5 minutes alone: Gary Rossington

Lynyrd Skynyrd man on violent gigs and Les Paul lovin'

(Image: © Travis Shinn)

The southern master talks onstage bloodbaths, his love of Beck and keeping the Skynyrd flame alive…

Got my first real six-string

“My first guitar was a Sears and Roebuck Silvertone. I was 14 years old. My mother bought it and I paid some towards it from my paper round. I’ve still got it, believe it or not - the case has a speaker inside. It’s a guitar, a case and an amp all in one - it’s really cool.”

Dream on

“I saw Keith Richards and Brian Jones playing Les Pauls and I always wanted one. I fell in love with Les Pauls. I loved Firebirds as well. Mostly though I wanted a Les Paul. I wrote all of the old songs with Ronnie (Van Zant, Skynyrd vocalist) on a Les Paul and I recorded all of the Skynyrd records with one. The Les Paul has a great tone. You’ve got to play them a special way to get the most out of it, it’s different to other guitars.”

Baby, come back

“I’ve given away guitars over the years but I’ve done it with an open heart and I’ve been happy to do it. The only thing is my ’59 Les Paul is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame here in America, and it has been there for about eight years. I kind of miss that guitar being around. Bernice was the name of that guitar, I miss Bernice.”

Let me show you the way

“I’d love to sit down with Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck; they’re the two best guitarists to me. Hendrix as well but of course he’s not here any more. Clapton and Beck blow my mind every time I hear them. Beck makes it look so easy, he does so many things with his volume knob. You can always tell when you’re listening to Beck, Clapton or Hendrix, because they have their own style. They are remarkable.”

We rely on each other, ah-ha

“I’ve just made an album with my wife Dale [Krantz-Rossington] singing on it. We’re best friends so we’re able to work together. She’s a great girl. On the road we just take care of each other. We started out working together before we got together as a couple, so we’ve always worked well together.”

Back in the saddle

“After the plane crash it was tough for me. It was horrible. It was hard to play again, I didn’t want to do it any more. I met Alan Price from the Animals in Barbados a few weeks later and he made me start again, God bless him. It was a tough time to get through, it just wasn’t fun to play for a while, but it turned around after a while and I loved it again.

“Today, we love to tour and we do it to keep the music out there. It’s great to share the songs and stories of Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Steve Gaines and all of the people we’ve lost from the band. I just keep carrying the name Skynyrd. I know that if I had died early on I would have wanted those guys to have kept the dream that we had going.”

First cut is the deepest

“With the original band, we were playing in Dallas, Texas. Back in those days you had big speakers piled on each other. One of the speakers fell during the show and hit Ronnie right in the head. He was bleeding everywhere; it was only a little cut but it bled all down his face. He wasn’t in pain a bit, but he loved it because he was bleeding out on stage. That was a pretty wild show.”

Gary Rossington’s latest album, Take It On Faith, is out now on Loud & Proud Records.

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