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Lynyrd Skynyrd News

Come here for all the latest Skynyrd news, tour dates, release dates, etc. This page will be updated daily or as news occurs,. Click here for the Lynyrd Skynyrd news archives.

New Skynyrd Releases (CDs, DVD, and Book)

There are some interesting multimedia Skynyrd releases coming our way in the near future. First off, expect new Deluxe Editions of Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd and Street Survivors to hit the shelves on November 20th. The discs were originally set to come out the previous week, so there is a chance they could be delayed again. If that's the case, I'll let you know. Also, there's no word on what bonus tracks will be featured, but I will post those when I get them.

On December 18th, Freebird The Movie and The Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour will finally make their way to DVD. The two movies will be on the same disc, and will retail for around $11! Can't beat that.

And finally, in either December or January, Marley Brant's book Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story will hit the shelves. Brant wrote the excellent Southern Rockers book that came out a few years ago. Should be good. I will be adding a release dates calendar to the main page soon.

The Day America Cried

Check out for a RealAudio file of the new Johnny Van Zant / Jim Peterik collaboration "The Day America Cried". The song will be released as a single and on an album of the same name on October 23, and should be available in retail stores.

I'm Back

After being deleted from my old account by Tripod (for no good reason), here is the new address for the Tribute To Lynyrd Skynyrd site. There's an old story from World War II where someone asked Winston Churchill what he would do if the Germans blew up Big Ben. Churchill's response: "We shall rebuild it." And if they blow it up again? "We shall rebuild it again, and again, as many times as is required. Because it is not theirs to destroy, it is OURS."

I've spent hours upon hours working on this site, and I'll be damned if I let anyone take it away from me. If this account gets deleted, I'll move the site somewhere else. And if that gets deleted, I'll move it somewhere else again. I'm not going down without a fight.

Many of the RealAudio files are not working now since they were located on the same Tripod account as the website. But rest assured I will re-upload just about everything. And I'll continue to update this site as regularly as I can. I'm going to make this site better than it ever has been before.

This web site is the only way I can pay tribute to Leon Wilkeson, Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Steve & Cassie Gaines, and the other fallen Free Birds. It will not just disappear. That I swear to. Thank you. RIP Leon Wilkeson.

Skynyrd Tour To Continue

Word from Lynyrd Skynyrd's official website ( has it that the band will be postponing this week's shows but will resume their schedule starting August 7th. No word on who the new bass player will be. Whomever they choose, no one will EVER replace Leon. He was truly one of a kind.

Leon Wilkeson Passes Away

As you've probably heard by now, Leon Wilkeson passed away July 26 at the age of 49. Below are various articles from the internet dealing with this sad situation. Thank you Leon, for giving all you have to me and every other Skynyrd fan around the world. Leon is wil Ronnie, Steve, Cassie, Allen, and Dean now. Fly on proud bird, you're free at last.

Skynyrd's 'cut-up' remembered
As family, friends, fans mourn, 'party' still planned for Wilkeson

By Rachel Davis
Times-Union writer

As the 80-year-old mother of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson sits quietly in the living room of a friend's home Sunday, her family swarms around with stories.

Friends and family members wander in and out of the room, adding their bits and pieces to the memory of a man they called Mr. Cool Cat.

"Oh, I know another story," said Pam Hockman, a close friend of Wilkeson, who was found dead Friday. "Tell 'em about Fort Apache. Oh, man, I love that story."

Mary Wilkeson, 45, runs her arm across the back of her mother, Mabel Wilkeson, and hugs her close. They're both smiling, and Mary begins to laugh.

She launches into a story about the time her brother took her down to the toy store and the two stayed gone most of the day, sending their parents into a worried frenzy. The story ends with a sharp reprimand from Wilkeson's mother.

She has told this story over and over again, but this time it means more because she can't laugh about it with her big brother. Wilkeson, bassist for southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, was found dead Friday of apparently natural causes in a hotel room at Sawgrass Marriott Resort. A preliminary autopsy shows Wilkeson suffered from chronic liver and lung disease, according to a statement released by St. Johns County Medical Examiner Terrence Steiner.

More information, including results from a toxicology exam, will be released in two to three weeks, according to the statement.

A memorial service has been planed for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Evergreen Cemetery and will be open to the public, according to the band's management company.

The family is trying to get over the devastation of losing Wilkeson, 49, said his sister, Mary, but there were more laughs than tears yesterday.

"He was a cut-up and a ham," she said. "We're still working on our goodbyes."

Hockman, a close family friend who met Wilkeson at a concert in 1996, was the last person in the group to talk to him. She said Wilkeson called her at her home in Virginia Beach, Va., the night before he was found dead.

"He told me, 'Mary, I want you to pray for me 'cause I'm really tired and I want to get better and play the best bass I ever have.'

"I'm glad he called me," Hockman said in a choked voice.

Except for an occasional tear for her friend, nothing could slow Hockman as she pored over pictures of her and Wilkeson -- wearing one of his trademark hats -- at concerts in her hometown and goofing off with friends. He was an entertainer on and off stage.

"I could write a book about Leon," she said. "He was my best friend."

Timbo Smith, another friend of Wilkeson and former road manager for the band, said the family wanted to thank fans for their support during this time.

"We want the fans to know that really great things are happening to put Leon to rest," Smith said. "Wednesday will be a celebration. We're in mourning but it'll be a celebration."

Leon would have wanted a celebration, not tears, said several family members, which is why they spent yesterday afternoon remembering their friend, brother and son.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band born in Jacksonville, derived its name from band members' Lee High School gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. The group saw its debut album reach No. 27 on the charts with more than 500,000 copies sold. Some of the group's well-known hits include Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird.

The group disbanded for about 10 years after a devastating plane crash in 1977 killed three of the members -- Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines -- and three others. Wilkeson survived the plane crash. The band later regrouped and has toured for most of the 1990s into the present. The band was on a short break from touring when Wilkeson died.

The band was scheduled to play today in Chula Vista, Calif., and no information has been released about whether the show would continue as scheduled. Lynyrd Skynyrd is also set to play at Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville on Aug. 23 .

Public memorial set for musician
Skynyrd bassist found dead Friday

By Rachel Davis
Times-Union staff writer

A memorial service for Leon Wilkeson, bassist for Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, will be held Wednesday in Jacksonville.

The service, which is open to the public, will be at 11 a.m. at Evergreen Cemetery in the St. Mary's section, according to Andrew McCauley, who is representing Wilkeson's family.

Wilkeson was found dead Friday in a room at the Marriott at Sawgrass Resort after the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office answered a call from the hotel at 2:44 p.m. Wilkeson died of natural causes, according to Sgt. Chris Parker. No other details of his death are being released at this time.

Preliminary results from an autopsy revealed chronic liver and lung disease, according to a statement from St. Johns County Medical Examiner Terrence Steiner. More information, including results from a toxicology test, will be available in two to three weeks, the statement said.

"I don't know anything at this point," said Bret Adams, the band's publicist at Chipster Entertainment in Pottstown, Pa. "I don't know any of the circumstances involved."

Adams said he did not know if the band would cancel its concert tomorrow in California or the band's Jacksonville concert Aug. 23 at Metropolitan Park.

Lynyrd Skynyrd got its start in Jacksonville, and some of the band's hits include Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. In 1973, the classic rock group's debut album sold more than 500,000 copies.

Tragedy befell the group in 1977 when three of its members -- Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines -- and three others died in a plane crash in Mississippi. Wilkeson was one of the survivors of the crash.

The group disbanded for about 10 years and later re-formed with others in 1987 for a reunion tour. Wilkeson and the other members have been on tour for most of the last decade. They were on a short break when Wilkeson died.

Mary Wilkeson, 45, said her brother was the family leader. "He taught me my alphabets, how to play cards, how to move chess men in a chess game," she said. "He helped me with everything. He was always so special."

The last time she saw her brother was Valentine's Day, although she had spoken with him often while he was on the road.

Friends and family of Wilkeson are trying to remain strong, his sister said, because that's what he would have wanted.

"I know he's at peace and looking down on us saying, 'Don't cry, have fun,'" said David Hockman, a family friend from Virginia Beach, Va. "His No. 1 rule was have fun."

Hockman met Wilkeson at a concert in 1996 and they became instant friends.

"In the short time I've known him no one has ever gotten into my heart and soul like he did," Hockman said. "I thought of him as a brother."

Dee Ray, owner of The Old Rooster on Philips Highway, said about 25 patrons were playing Lynyrd Skynyrd songs on the jukebox all day yesterday. "A lot of people are talking about it," Ray said. "They're upset and mad at him that he left us. He's one of the last, like a legend."

Todd Parker, 36, of St. Augustine, said he was planning to take his 4-year-old son Kevin to the band's next concert in Jacksonville. Parker, who has been to about 12 Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts, was teaching his son the words to Freebird so he could sing along.

"I've been a fan for as long as I can remember," Parker said. "He will be missed. Definitely missed."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--(ENTERTAINMENT WIRE)--July 27, 2001--Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson was discovered this afternoon in Jacksonville, Fla., dead at age 49. An original member of the legendary band, Wilkeson died in his sleep. More details concerning the circumstances surrounding Wilkeson's
death will be revealed as they are known.

Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in Jacksonville, Fla. in the late 1960's. With hits such as "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "That Smell," and "Call Me the Breeze," the band became a staple in American rock arenas. Just prior to the release of the band's fifth record, Street Survivors, on October 20, 1977, the band's chartered plane crashed, resulting in the deaths of lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and background singer Cassie Gaines. Reuniting in 1987 with Johnny Van Zant, Ronnie's younger brother, fronting the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd then suffered another tragedy as founding member Allen Collins (who, in 1986, had been paralyzed in a car wreck) died from complications while battling pneumonia. Still performing sold-out concerts nationwide and recording, Lynyrd Skynyrd has continued the success established by its original lineup -- "Lyve From Steeltown" was recently certified gold by the RIAA.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Leon Wilkeson Dies at 49 07/27/01
Friday, July 27, 2001

Story last updated at 8:50 p.m. on Friday, July 27, 2001
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Leon Wilkeson Dies at 49

By Nick Marino
Times-Union staff

Leon Wilkeson, 49-year-old bassist for the legendary band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Friday of natural causes, according to Judy Van Zant Jenness, widow of the Jacksonville band's founding member. "We're all just finding out about this ourselves," Jenness, who was married to Ronnie Van Zant, said. "We don't know what to do other than just to be in shock and be surprised ourselves."

Wilkeson survived the October 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that killed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines. Three others also died in the crash.

The band's hits include rock classics, "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird."

Authorities would not confirm Wilkeson's death until his family had been notified.

Jenness said she and Wilkeson had been friends since Van Zant and Wilkeson played in the band.

"We've known each other all our lifetimes, and we've been through a lot together," she said.

Kourtney Webb, manager of the Freebird Cafe, which Jenness opened two years ago in Jacksonville Beach, said the mood around the cafe was of shock and disbelief.

"He [Wilkeson] was in here Tuesday and he was perfectly fine," Webb said. "We're all very sad."

Jenness said she also saw Wilkeson just three days ago when he and several friends came to the Freebird Cafe.

"He was a great guy and very colorful," said Jenness. "He wouldn't hurt a fly on the wall."

The band was named Lynyrd Skynyrd after the members' Lee High School gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. In 1973, the group's debut album reached No. 27 on the charts with more than 500,000 copies sold.

After the plane crash, members of the group disbanded for about 10 years and re-formed with others in 1987 for a reunion tour. Wilkeson and the other members toured for most of the 1990s.

Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines were buried at Jacksonville Memory Gardens in Orange Park, but their remains were moved to an undisclosed site after someone vandalized the graves a year ago.

Funeral arrangements for Wilkeson are not yet known. His parents live in Jacksonville but could not be reached.

The band was scheduled to play at Metropolitan Park on Aug. 23. It was unknown last night if the concert would still be held.

The Freebird Cafe will remain open for Sunday's Super Fly Rodeo show.

"Life has to go on," Jenness said.
July 27, 2001

JACKSONVILLE - Friends of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band have validated rumors that Leon Wilkeson, bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, has died. Apparently he died in his sleep on the evening of the 26th. GRITZ is in touch with friends of Leon, and will provide details as soon as they are available.

"We are deeply saddened by this great loss," says GRITZ editor Michael Buffalo Smith. "Leon was reportedly excited about being interviewed this coming week and featured in the August issue of GRITZ. We are just shocked."

A memorial feature is already being planned for this webzine.