Guitarist Gary Rossington, 69, who has been playing with the band since its earliest days in Jacksonville, Florida, was resting at home with his family and expecting “a full recovery,” the band wrote Friday in a Facebook post.
Lead singer Johnny Van Zant told fans at a recent concert in Minnesota that Rossington had been sidelined because he had to “have an emergency stent put in his heart,” the website Ultimate Classic Rock reported.
Rossington has had a history of heart issues, having undergone surgery following a heart attack in 2015, and again to repair a heart valve in 2019, according to Rolling Stone magazine. The 2019 surgery forced the postponement of a Lynyrd Skynyrd tour, according to the outlet.
Rossington has missed a recent string of the band’s shows, including Friday night’s concert in Minot, North Dakota, according to Rolling Stone.
The band has brought in Alabama-based guitarist Damon Johnson to fill in while Rossington continues his recovery, AL.com reported.
The band claimed in its Facebook post that the decision to proceed with its touring schedule came at Rossington’s urging.
Aside from Rossington, only drummer Artimus Pyle – who has been estranged from the group – survives from the band’s 1970s peak, when it was known for songs such as “Free Bird.”
In October 1977, a plane crash in Mississippi killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and siblings Steve and Cassie Gaines, a guitarist and background singer, respectively. After a hiatus following the plane crash, the band re-emerged as the Rossington Collins Band in the early 1980s, with Rossington’s wife, Dale Krantz Rossington, as its lead singer.
But a few years later Johnny Van Zant formed a revamped version of his late brother Ronnie’s band, and they’ve been touring and recording ever since.
Over the years since the crash, band members including Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ed King and Bob Burns have died from various causes.
Rossington and the band performed on “Fox & Friends” in June 2018, performing a set of songs that included “What’s Your Name?” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”