Street Survivor: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s guitarist Gary Rossington turns 70 this weekend

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Founding Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of the legendary Southern rock band, celebrates his 70th birthday this Saturday, December 4.

The band that became Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in 1964, when Rossington teamed up with singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Allen Collins, drummer Bob Burns and bassist Larry Junstrom.

After undergoing a few name changes, in 1969 the band settled on Lynyrd Skynyrd, partly a mocking tribute to their high school gym teacher Leonard Skinner.

A number of lineup changes and additions followed, and in 1973 Lynyrd Skynyrd released its debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd), the first of five successful and memorable albums.

During Lynyrd Skynyrd’s heyday, Rossington co-wrote several of the band’s most popular songs, including “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Simple Man,” “Gimme Back My Bullets” and “What’s Your Name.”

Tragedy struck Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977, when a plane crash claimed the lives of Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines — who’d joined Skynyrd in 1976 — and Steve’s sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines.

Following the accident, Gary and Allen went on to form the short-lived Rossington Collins Band. The group’s lead singer, Dale Krantz, went on to marry Rossington in 1982, and later became a Skynyrd backing singer.

Gary and Dale also led The Rossington Band during the late 1980s.

In 1987, Lynyrd Sknyrd reunited, with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant taking over as frontman. Since then, the group has undergone many lineup changes, with Rossington and Van Zant remaining the two constants. 2018 saw Skynyrd launch a planned farewell tour that has been extended multiple times, partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rossington has experienced serious health issues in recent years, and in July of 2021 he underwent emergency heart surgery that forced him to sit out most of the band’s recent tour dates.

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