Gary Miller/Getty Images; Paul Natkin / Getty Images
ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd have shared stages several times over the years — in fact, they have a joint tour on the books for this summer. So when ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons learned that Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington had passed away on Sunday at the age of 71, he found himself thinking about all those miles they had traveled together on the road.
“The loss of Gary Rossington is especially profound for us because we spent countless hours in his company on tour and all points in between,” says Gibbons. Rolling Stone. “We made it easy to get Lynyrd Skynyrd on the bill with ZZ Top in South Carolina history during the beginning of the band’s rise in ’73, which began a lasting friendship.”
Gibbons, Southern Rock’s guitar hero, raves about the skillful playing of his fallen mate. “Gary’s extraordinary ability as a guitarist was nothing short of inspiring. It’s an old phrase about someone who paid their dues to be called a ‘survivor’, and this case is absolutely true. Gary was the last of a breed and will be missed.”
Upon his death, Rossington – who survived the infamous 1977 plane crash – was the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and continued to tour with the group despite persistent heart problems. “I can still play well. It’s just the traveling. It’s very hard for me,” he said. Rolling Stone last November. However, during a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium that month, he garnered an enthusiastic response from the audience with his evocative slide guitar strumming on “Free Bird,” the band’s hit single in 1974.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s next live show is scheduled for Sunday, March 12, in Plant City, Florida. In previous concerts without Rossington, guitarist Damon Johnson had filled in.
“Travel geek. Incurable music expert. Food maven. Troublemaker. Lifelong student. Avid tv junkie.”