Gary Rossington

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Gary Rossington
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd - Simpleman 2011.png
Rossington performing in 2011
Gary Robert Rossington

(1951-12-04)December 4, 1951
DiedMarch 5, 2023(2023-03-05) (aged 71)
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Years active1964–2023
Dale Krantz-Rossington
(m. 1982)
Musical career
Formerly of

Gary Robert Rossington (December 4, 1951 – March 5, 2023) was an American guitarist. He is best known as a founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, in which he played lead and rhythm guitar. He was the longest-surviving founding member of the band. Rossington was also a founding member of the Rossington Collins Band, along with former bandmate Allen Collins.

Early life[edit]

Rossington was born in Jacksonville, Florida. His mother recalled that he had a strong childhood interest in baseball and aspired as a child to one day play for the New York Yankees. Rossington recalled that he was a "good ball player" but upon hearing the Rolling Stones in his early teens he became interested in music and ultimately gave up on his baseball aspirations.[1][2]

It was Rossington's love of baseball that indirectly led to the formation of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964.[3][4] He became acquainted with Ronnie Van Zant and Bob Burns while playing on rival Jacksonville baseball teams and the trio decided to jam together one afternoon after Burns was injured by a ball hit by Van Zant. They set up their equipment in the carport of Burns' parents' house and played The Rolling Stones' then-current hit "Time Is on My Side". Liking what they heard, they immediately decided to form a band.[5] Naming themselves The Noble Five, with the additions of guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom, they later changed the name of the band to The One Percent before eventually settling on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.[6]

Rossington grew up in a single-parent household and said that early in their relationship, Van Zant became something of a father figure to him. He credited Van Zant, who was three years his senior, with teaching him and his bandmates how to drive a car, as well as introducing them to "all that stuff you learn when you're 14, 15, 16".[5]

According to a New York Times article, Lacy Van Zant, patriarch of the Van Zant family, once went to West Jacksonville's Robert E. Lee High School to plead Rossington's case to school administrators after the fatherless Rossington was suspended for having long hair. Lacy Van Zant explained to the assistant principal that Rossington's father, who died shortly after Rossington was born, had died in the Army and that Rossington's mother needed the money Rossington made playing in his band. Lacy Van Zant further explained that, like his own sons, they were working men and long hair was part of the job.[7] It is not known if the elder Van Zant's efforts were successful, but Rossington later dropped out of high school to focus on Lynyrd Skynyrd full-time.[5]


Rossington (center) with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977
Rossington (right) performing alongside Rickey Medlocke in 2011

Rossington's instrument of choice was a 1959 Gibson Les Paul which he had purchased from a woman whose boyfriend had left her and left behind his guitar. He named it "Berniece" in honor of his mother, whom he was extremely close to after the death of his father.[8] Rossington played lead guitar on "Tuesday's Gone" and the slide guitar for "Free Bird".[8] Along with Collins, Rossington also provided the guitar work for "Simple Man".[8] Besides the Les Paul, he used various other Gibson Guitars including Gibson SGs.[8][9][10] Gibson also released a Gary Rossington SG/Les Paul in their Custom Shop.[11] For most of his career, he played through Marshall and Peavey amplifiers.[12][13]

In 1976, Rossington and fellow Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins were both involved in separate car accidents in their hometown of Jacksonville.[14][15] Rossington had just bought a new Ford Torino and hit an oak tree while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.[16][17] The band was forced to postpone a tour scheduled to begin a few days later, and Rossington was fined US$5,000 for the delay his actions caused to the band's schedule.[16] The song "That Smell", written by Van Zant and Collins, was based on the wreck and Rossington's state of influence from drugs and alcohol that caused it.[16][18]

Rossington was one of 20 passengers who survived the October 20, 1977, plane crash near McComb, Mississippi, that claimed the lives of Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and three others.[19] As the passengers braced for impact, Rossington recalls hearing what sounded like hundreds of baseball bats hitting the plane's fuselage as it began striking trees.[20] The sound got louder and louder until Rossington was knocked unconscious; he awoke some time later on the ground with the plane's door on top of him.[19] Days later, Rossington was informed in the hospital by his mother that Van Zant and the others had been killed.[5] Rossington recovered from his injuries and played on stage again, with steel rods in his right arm and right leg.[21][22]

Though in time Rossington fully recovered from the severe injuries sustained in the crash, he battled serious drug addiction for several years, largely the result of his heavy dependence on pain medication taken during his recovery from the plane crash.[19] Rossington co-founded the Rossington Collins Band with Collins in 1980.[23][24] The band released two albums, but disbanded in 1982 after the death of Collins' wife, Kathy.[25][26] Along with his wife, Dale Krantz-Rossington, he then formed The Rossington Band, which released two albums in 1986 and 1988.[27][28] Until his death in 2023, Rossington still played with Lynyrd Skynyrd.[29][30] With the death of bassist Larry Junstrom in 2019, he became the last surviving original member of the band.[22]

Personal life and death[edit]

Rossington and Dale Krantz-Rossington were married in 1982 and had two daughters.[31][32] Rossington suffered a heart attack on October 8, 2015, after which two Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts had to be canceled.[33] In July 2021, he underwent emergency heart surgery.[34]

Rossington died at his home in Milton, Georgia, on March 5, 2023, at age 71.[35] The cause of his death was not revealed.[19][36]


  1. ^ "The Official Lynyrd Skynyrd History Website – History Lessons". Lynyrd Skynyrd History. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  2. ^ "History of Lynyrd Skynyrd". Lynyrd Skynyrd. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  3. ^ "Baseball, Concussions, And More: The Hilarious Story Behind The Birth Of Lynyrd Skynyrd – Society Of Rock". Society of Rock. March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  4. ^ "When All Is Said And Done, This Is What Johnny Van Zant Wants Fans To Remember About Lynyrd Skynyrd". bear104.7. July 19, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, Passion Pictures, Directed by Stephen Kijak, 2018
  6. ^ Walfisz, Jonny (March 6, 2023). "Lynyrd Skynyrd: Which bands have no surviving members left?". Euronews. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  7. ^ Dewan, Shaila K. (December 26, 2004). "Southern Man". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d Seah, Daniel (March 6, 2023). "Gary Rossington, guitarist and last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, dies at 71". Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  9. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael Ray (June 27, 2022). "Jacksonville Was a Hotbed of Music". The Jitney. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  10. ^ Pipper, von Heinz Rebellius / Udo (April 14, 2021). "G&B-Classics: Gibson SG – Die Geschichte eines Klassikers". GITARRE & BASS (in German). Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  11. ^ "Gary Rossington Signature SG". Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  12. ^ Weiss, Arlene R. (2003). "Lynyrd Skynyrd". Vintage Guitar magazine. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  13. ^ Charupakorn, Joe (January 15, 2017). "Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington: Simple Man, Big Tone – Premier Guitar". Premier Guitar. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  14. ^ "Gary Rossington, last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, dead at 71". CBC. March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  15. ^ Giles, Jeff. "When Lynyrd Skynyrd's Allen Collins Was Paralyzed in a Car Crash". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  16. ^ a b c Vitagliano, Joe (December 21, 2021). "Behind the Song Lyrics: "That Smell," Lynyrd Skynyrd". American Songwriter. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  17. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd's last surviving member, Gary Rossington, dies aged 71". Yahoo Movies. March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  18. ^ "That Smell: inspiration sole survivor from other days music died". The Australian. January 5, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  19. ^ a b c d Cain, Sian (March 6, 2023). "Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist and founding member, dies aged 71". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  20. ^ Runtagh, Jordan (October 20, 2017). "Remembering Lynyrd Skynyrd's Deadly 1977 Plane Crash". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  21. ^ "Gary Rossington, Last Original Member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dies at 71". Yahoo News. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  22. ^ a b Savage, Mark (March 6, 2023). "Gary Rossington: Lynyrd Skynyrd's last founding member dies aged 71". BBC News. Archived from the original on March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  23. ^ "Twaalf platen, dertien ongevallen: Lynyrd Skynyrds laatste originele lid overleden". De Standaard (in Flemish). Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  24. ^ Romano, Nick. "Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's last original member, dies at 71". Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  25. ^ "Gary Rossington, last founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, dead at 71". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  26. ^ Bernstein, Scott (March 6, 2023). "Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitarist & Last Original Member, Dies At Age 71". JamBase. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  27. ^ "Gary Rossington, guitarist and last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, dies at 71". KSHE 95. March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  28. ^ Hipes, Erik Pedersen,Patrick; Pedersen, Erik; Hipes, Patrick (March 6, 2023). "Gary Rossington Dies: Guitarist And Last Surviving Original Member Of Lynyrd Skynyrd Was 71". Deadline. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  29. ^ "Gary Rossington: Lynyrd Skynyrd's last founding member dies aged 71". BBC News. March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  30. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd founding member Gary Rossington dies aged 71". ABC News. March 6, 2023. Retrieved March 6, 2023.
  31. ^ Nichols, Jake (August 27, 2014). "Don't Ask Me No Questions". Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved August 27, 2014.
  32. ^ Sharp, Ken. "Life Beyond Skynyrd: Guitarist Gary Rossington and Wife Dale 'Take It On Faith' (Interview)". Rock Cellar Magazine. Archived from the original on December 1, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  33. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitarist Gary Rossington Suffers Heart Attack". Ultimate Classic Rock. Archived from the original on July 5, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  34. ^ Dakin Andone (July 24, 2021). "Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist recovering following emergency heart surgery". CNN. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  35. ^ Gary Robert Rossington obituary
  36. ^ Hudak, Joseph (March 5, 2023). "Gary Rossington, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Last Original Member, Dead at 71". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 6, 2023.

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