ALTON — After more than 40 years on the music scene, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Lynyrd Skynyrd still know how to command a stage, build a connection and relate with fans across multiple generations.
Sponsored by KSHE-95, Lynyrd Skynyrd will take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, in front of the Clark Bridge at the Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater with special guest country artist Clayton Anderson kicking off the event.
As the second season of summer passes by, the amphitheater stage has played host to artists such as Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Uncle Kracker, not to mention legends like Kenny Rogers, Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss and the United States Air Force Band. In 2013 Alton welcomed Guitars on Fire, a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, and two short years later, Alton is welcoming the real deal to thrill an audience anticipated to pack the riverfront.
“It’s hard to believe the capacity of artists that we’ve had through Alton in the last two years,” Alton Mayor Brant Walker said. “I love music and Lynyrd Skynyrd is no doubt one of my all-time favorites. I couldn’t be more excited for the September 4 concert. We’ve had great attractions at the Liberty Bank Amphitheater and we’ve brought in fantastic crowds that bring opportunity and positive attention to our community. This is a great way to promote our city and get people from across the state talking about what’s going on in the Riverbend region.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd got its name poking fun at the band members’ high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. As the band took the stage one evening at a small club, they announced themselves as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the name stuck. As any musical artist knows, bands see their share of ups and downs, and Lynyrd Skynyrd endured the worst down moment imaginable. Just days after the release of the “Street Survivors” album in October 1977, the band suffered a great loss with the deaths of front man Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines. The band’s twin-engine plane went down in a swamp in Gillsburg, Miss., and the three bandmates, along with their tour manager and both pilots, were killed on impact. Several other band members were seriously injured. Drummer Artimus Pyle and two crew members were able to crawl from the wreckage through wet woods until they got the attention of a farmer, who was able to send for help.
Lynryd Skynyrd disbanded following the crash and band members tested the waters in solo careers for a decade. The band reunited in 1987 with returning members Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle and guitarist Ed King, who had left the band two years before the crash. Joining the band was Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny as their new front man. Gary Rossington and Johnny Van Zant are the only remaining original or reunited band members and have continued to tour in honor of their fallen band members.
On the official Lynyrd Skynyrd website, Rossington talks about why the band continues to tour.
“We’re still standing, still keeping the music going,” he says. “We wanted to do the guys who aren’t with us any more proud, and keep the name proud, too.”
On the website, Johnny Van Zant adds: “It’s just that we love the music; it’s bigger than the money, it’s not even about that any more. We have to make a living, sure, but it’s about the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what it stands for and what the fans are all about. There’s nothing like getting out there playing a great show (with Skynyrd) and seeing people love this music.”
Some of the band’s greatest hits include “Simple Man,” “Gimme Back my Bullets,” “Free Bird” “Gimme Three Steps” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” The band offers a catalog of more than 60 albums, sales beyond 30 million worldwide and their classic American rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama” having more than 2 million downloaded ringtones.
VIP and premium seats are sold out but general admission seats are available for $42.50 at the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Metrotix.com or by calling (314) 534-1111. All shows are performed rain or shine with no refunds or exchanges. Tickets also are available at www.libertybankamphitheater.com.