On this day 39 years ago, a plane crash claimed the lives of three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd: lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines. One of the band’s road managers was also killed, as were the pilot and the co-pilot, when the plane ran out of fuel and crash-landed in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Twenty people survived, although many were seriously injured. On the anniversary of the crash, we look back at some classic photos of the legendary band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Kooper, right, works in an Atlanta studio with members of the band: from left, Van Zant, Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. The band, from Jacksonville, Florida, was first formed as My Backyard in 1964. It changed names several times before settling on Lynyrd Skynyrd — a name mocking Leonard Skinner, a high school physical-education teacher that was strict about the school’s policy regarding boys with long hair.
Van Zant is interviewed in Atlanta in 1976. After the plane crash, the band broke up. It reformed in 1987 with Van Zant’s younger brother, Johnny, as the new lead singer. It still performs today. Rossington, a guitarist, is the only original member still in the group.
Drummer Artimus Pyle, right, and Collins party with a chimpanzee.
While backstage, the band enjoys a cake from MCA Records. From left are Van Zant, Ed King, Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Pyle and Collins.
Pyle, behind the scenes at RFK Stadium in Washington.
Van Zant, left, and Gaines perform on stage in 1976. The band’s iconic songs include “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird.”
Providing backup vocals for the band’s live performances were, from left, Cassie Gaines, Leslie Hawkins and JoJo Billingsley. Gaines and Van Zant were 29 years old when they died in the 1977 plane crash. Steve Gaines, Cassie’s younger brother, was 28.
Members of the band party with friends in 1975.