10 Details About the Fatal Plane Crash that Was the Death of Lynyrd Skynyrd As We Knew It

Lynyrd Skynyrd is no doubt an American staple in music and southern rock culture. From the commercial hits of “Free Bird” and “Simple Man” to less mainstream songs like “The Needle And The Spoon” and ” T’ Is For Texas”, Lynyrd Skynyrd and their driving southern sound quickly cut their way to the top of the charts and into the hearts of many across the states and around the world. Sadly, it would end all to soon. On October 20, 1977 they would board a flight bound for Louisiana that would crash in Gillsberg, Missippi and claim the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, along with Pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray. Here are 10 facts about Lynyrd Skynyrd and their fateful end.

Lynyrd Skynyrd poses for a shot for their Street Survivors album. Photo thanks to Ultimate Classic Rock

The Band Was Touring, With Their 5th Album Street Survivors” Being Released.

The band had just released their biggest album to date and was riding off of a good high. “Street Survivors” was released just three days before the crash and would quickly become a hit. The album would reach gold in ten days after release and it would eventually go double platinum. The album had two notable songs: “What’s your name” and “That Smell”. Both of which helped the album climb to the No. 5 spot, it was the band’s first No. 5 album.

It would also be the first album that guitarist Steve Gaines would be the sole guitar player on. The album would go through several cover changes and would mark a new era for the guys. The band leased a new Convair CV-240 to help them get between shows easier. The album had deeper meaning than most. Especially with the song “That Smell”. It is a cautionary song about drug abuse that fans believed was aimed at one of the members.

The album had a very controversial cover when released. The album cover depicted the band members in an alleyway covered in flames. If you look closely, Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines (2 of 3 band members to die in the crash) are completely engulfed in flames, whereas the rest of the band is merely standing around in the streets of fire. The cover would quickly be changed to a more bland blacked out background with the band in the same pose after the accident. Making the original release cover more valuable to collectors than the second cover released just a few weeks after the album hit the shelves.