Gary Rossington: Last of A Dyin’ Breed
How many live shows do you think you have played?
I don’t know and I don’t know if I could guess that. I would have to sit down with a calculator. A lot, a lot. We do about 80 to 100 shows now a days. We used to do two to three hundred a year.
How would you assess the current state of Southern rock?
Southern Rock I think is changing—not really changing—it’s just kind of what it is today. We try to keep it alive doing what we’re doing and I know the Allman Brothers still play a lot. There’s Blackberry Smoke and Black Stone Cherry—there’s a few southern bands around coming up but I don’t really see it anymore and that’s why we called this last album The Last of Dyin’ Breed, ‘cause I feel like all the southern bands and other rock n’ roll bands that toured in the ’70s and ’80s and even back in the ’60s … there’s not many left, only a handful that I know of, maybe two hands. There’s not a lot of guitar blues bands around anymore. I hope it comes back around. I’m sure it will someday.
One band I wanted to ask you about is Drive By Truckers.
They’re from Muscle Shoals and we learned and grew up in Muscle Shoals with The Swampers: David Hood, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett and all them guys, and we just love them. They [Drive By Truckers] are the sons of those guys. They’re good boys, they’re good friends, and they’re a real good band.
And where do you feel Lynyrd Skynyrd fits into the overall history of Southern rock?
I don’t know. We just wanted to be a hard-working band and people respect that we try hard and work hard. We did that that and still are and we just wanted to be known as that hard-working simple band. We just walked out in blue jeans and T-shirts. It’s just a real deal thing—playing for real as a band—that’s all Southern music is.
Are you aware that Phish covers “Curtis Loew?”
That’s great. I’m glad they do it. I think it’s a cool thing. It’s big compliment when someone wants to do one of your songs. I’m happy for it.
And how much do you know about the jamband scene and all the festivals?
I hear about it a little bit, I would like to hear more and do more and play at them [festival]). It’s a big jam and that’s what guys like me do. I’ll try to find out more about it and check it out even more.
How’s the tour going?
We’re doing real good. We’re going to start doing some of our new songs in the set. It’s always fun to do a few new ones. And the people seem to be coming and enjoying it, so we just love it. We love to play and see all the emotions, the faces and people singing the lyrics with Johnny and some of them cry at “Freebird” or “Simple Man.”
Your wife has been in the band since its reformation in 1987. What’s it like touring and working with your wife?
A lot of people say that they don’t see how we could do it since we’re together all the time. We’ve just gotten used to it and now we can’t do it without each other. It’s just one of them things. It’s good – I’m glad she’s with me.
What’s the makeup of the audience?
We have a song called “Skynyrd Nation”: it’s three generation of fans. We got fans our own age that we grew up with and they all have had kids and now their kids. We see young and old out there. I like to say some of the people been through a lot of times and they’ve heard the music, so they remember the things they’ve done in life and it reminds them of certain songs and it makes them emotional. It’s great to see it when you’re playing.
What’s the feel of the new record?
It’s kind of an old style record. We try to do it like we’ve always done it and just play and write the best we could. I’m real proud of this album. We’re happy with the songs and it was just a fun thing to do.
Are there any tracks that you’re most proud of?
I really like “Mississippi Blood.” It’s a cool track, it’s fun to play and it’s kind different than today’s stuff. “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” and “One Day At a Time” are both fun to play.
You were supposed to make a special guest appearance at the Allman Brothers Band 40th Anniversary celebration at the Beacon, but you had to postpone because of health issues…
I love them guys—they’ve always been a big inspiration and always been a big fan of theirs. I love Gregg and Duane.
Duane had a big influence on you.
I knew him a little bit. Just really proud to have known him. Right now our guitars are in the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and my guitar is right next to his and I love that.
Of all the songs in Skynyrd’s catalog which one speaks to you when you play it?
I love to play “Simple Man.” It’s a moody song, the people sing all the words, and like I said, it’s one of those songs where you see some people crying and we usually play it for the soldiers in the military every night. We’re big supporters of the military and we try to do as much we can for them. It’s a real touching song every night.