Lynyrd Skynyrd takes on Thunder Valley Casyno

Lynyrd Skynyrd performs at Thunder Valley Casino

Lynyrd Skynyrd performs at Thunder Valley Casino

Lynyrd Skynyrd set Thunder Valley Casino on fire Saturday night as the band celebrated 40 years of making music.

Promoting their latest album, “Last of a Dyin’ Breed,” The band entertained a full house of die-hard Skynyrd fans a.k.a. the Skynyrd Nation.

It was obvious that their music is enjoyed by a number of generations, as young and old packed Thunder Valley Casino’s outdoor Amphitheater. Crowds of non-ticket holders couldn’t help but gather in the parking lot area and on the sidewalks outside the amphitheater to listen.

Johnny Van Zant

Johnny Van Zant

As the band stormed the stage, the crowd exploded into cheers, with the band kicking off their set with What’s Your Name” and “Call Me the Breeze.”

The majority of the audience never sat down the entire concert, even during the slower medleys, such as “That Smell.” The band sounded great and had a solid stage presence providing a high-energy show.

A new addition to their set was a giant television screen behind the band, showing graphics and video throughout the concert. During their dedication to the armed services they played “Simple Man,” as the screen lit up with the U.S. flag and emblems of the various armed services.

Rickey Medlocke

Rickey Medlocke

It was a touching moment, with the crowd going quiet as everyone who wasn’t standing stood up waving their arms back and forth.

Toward the end of the concert, Van Zant waved an Alabama state flag attached to a microphone stand. He was encouraging the audience to scream “Alabama!” to prepare for their next song, “Sweet Home Alabama.” As soon as they started up the song, they were met with the wildest and loudest cheers of the night.

Mark Matejka

Mark Matejka

For their encore the band came out with Van Zant taunting the crowd.

“You know what you want to hear,” he said.

“Free Bird!” the audience shouted back.

Then the band started playing an extended version of “Free Bird.”

Gary Rossington

Gary Rossington

Lynyrd Skynyrd has a rich but tragic history. Producing over 60 albums, they have sold well over 30 million records and continue to sell a million records each year.

They got their start in Florida in 1964 and were known as The Noble Five. They later changed their name to Leonard Skinnered, which ultimately morphed into the spelling they use today. They got their name from high school teacher Leonard Skinner, who strictly enforced the school’s policy against boys having long hair.

Peter "Keys" Pisarczyk

Peter “Keys” Pisarczyk

Their rise to fame finally came in 1973 when they released their first album, “(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd).” The album contained the hit song “Free Bird.”

Tragedy strikes

On October 20, 1977, right after the release of “Street Survivors,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered airplane ran out of fuel near the end of their flight. The plane went down in a forest in Gillsburg, Miss. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick and both pilots were killed on impact. Other band members and crew suffered serious injuries.

Michael Cartellone

Michael Cartellone

The remaining members disbanded, reuniting once to perform an instrumental version of “Free Bird” at Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam V in 1979.

Of the surviving band members:

Allen Collins crashed his car while driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville, killing his girlfriend and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the chest down. Collins died on January 23, 1990, due to pneumonia.

Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd’s bassist since 1972, was found dead in his hotel room on July 27, 2001. His death was attributed to emphysema and chronic liver disease.

Billy Powell died on January 28, 2009, at the age of 56. An autopsy was never performed. It is assumed he died of a heart attack since he had missed a doctor’s appointment the day before for a checkup on his heart.

Powell’s death left Gary Rossington as the sole pre-crash member of the band.

Newest member Johnny Colton

Newest member Johnny Colton

Newer band members:

Hughie Thomasson died in his sleep on September 9, 2007, of an apparent heart attack in his home in Brooksville, Fla. at the age of 55.

Ean Evans (bass) died on May 6, 2009, from cancer.

As it states on their website, “Beyond the tragedy, the history, the raging guitars and the killer songs, ultimately, Lynyrd Skynyrd is about an indomitable will. About survival of spirit; unbowed, uniquely American, stubbornly resolute.”

Current band members:

Gary Rossington- Guitar
Johnny Van Zant- Vocals
Rickey Medlocke- Guitar
Mark “Sparky” Matejka- Guitar
Michael Cartellone- Drums
Robert Kearns – Bass
Peter “Keys” Pisarczyk – Keyboards
Dale Krantz Rossington- Backing Vocals
Carol Chase- Backing Vocals
Johnny Colt – Guitar


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