Turn It UP! My years with Lynyrd Skynyrd…. by Ron Eckerman

Not long ago I had to fly somewhere and I’m a nervous flyer. I usually dread getting into a plane but I was determined I would enjoy this flight to Texas and then Colorado. We got into the air with my right ear-popping like crazy and I decided to listen to an audiobook once we were flying. I opened my audible library selection and just picked one at random. Well, needless to say, I picked this one. I was 30 minutes into the book before I discovered the irony of the situation. I quickly picked another book (Grateful Dead bio) and listened to that but…I finished this one on the way back while… driving safely on the ground.

This is not an autobiography of the band… it is an account of their mid to late-70s tours. The book was written by an insider (the road manager) book from 1974 to the 1977 plane crash. Lynyrd Skynyrd was a wild bunch who was ruled by lead singer Ronnie Van Zant with an iron fist. It was partly about babysitting a bunch of up-and-coming rock stars and yes…very entertaining. These guys learned from the best… they had opened for The Who on the Quadrophenia tour in 1973. Keith Moon showed them the path to destruction in hotels across the globe. They took it to a new level though…not only fighting with people who annoyed them…they fought each other. Contrary to popular belief…most of them were well-read and intelligent men but with a wild side. 

The band was managed by Peter Rudge who was known to be very cheap with bands. He also managed the Stones and The Who. It was Ron Eckerman’s (tour manager) job to collect the money and figure out the most economical way of traveling. In early 1977 he saw that traveling by plane would be cheaper than by bus. The band toured constantly and was rarely at home adding to the short tempers. They lost their guitar player Ed King in 1975 because of that plus madness exploding out of pure exhaustion. Keeping a road crew together while you are not touring was near impossible unless you play over 200 – 250 shows a year. 

Reading this book is truly like being transported in time back in the seventies rock world. It was back to a time when bands had to build up an audience. It didn’t happen with a youtube video or a Facebook page. There were no auto-tune or backing tracks to save you in concert. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the best live bands around. They played at Knebworth in 1976 and were heralded in the press as the next great band in league with the Stones and Who. They never got that chance and were different than most bands. They had no production values at all…just a mirror disco ball. Ronnie Van Zant did not dance around like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler…he was more like a field general directing his troops to conquer the audience. 

After losing Ed King, a great California guitarist… they picked up Oklahoma native Steve Gaines who would have had a chance to be a huge star. Gaines was an absolute phenom on guitar and had he not died at 28 in the plane crash, he might well be a guitar legend now. The book is hilarious in places but you know what is coming. They climbed the rock ladder and the new album Street Survivors showed what they might do. The album was not a “southern rock” album…it was a rock album by a band from the south. 

They never would get a chance to fulfill their promise. The new album was their biggest yet and in two weeks’ time, they would have headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time. It really did look like they were about to be elevated to the top bracket of touring rock bands.

I was a kid when all of this was going on but I am amazed at how much the world has changed since then. If a band, no matter how successful, would do what they did in today’s world…the band would be in jail and shunned. Not only Lynyrd Skynryd but Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, and a host of other rock bands. The book will truly transport you back to that time. Even if you are a fan or not…it’s worth a read. Ron Eckerman was in the plane when it crashed and his description is truly chilling. 

Eckerman took the blame for the crash but it wasn’t one man’s fault. A short while after releasing the book he died of acute myeloid leukemia. His wife said he never got over the guilt for the crash and he died three years after the book was published. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Never Dreamed—- Sunday Album Cut

On Sundays, I am going to start posting a good album cut.

When I think of forgotten great album cuts…this one is one of the first songs that come to mind. If you haven’t heard it give it a try. The song has a good riff starting out and the arrangement of the melody is a little different than some of their previous songs. I credit that to new guitarist Steve Gaines… Gaines and Van Zant wrote this song.

Give this song a try…The song takes a while to get going but the melody, guitar work, and the bass are great in this one.

Steve joined the band as a guitarist in 1976. Gaines had an immediate impact, writing or co-writing four of the eight songs on Street Survivors, which was released three days before the group’s plane crashed in Mississippi, killing Gaines, his sister Cassie (a backup singer with the group) and Van Zant.

It is my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd song hands down. The band never played this live…the original or the new edition.

Street Survivors peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1977.

I Never Dreamed

My daddy told me always be strong son
Don’t you ever cry
You find the pretty girls, and then you love them
And then you say goodbye
I never dreamed that you would leave me
But now you’re gone
I never dreamed that I would miss you
Woman won’t you come back home

I never dreamed that you could hurt me
And leave me blue
I’ve had a thousand, maybe more
But never one like you
I never dreamed I could feel so empty
But now I’m down
I never dreamed that I would beg you
But woman I need you now

It seems to me, I took your love for granted
It feels to me, this time I was wrong, so wrong
Oh Lord, how I feel so lonely
I said woman, won’t you come back home

I tried to do what my daddy taught me,
But I think he knew
Someday I would find
One woman like you
I never dreamed it could feel so good Lord
That two could be one
I never knew about sweet love
So woman won’t you come back home
Oh baby won’t you come back home

 

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Know A Little

The reason I like this song is caught in the intro. The guitar in this is a lot of fun. Unlike most Lynyrd Skynyrd songs this one was not partly written by Ronnie Van Zant. The new guitar player Steve Gaines wrote this before he joined them.

Gaines replaced Ed King as the band’s guitarist in 1976, but died in the 1977 plane crash that also claimed the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and Gaines’ sister Cassie, who was a backup singer for the group. This song provides a glimpse of songwriting and guitar talent.

Steve Gaines was a special talent. I personally believe he would have gone far in music outside of that band. There is guitar playing on Street Survivors that you never heard with that band before. Very sophisticated chord patterns and riffs with songs like “I Never Dreamed.”

This song was the B side to What’s Your Name.

From Songfacts

You won’t find diatribes on the complexities of interpersonal relationships in the Skynyrd catalog, but you will find simple explanations. This song is a great example.

Why do people get the blues? From digging what they can’t use. And if you want to hold on to a man, a good way to do it is through commitment. You only need to know a little about love – the rest you can guess.

This is a great example of Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines’ contributions to the band. He wrote the song himself, and also wrote or co-wrote three other songs on the album. as Van Zant sings about a guy who has a strong feeling that his girl is cheating on him.

Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington told Guitar School magazine, July 1993, that he’d never heard anybody, including the current guitarists in the band, play the picking on this song quite right – the way Steve Gaines did.

This is one of many Skynyrd songs that was never released as a single but endured as a classic track in their catalog. It earned lots of airplay on Classic Rock radio and became one of their most popular live songs, performed at most of their shows when they re-grouped after the plane crash.

Steve Gaines recorded this before he joined Lynyrd Skynyrd.

I Know A Little

Yes sir

Well the bigger the city, well the brighter the lights
The bigger the dog, well the harder the bite
I don’t know where you been last night
But I think mama, you ain’t doin’ right

Say I know a little
I know a little about it
I know a little
I know a little ’bout it
I know a little ’bout love
And baby I can guess the rest

Well now I don’t read that daily news
‘Cause it ain’t hard to figure
Where people get the blues
They can’t dig what they can’t use
If they stick to themselves
They’d be much less abused

Say I know a little
Lord I do know a little about it
I know a little
I know a little ’bout it
I know a little ’bout love
Baby I can guess the rest
Play me a little, oh yeah
Yeah

Well if you want me to be your only man
Said listen up mama, teach you all I can
Do right baby, by your man
Don’t worry mama, teach you all I can

Say I know a little
Lord I do know a little about it
I know a little
I know a little ’bout it
I know a little ’bout love
Baby I can guess the rest
Well I know a little ’bout love
Baby I want your best

Lynyrd Skynyrd – 41 Years Ago

It’s been 41 years since Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed in a swamp in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The band had just released the album “Street Survivors” and it was probably their best well-rounded album. With new guitarist Steve Gaines, they were primed for commercial success but on October 20, 1977, they lost singer-songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, and road manager Dean Kilpatrick. The plane crash also claimed the lives of pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray Jr.

A year earlier Steve Gaines joined the band and he was pushing them in directions they never had gone. Listening to “Street Survivors” you can hear his influence with songs I Never Dreamed and I Know A Little. Steve was a  super talented guitarist, songwriter, and singer and I have to wonder where his career would have gone.

On this tour, they were headlining and moving up in status after years of touring as mostly an opening band.

Below is a good Rolling Stone article on the crash. The song below that is “I Never Dreamed,” a song heavily influenced by Gaines.

https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/remembering-lynyrd-skynyrds-deadly-1977-plane-crash-2-195371/

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