On December 4, 1951, Gary Robert Rossington was born in Jacksonville, Florida. No one knew it at the time, but that city would one day serve as far more than Rossington’s birthplace. It would serve as a birthplace of Southern rock.
In that same city, a handful of other Southern boys were born that would one day know and befriend Gary. As young boys do sometimes, they decided to form a band. That band was Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Through triumph and tragedy, joy and sadness, one man has been there for Skynyrd’s entire ride, which stretches over the course of multiple decades, and counting. That one man is Gary.
Now the last surviving member of the original band in the current lineup, Gary has continued to rock fans’ worlds with his guitar playing, which is just as pristine and skillful as ever. Despite everything that the band has been through over the years, Gary and his guitar have been the two constants they have always been able to rely on.
In honor of Gary and his immense contributions to Skynyrd, we’d like to take a photographic look back at his career. So go ahead and turn up his solo in “Tuesday’s Gone,” and prepare for a stroll down memory lane with the man who literally serves as Skynyrd’s living history book.
Taken in 1973, this photo shows Rossington with his Skynyrd bandmates (from left to right), Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Allen Collins, and Ed King. Along with Allen and Ed, Gary helped create Skynyrd’s signature “triple guitar attack” sound. Although they weren’t the pioneers of the concept, they certainly popularized it.
Part Of A Talented Lineup
Speaking of that triple guitar attack, you can see it in action in the above photo. Ed left the band in 1975, and in his absence Allen and Gary were left to cover all of the parts on their own.
Steve Gaines joined the group in 1976, and in doing so restored the band’s triple guitar sound. In this picture, which dates back to February 1977, you can see Allen, Gary, Leon, and Steve all lined up at the front of the stage with their respective instruments. The crowd would always go wild when they did that!
Good As Gold
Taken in April 1977, this picture shows Gary and Ronnie presenting Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson with a gold record of their live album One More from the Road. Although most of the Skynyrd guys were/are from Florida, they have always shared close ties to Atlanta and the state of Georgia, and performed there often.
In fact, the tracks on One More from the Road were actually recorded during a set of shows at the famous Fox Theatre in Atlanta. It only made sense for Gary and the rest of the guys to give the city a small token of appreciation after their album was certified gold!
A Skynyrd Hiatus
The entire course of Skynyrd’s story was forever changed when a plane carrying the band crashed on October 20, 1977. Ronnie, Steve, and backup singer Cassie Gaines were all killed in the crash, while Gary and the others were injured physically and emotionally.
Gary broke his pelvis and both of his arms, legs, wrists, and ankles in the crash. Despite his injuries, he was eventually able to play again, though not in Skynyrd at first. The group went on hiatus following the crash, so the band members branched off and formed other groups.
One of the groups that emerged during that period was The Rossington Band, and Gary is pictured with its members above. The woman standing across from him in the photo is none other than his wife Dale Krantz-Rossington.
“The Last Rebel”
After ten years apart, Skynyrd finally reunited in 1987 with a number of the previous members in the lineup. Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant took the charge as the new lead vocalist, and the band embarked on what they thought was a temporary tour. That temporary tour saw no end, and Skynyrd is still together today.
In 1993, the band released an album titled The Last Rebel. While its title track has been interpreted in multiple ways, some fans believe it that it was somewhat inspired by Gary. Looking at the 1991 photo of Gary rockin’ out on his trusty Les Paul guitar “Berneice,” we can see why many view him as “the last rebel” in Skynyrd today.
Hall of Famer
In 2006, Skynyrd earned one of the greatest honors any rock artist could ever dream of…they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Of course Gary was on hand to speak at the ceremony, and he couldn’t help but get a bit emotional.
Gary made sure to mention all of his fallen bandmates, and said how their names will always live on. Because of that, he also said that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name as a band would forever live on as well. And we have a huge reason to thank Gary for that…
Continuing The Legacy
Five decades after its initial formation, Skynyrd is still on the scene. This photo, taken during a concert in Florida in 2016, shows Gary doing the exact same thing he has been doing for the past five decades…making great music.
Over the years, Skynyrd has given a piece of itself to every member who has left. But when it comes to Gary, he embodies everything that Skynyrd has ever been through and represented.
Through his voice, his mind, and his hands, Gary carries and shares Skynyrd’s story, and the stories of his bandmates who have since become “Free Birds.” It’s a heavy weight to hold, one that many would buckle and bend under. But not Gary.
While many things have changed in Skynyrd over the years, Gary is the one element that remains untouched. Skynyrd would never be the same without him.