Storytime with Lynyrd Skynyrd

Jumped in the truck the other day and caught Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ on the radio. Very 80’s moment, I know.

It’s a shame that this has become the cliché/parody of itself that it is now, but maybe that’s precisely because it remains one of the baddest jams out there.

When I was working with a band in the mid-90’s we played some shows in Florida and happened to be staying at the same hotel as that era’s lineup of Skynyrd as they spent a week preparing to go on tour. We met a few of the guys by the pool and they were downright awesome. Shared all kinds of tales from the road, plane crash stories – the full nine.

I mean, these guys were rock legend at this point. We were just some young alt-rock wannabes – they didn’t even have to give us the time of day. But not at all. They were very humble, encouraging and I think even a bit proud (they’d every right to be) of the longevity they’d enjoyed, especially in light of all the ups and downs they’d experienced as a band of brothers.

It was a rather silly scene – I remember stepping away for a minute and coming back to see my friends all sitting on the ground, legs crossed, in a circle, around a lounge chair where Leon Wilkeson was perched, telling tales. It looked – for a minute – like storytime at school. Bizarre.

Then they took us to a local – ahem – ‘Gentlemen’s Establishment’.

What I remember of it was an amazing time, and what I’ve forgotten was probably even better.

Epilogue: In what was the most amazing move yet, they invited us to hang backstage during their show that was coming up in 2 days, but the agonizing truth is that we had a flight out booked before then. We scrambled to get it changed, but couldn’t and in vain tried to find some alternate method of getting home, but alas, couldn’t. The guitarist for the band hosting us down there had offered to drive us back to DC, but there was 6 of us and gear and all he had was a 2 door hatchback. So. Close.

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