thought it was pretty anti-handgun…yes, especially the cheap guns that you can by off the street, kind of like cheap wine that rots winos guts. But I honestly think Ronnie Van Zant was taking on the bigger issue of handguns in general, especially carrying them and brandishing them. Van Zant courted contradiction quite a bit. That what makes him so interesting to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never knew completely with this. There has been so much said after he died. I guess it was conflicting with their image like you said.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn’t belong in the same concert with Black Sabbath, as their music didn’t fit well together. Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t need to be told not to do something, that was a mistake by Mick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea they were great live. I saw after the crash in the 80s and they were good then…what was left of them. You saw the real deal though.
      Oh yes…to me yes. He could play anything at all. When he joined he got it quick. A fun fact…him and Ed King were born on the same day.

      Like

  3. “When one fan got too close, Wilkeson drew his pistol and fired a blank over the heads of the crowd. Everybody immediately backed off and the show completed without any more trouble. Yep…they were a wild bunch.” This just tickles the heck out of me. These guys were rebels and outlaws. I see one of the guys is wearing an English bobby hat in the first video. If our rock and roll heros can’t be wild, who can? I am shocked this one didn’t break the top 20. Cmon, this song is an anthem for gun control. What is really horrible to realize is that, even almost 50 years later, it’s still just that easy to pick one up in the streets. Believe me, there are a *lot* of them floating around and not just in the urban areas!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They are too easy to get. I think that is part of the problem with modern rock bands…I mean don’t kill anyone…but show a little rebellion. The first big band they opened up for was The Who…Keith Moon instructed them on how to tour.

      I can’t believe Mick of all people made that rule either…lol. He should have known.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always figured it was one of their better songs, but I didn’t know it was a single… I’ve only heard it at friends houses a long time ago or on classic rock stations as a sort of “deep cut” thing. Good message in it anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is one band I don’t need to lookup much about…my cousin has made me watch so many documentaries about them that I just know lol. This is a good song with a cool different kind of riff.

      Like

  5. Love this song! Love this band! (Ad rem of nothing: when I lived in North Carolina two families nearby had been feuding (about a pig) for over 100 years. The twentieth or so victim was lying there with 20 bullet holes in his back, and the sheriff ruled it as “The worst case of suicide he had ever seen”!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. While I’ve known this song for quite some time and dig it, I had no idea about the background – that’s really interesting.

    There are way too many guns floating around in this country, in my humble opinion. I don’t oppose gun ownership per se, but I think there should be more rules, given the horrible things that can happen with guns.

    Sometimes it seems to be easier to obtain a gun illegally than a driver’s license. I also don’t feel that hunters need high-capacity guns that can fire tens of rounds within seconds, nor do these military style guns make any sense for personal protection. No individual rights should be without boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the last band that I thought would have come out with a song like this…but yea…

      They have some rules…but they don’t enforce them…that is part of the problem.
      No…on one needs a sub machine gun to hunt rabbits…that is silly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Frankly, I was surprised about it as well. And, yes, you’re absolutely right, enforcing existing laws would go a long way to improve the situation. For some reason, this gets very political very quickly when it really should be about common sense, not politics!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. “…put a man six feet in hole…” Good song. Didn’t know about the gun on the hip with blanks. Good way to get someone’s attention. Skynyrd & Black Sabbath…who on Earth would think that would blend.

    Liked by 1 person

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