Unfortunately all the graft - and, believe me, Skynyrd grafted - came to nought as a result of the events of October 20. I was actually due to fly to Baton Rouge in Louisiana the following morning, pick up the Street Survivors tour which was three days old and co-ordinate various interviews I'd set up for them along the way, mostly at Texas radio stations, and I was looking forward to it as I'd never been to Texas before and a visit to the Lone Star State alongside Lynyrd Skynrd was likely to be an interesting experience. I would, of course, have travelled on the same private plane as the group and had the crash occurred 24 hours later I might not have been here to tell this tale.
My first intimation that anything was amiss came when a girlfriend of mine in St Louis called Debbie Moore rang me at home in New York. She told me she'd just heard on the local news that a private plane had come down in Mississippi and that it was 'believed' that the rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd was aboard. Did I know? Of course I didn't. I then called UPI who confirmed that a small plane had indeed come down near a place called McComb. I then tried to call Rudge at home. His wife Frankie answered. Peter had just heard too. He was on his way to the office. I grabbed a cab and went straight there. I was the first to arrive and the phones – all five or six lines – were all ringing at once. It was pointless to try and answer them. I called UPI back and explained who I was and how I would be prepared to help them with regard to accurate information on Lynyrd Skynyrd if they could keep me up to date with developments from McComb. We agreed to help each other and stayed in touch all night.
Then Rudge arrived. He'd been to pick up a carton of cigarettes because he knew it would be a long night. I told him everything I knew and what I'd done. He looked distraught and opened a bottle of red wine but he somehow maintained his composure until, eventually, around 1 am, we heard that Ronnie was dead. Then he went alone into the office kitchen and wept. In the meantime all the office staff had arrived. The girls who worked at Sir manned the phones all night, crying as they did.
The various wives and girlfriends of the guys in the band and the road crew, almost all of whom lived in and around Jacksonville, were on the lines permanently, wanting to know the latest news from McComb. Eventually they all gathered at the home of Ronnie's wife Judy and what dreadful scenes of hysteria and grief that house must have witnessed that night I can barely imagine. We relayed the news, almost all of it bad, as best we could to the girls in that house, every one of them unsure whether their men were dead or alive. The job of telling Judy that Ronnie was dead fell to Rudge. Radio stations were calling, wanting statements from me; reporters were calling. I believe my choked-up voice was heard on over 30 stations across the USA that night. Friends of Rudge and the band called offering help; private planes were put at our disposal. It went on all night and I got home dazed at around 9 or 10 am the next day. A night like that is not something you forget easily.
Six people died – Ronnie, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister Cassie (who sang back up), their tour manager Dean Kilpatrick, and both pilots. All the band sustained bad injuries, as did some of the roadies and lighting crew. Those at the front of the plane came off worst, those at the back were less badly injured. Inevitably the group and those closest to them were at the front, with the part-timers at the back. The word was that Ronnnie was flat out drunk, lying in the aisle, when the plane went down. No one could move him to a seat, let alone strap him in. He and the rest of the band had been drinking hard all day in a hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, waiting while the plane was got ready. Someone said something about the pilots having been drinking too.
All sorts of stories came out at the inquest: how the band, and Ronnie in particular, had complained to Rudge that the plane was dodgy and he'd complained to Ron Eckermann, their tour manager and told him to get it fixed. Someone said they saw flames coming from the engine on their flight from Miami to South Carolina the previous day. Eckerman was due to get the plane serviced in Baton Rouge. In the event, it seemed that the plane had ran out of fuel – there being no fire when it crashed – but it was obviously burning up fuel faster than it should have done.
So everything I'd heard about Ronnie curtailing his drinking and straightening himself out seem to be for NOUGHT? Drunk and laying in the aisle?....that's not what I heard. But I steer clear of any Skynyrd history that took place after I left!
It's difficult to discern the truth of what ANYBODY has to say about those times...but thanks for posting that. It IS news and it wasn't bad. It's HISTORY.
Gene Odom painted a different picture in his book. He said Ronnie took a sedative to sleep. Makes you wonder. Sounds like an average day in the life of a rock star.
Say what you want about Gene Odom but he was Ronnie's best friend, he was there in the plane and I would tend to believe HIM rather than some guy who was SUPPOSED to be there.
Author Sharon Lawrence writes ...
Please note that Chris Charlesworth did not write this piece until years afterward. I knew him, I knew Rudge and I can say that much of the story is exaggerated. Rudge thought of it as "a colorful image." Chris was a good rock writer for the London music weeklies. And he needed and wanted the Rudge gig and, like RVZ himself for awhile, tended to believe that Rudge was a major kinda man.
relic: Quirkiness - a fine word. Efficient and precise in a somewhat obscure way.
May 7, 2016 22:08:52 GMT -5
Myke: Happy Memorial Day 2016-Thank You Veterans !
May 29, 2016 12:45:16 GMT -5
michaeljames: Thanks for the add........... !
Sept 28, 2016 15:57:05 GMT -5
Captainkirk: He Ed , Kikk here just felt like saying Hi
Nov 5, 2016 13:09:42 GMT -5
findthesun: I love the old RCB photos, brings back a lot of great memories!
Nov 21, 2016 14:42:43 GMT -5
tonytrout: Howdy, fellow Ed King fans!!! How are we on this bitterly cold Sunday morning??
Jan 8, 2017 11:26:04 GMT -5
macfangus: New member here. I'm a huge fan of Ed King era LS.
Feb 7, 2017 19:54:58 GMT -5
shaw: I wonder if Zap is around.I found a guitar someone was throwing out and it has Zapp on the headstock. Turns out its one of those Law Suit era Les Pauls. I'm putting it back together it was only the body & neck, with no hardware but I got all the parts now.
Apr 8, 2018 12:09:40 GMT -5
Zap: No relation to me, LOL, but you can gift it to me when you are done restoring it if you like! LOL!
Apr 17, 2018 6:34:05 GMT -5
rebel1222: Whats the point of having a forum if noone can reply to, or create threads?
Nov 28, 2018 8:49:07 GMT -5
gman620: @ rebel1222: Anyone is free to start a new topic or reply to any thread, anytime he or she desires. You've been a member for over three years now, with zero posts, so what's stopping you?
Nov 29, 2018 21:48:09 GMT -5
rocker2462: Looking for info on Ed's red Strat with the tele neck? point me in the right direction please.
Feb 19, 2019 0:47:14 GMT -5
stevecamp: I believe it was was a Warmoth body, aftermarket pickups, an old tele neck.
Mar 5, 2019 16:59:18 GMT -5
stevecamp: Pick ups may have been "lindy Fralins"
Mar 5, 2019 17:00:08 GMT -5