The toll was dire: Three band members perished; the others were all severely injured. The drummer--who was one of the few able to walk--staggered out for help, and was allegedly shot at by an alarmed farmer. The band's record label scrambled to replace the new album's cover, which eerily forecasted the accident by portraying the members engulfed in flames.
Although the crash remains now and forever the darkest centerpiece in the band's legend--as well as a breeding ground for gruesome urban legends surrounding the various members' demises--fans know quite well it's far from the first or last tragedy the definitive Southern Rockers endured. In fact, Lynyrd Skynyrd has managed to earn the dubious distinction of "unluckiest band in history" over the years. Here's a cheat sheet to their unfortunate past few decades.
It is undisputably the creepiest, but the flaming album cover wasn't the first prediction of deadly events for Skynyrd. Trouble began for the hard-partying band a year before the plane crash, when guitarist Gary Rossington plowed his brand-new car into a tree along a Jacksonville, Florida road. He survived the incident and admitted he was under the influence at the time, prompting bandmates Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins to write "That Smell"--an ominous tune warning "Say you'll be all right come tomorrow, but tomorrow may not be here for you." (Ironically, the 60-year-old Rossington is the sole member of the original lineup still performing in the band.)
I saw Skynyrd in October of 1977 while they were on that tour in Columbus Georgia when I was 18 years old. Fucking show kicked ass, Ronnie Van Zant was burning up the stage in his bare feet. They were fronted by a band called the Winter Brothers (not Johnny and Edgar) that rocked the same style of music.
Yeah, that was one of my most memorable concerts.