20 October 2012

lynyrd skynyrd ... the free bird fell to the ground 35 years ago today

it was october in st. louis town when we heard that the free bird had fell to the ground ... and we all said a prayer before we went down, to play ~ cdb "reflections"
Gillsburg, Amite County, Mississippi -- Thursday 20 October 1977

At 1843 CDT a 1948 Convair 240, registered as N55VM to the L&J Company of Addison, Texas, crashed into a swamp located on timber company land in the unincorporated community of Gillsburg in Amite County, Mississippi.

The flight was carrying a crew of two plus twenty-four members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band; backup vocalists, the bands tour managers, road crew and security manager.

The flight had departed shortly after 1600 EDT from Greenville, South Carolina where Lynyrd Skynyrd performed the previous night at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium.

It was enroute to Ryan Field at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was scheduled to perform at the Louisiana State University Assembly Center on 21 October for what would have been its fifth performance on its 1977 - 1978 "Tour of the Survivors."

The crash is believed caused by a faulty magneto in the Convair's starboard engine:

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the likely cause of the crash of N55VM was, "fuel exhaustion and total loss of power on both engines due to crew inattention to the fuel supply."

The Safety Board further found that the fuel exhaustion was caused by deficient flight planning, and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in higher than normal fuel consumption. ~ source NTSB Identification: DCA78AA001 [link broken as of december 2011 see below screen grab] & Lynyrd Skynyrd's Crash

click picture to enlarge
NTSB source link as of December 2011

click picture to enlarge
courtesy google earth image date 08 august 2007

Johnny Mote, 22, a dairy farmer whose property is near the crash site said the crash "sounded like a car skidding in gravel." Mr. Mote was out haying his cattle when he was "flagged down" by three crash survivors, Artmus Pyle, Kenneth Peden, Jr. and Marc Frank.

One of the first responders to arrive at the scene was Jeffrey Wall, 23, a member of the Gillsburg Rural Volunteer Fire Department. He said:

[T]hat when he reached the crash site ... "Some people were crying and some were moaning. Some didn't know what was going on," he also said rescuers had to wade through a waterhole to get to the crash site and that, once there, they had to remove band instruments to free trapped survivors.
Eventually three helicopters from the Coast Guard, Mississippi National Guard and Forrest County General Hospital assisted in the rescue.

At least two bulldozers were needed to construct a path from Mississippi State Highway 568 to site of the crash.

Killed in the crash were Walter McCreary, pilot; William Gray, co-pilot; Ronnie Van Zant, singer/songwriter; Steve Gaines, guitarist/vocalist; Cassie Gaines, backup vocalist, The Honkettes and Dean Kilpatrick, assistant road manager. ~ Read more >>> Lynyrd Skynyrd's Crash

This crash, besides being a source of indescribable loss for all the families left an irreplaceable void in a genre of music much loved worldwide.


"call me the breeze"
united kingdom tour at cardiff wales. date unclear possibly in early november 1975 or '76.

"i aint the one"
herfordshire england
knebworth fair
21 august 1976

"tuesday's gone"
live 1976

"sweet home alabama" / "dont ask me no questions"
dubbed old footage. no date.

"t for texas"
possibly uk tour 1975 or '76

"i'm a country boy"
nuthin fancy 1975

"cry for the bad man"
live winterland arena
san francisco
03 march 1976

"you got that right"
live asbury park
13 july 1977


wolf gangs vault has several lynyrd skynyrd concerts to listen to. you have to register and log in.

for now, you can still listen to full length concerts for free -- after logging in press play now. in some browsers you might have to allow popup windows. you also have the option buy tracks and concerts..

see also
originally posted
19 march 2010
updated, edited and reposted
20 october 2010
reposted 20 october 2011
last updated/edited 16 december 2011
reposted 20 october 2012