Billy Gibbons Remembers Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington: ‘He Was the Last of the Breed’

gibbons-rossington - Credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images; Paul Natkin/Getty Images
gibbons-rossington - Credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images; Paul Natkin/Getty Images

ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd have shared stages multiple times over the years — in fact, they have a joint tour on the books for this summer. So when ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons learned that Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington died Sunday at 71, he found himself thinking back to all those miles traveled together on the road.

“Gary Rossington’s loss is especially profound for us as we’ve spent countless hours in his company on tour and all points in between,” Gibbons tells Rolling Stone. “We facilitated getting Lynyrd Skynyrd on the bill with ZZ Top at a South Carolina date way back during the start of the band’s rise in ’73, which started an enduring friendship.”

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A fellow Southern-rock guitar hero, Gibbons raves about his fallen comrade’s deft playing. “Gary’s extraordinary ability as a guitarist was nothing less than inspirational. It’s an old cliché about somebody who has paid their dues to call them a ‘survivor,’ and it this case it is literally true. Gary was the last of the breed and will be missed.”

Upon his death, Rossington — who survived the band’s infamous 1977 plane crash — was the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and continued to tour with the group despite ongoing heart trouble. “I can still play good. It’s just the travel. It’s so hard on me,” he told Rolling Stone last November. Nonetheless, during a performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium that month, he earned a rapturous response from the crowd with his evocative slide-guitar playing on “Free Bird,” the band’s enduring 1974 ballad.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s next live show is slated for Sunday, March 12, in Plant City, Florida. At past concerts without Rossington, guitarist Damon Johnson filled in.

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