"You never forget stuff like that. The aches and pains are still there. You remember it and you learn to live with it. But there's not a day that I don't end up being involved with it."
That is guitarist Gary Rossington talking about the 1977 plane crash that tore the wings from Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band that flew with "Free Bird," "Gimme Three Steps," "Sweet Home Alabama" and other redneck rock classics of the 1970s.But a renewed version of Skynyrd is back with a live album, "Southern By The Grace of God," and a tribute tour.
The original Lynyrd Skynyrd perished when singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and four others died in a crash on Oct. 20, 1977, near McComb, Miss. The plane, carrying band and entourage, ran out of gas. Among the 20 survivors were current Skynyrd members Billy Powell, Rossington, bassist Leon Wilkeson and drummer Artimus Pyle.
Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, has assumed the vocal duties. A pre-fame Skynyrd guitarist named Ed King has stepped in for guitarist Allen Collins, who was paralyzed in a car crash more than a year ago.
Rossington and his vocalist wife, Dale Krantz Rossington (who was a backup vocalist for .38 Special and a short-lived Rossington-Collins Band), are pulling double duty for the tour, doing 45 minutes of material drawn primarily from their "Love Your Man" LP before "running backstage, drying off and going out and doing it again. It's a really good mixture," Rossington drawled from his family's log home on an elk refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyo.
So what's a swamp rat doing in the Cowboy State?
"Well, we moved out here after the Rossington-Collins band broke up in 1979T," he said.
"We built this log house on the last little parcel of land out here and just got away from music for awhile. After we built the house and had the girls (Mary, 4, and Annie, 2), Dale and I realized we wanted to get back to work. So we started the Rossington Band. We were busy with that band for a while when the idea for the Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute tour came up."
The Lynyrd Skynyrd tour and album is a one-shot project, Rossington said, so his future is with his own band, which includes bassist Tim Lindsay and guitarist Jay Johnson.