On this day in 1949, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines was born. Gaines and his
sister, backup singer Cassie, were recent additions to Lynyrd Skynyrd when they were
killed in a 1977 plane crash, along with the band's founder, singer Ronnie Van Zant.
Lynyrd Skynyrd came together in the mid-'60s, when Van Zant and guitarists Allen
Collins and Gary Rossington added bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell
to their band, then called My Backyard. Playing a tough mixture of blues and hard rock
with a Southern accent, the group named itself Lynyrd Skynyrd as a goof on their
high-school coach Leonard Skinner, who hated their long hair.
With drummer Bob Burns, Skynyrd toured the South and grabbed the attention of
producer Al Kooper, who signed them with MCA Records. Pronounced Leh-Nerd
Skin-Nerd, their 1973 debut, featured ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock axeman Ed King,
completing the band's famous triple-guitar attack.
That signature sound was very much in play on the debut album, especially during "Free
Bird," the classic Lynyrd Skynyrd tune which was written as a tribute to the late Duane
Allman. "Free Bird" became a mainstay of album-rock radio and continues to get a lot of
airplay on classic-rock stations today.
"Sweet Home Alabama," the band's tongue-in-cheek response to Neil Young's
"Alabama" and "Southern Man," from their 1974 LP Second Helping, broke
Skynyrd onto the U.S. pop-singles chart. The album went multi-platinum, signaling their
King departed in early 1975, but the group went on, touring constantly. This culminated
with the release of the successful 1976 double-album live LP, One More from the
Road, on which Gaines was showcased as the new guitarist. His sister, Cassie, a
backing vocalist who had brought him to the attention of Skynyrd, gigged with them.
In mid-October 1977, Skynyrd issued their sixth album, Street Survivors, their first
studio LP with Gaines. But three days later, on October 20, a private plane carrying the
band between shows in Greenville, S.C., and Baton Rogue, La., crashed near Gillsburg,
Miss., killing Gaines, his sister and Van Zant and injuring the other members.
The new album's cover -- picturing the band amid flames -- was quickly changed and the
remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded. Collins, Rossington, Powell and
Wilkeson formed the Rossington-Collins Band in 1979. In 1987, Rossington re-formed
Lynyrd Skynyrd with Powell, Wilkeson, King and singer Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie's
younger brother. They recently issued the live CD Lyve From Steel Town.
Other birthdays: Paul Kossoff (Free, Crawler), 48; Barry Cowsill (Cowsills), 44; Morten
Harket (a-ha), 39; and Kay Gee (Naughty by Nature), 29.