Gary Robert Rossington is an American musician and one of the founding members of ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd,’ a southern rock band. Rossington has been the only consistent member of this band. He plays lead and rhythm guitar for the band. Rossington, along with his former band member Allen Collins, also founded the ‘Rossington Collins Band.’ Though the founder of the legendary ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ is best known for his talent as a guitarist, he was interested in playing the drums as a teenager. Rossington became popular right after the release of ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album. The album had the hit single ‘Free Bird.’ Starting in the early 1970s, Rossington left a notable legacy in the American musical scene. He continues to play with the reformed ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ as its only remaining original member.
Childhood & Early Life
Gary Rossington was born on December 4, 1951, in Jacksonville, Florida, US. His father was in the army, and Rossington tragically lost him shortly after his birth. His mother raised Rossington singlehandedly, and they shared a beautiful bond. He later went on to name his first extravagant guitar after his mother, calling it “Berniece.”
As a kid, Rossington was interested in baseball and dreamt of playing for the ‘New York Yankees.’ However, the heavy influence of ‘The Rolling Stones’ in his teenage years intrigued him. He eventually decided to take music up as a serious career option.
Interestingly, it was a shared love for baseball that brought the members of ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ together. Rossington, Van Zant, and Bob Burns played baseball together, though they were on rival Jacksonville teams.
The three of them once decided to jam together, and almost immediately after the session, they formed their band. It was first called ‘The Noble Five’ (the other two members being Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom) and was later renamed ‘The One Percent.’ Also known as ‘My Backyard,’ the band finally settled on the name ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ in 1969.
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Rossington became noteworthy in the domain of music with his performance as the lead guitarist in the live performances and albums of ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd.’ ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Free Bird’ were two of their iconic songs.
Rossington’s favorite guitar was a ‘1959 Gibson Les Paul,’ which he had named after his mother. He is remembered for some of his fabulous guitar work in songs such as ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ and ‘Simple Man.’
By 1976, the band was rather popular, and they had a tour scheduled for the week following the Labour Day weekend. On the weekend, Rossington got into an accident where he ran into an oak tree in his newly purchased ‘Ford Torino.’
Rossington was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the accident. He was fined a sum of $5,000 by the band for the delay in the tour caused because of him. The song ‘That Smell,’ written by Van Zant and Collins, was inspired by this incident.
In 1977, Rossington’s career came to an abrupt halt when he was injured in a plane crash that claimed the lives of the other ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ members. Rossington was the only band member to survive the crash near Gillsburg, Mississippi, on October 20, 1977. Knocked unconscious by the impact, Rossington found himself buried under the door of the aircraft when he regained consciousness. He had fractured his arms, legs, wrists, ankles, and pelvis in the “freak accident.”
Rossington recovered from the physical injuries and the trauma of losing his bandmates and went back to playing on stage with steel rods in his right arm and right leg. However, he was still battling with drug addiction, which was accelerated by his dependence on painkillers.
In 1980, Rossington got together with Allen Collins, and the duo formed a band called the ‘Rossington Collins Band.’ They released two albums. The first one, ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere,’ received positive response. However, the band fell apart in 1982, when Collins lost his wife.
In 1986, Rossington and his wife, Dale Krantz-Rossington, formed their own band, ‘The Rossington Band.’ They released two albums, one in 1986 and the other in 1988.
In 1987, ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ was reformed. Rossington joined their tribute tour, which continued for 3 years. Rossington has since been playing with the re-grouped ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd.’ With the death of keyboardist Billy Powell in 2009, he remains the only original member to still be associated with the band.
Awards & Achievements
On March 13, 2006, ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ was inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.’
Family & Personal Life
Gary Rossington married Dale Krantz in 1982. They have two daughters, Mary and Annie. The band they formed together released the albums ‘Returned to the Scene of the Crime’ and ‘Love Your Man.’
In 2007, Rossington suffered from heart problems and had to undergo an operation. On October 8, 2015, he had a major heart attack. Two ‘Lynyrd ‘Skynyrd’ concerts had to be canceled due to his condition. He also continues to suffer from severe muscle pain in his legs, a remnant of the 1977 crash.
Gary Rossington was one of the 20 passengers who survived the plane crash in 1977. He described the sound of the trees brushing against the flight as the sound of a thousand baseball bats hitting the plane’s fuselage.
Rossington has used ‘Gibson Les Pauls’ and ‘Gibson SGs’ throughout his career to date.