Setlist History: Lynyrd Skynyrd Saves Venue and Records Live LP

Lynyrd Skynyrd were blazing in the summer of 1976. In a miraculous streak, each year from '73 they released a gritty, soulful, southern rock studio album that went at least gold.

Starting with Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd which produced "Gimme Three Steps" and "Free Bird," to its '74 follow up Second Helping that gave us "Sweet Home Alabama," Skynyrd could do little wrong. Even 1976's Gimme Back My Bullets delivered with the title track, "Double Trouble," and "Every Mother's Son."

Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1976 – By MCA Records

This was a band who could attack Neil Young, write an anti-gun anthem, be sensitive, uplifting, and raunchy all while launching into a triple-guitar attack.

Were they also a mess off the stage with the drinking and the drugs and not taking the recording sessions seriously and the getting tossed in jail?

It was the '70s. It was rock n roll. And they wrote about that too. For the '77 Street Survivors album, singer Ronnie Van Zant wrote "That Smell" after guitarist Gary Rossington fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his new car into a house.

Also eerie was the original album cover of Street Survivors showed the band surrounded in flames.

"Tomorrow might not be here for you," Zant wrote as a cautionary tale to the intensely partying band adding the eerie "the smell of death surrounds you."

Eerie because a week after the album was released, Skynyrd was involved in a tragic plane crash that killed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, the captain and the first officer. The rest of the band and it's entourage, 20 others in total on the plane, were injured.

But the summer before that tragedy befell the band, they were asked to perform a series of shows at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, a gem of a venue stretching back to the King of Rock n Roll.

Elvis was in the building in 1956.

Due to myriad of ridiculous reasons including a grueling tour, founding drummer Bob Burns and longtime guitarist Ed King quit the band - in moves that may have saved their lives. Replacing King was Steve Gaines who, weirdly, was born on the exact same day and year as he was.

Gaines fit right into the band, his guitar playing, singing, and songwriting were a breath of fresh air for Skynyrd. He co-wrote half of their last album and provided "I Know A Little" to the band's repertoire.

The first Atlanta show of the July 7-9 run was just Gaines' third gig, so the set was basically Skynyrd 101, which was perfectly ok.

Not just that, but a few months later on Sept 13, 1976, when MCA decided to release the live recordings of the charity event, it became a perfect encapsulation of Skynyrd's biggest hits with most of its original members.

After warming up the Georgia crowd with "Workin for MCA" and "I Ain't The One," Skynyrd ripped into that anti-gun tune, "Saturday Night Special."

And they ended the show with a 14 minutes version of "Freebird," which is enough to send anyone home with an enormous smile on their face.

Earlier in '76, Liberace of all people held a benefit for the Fox theater built in 1929, but it probably was the three night stand by Skynyrd that put it over the top.

Since then the Fox has seen ongoing renovations and many other special concerts including the very last show Prince would ever play.

Skynyrd are on the last few days of The Sharp Dressed Simple Man Tour they're co-headlining with ZZ Top. Then they continue on for more shows through October. Tickets available on their website.

"Crossroads Blues" is what you sandwich between "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."

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Last updated: 2 Oct 2023, 11:19 Etc/UTC