The controversial rocker Ted Nugent recently paid tribute to Gary Rossington, the last surviving founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who died last weekend at the age of 71.
Rossington’s passing was announced by Lynyrd Skynyrd on the band’s official Facebook page on March 5. No cause of death was given. The guitarist had battled a number of heart problems, including an emergency heart surgery in 2021.
Six years earlier, he suffered a heart attack, prompting several of the band’s concerts to be canceled. He also underwent quintuple bypass surgery back in 2003 due to coronary artery disease. In 2019, he had an operation to fix a leaky heart valve.
Rossington survived the 1977 plane crash that killed singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines. The band reunited with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant as singer in 1987 and has been on the road ever since.
Ted Nugent pays tribute
Nugent recently addressed Rossington’s passing during the latest edition of “The Nightly Nuge”, a news-style clip in which he offers his take on the news of our world every night. He said in part: “We just lost Gary Rossington, the great powerful, soaring musical beast of Lynyrd Skynyrd. In the wind, Jeff Beck is still alive; in the wind, Eddie Van Halen is still alive; in the wind, Gary Rossington is still alive.
“To keep Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen and Brian Jones and Gary Rossington alive, the Ted Nugent band is going on tour this summer. And it’s gonna be the ‘Gonzo Gonzo’ tour,” Ted revealed. “We’re gonna have a ‘Gonzo Gonzo’ tour this year. Because Gary kept playing right to the end. As long as he could physically get on stage, he did that soaring, spiritual masterpiece from ‘Free Bird’, that slide guitar on his Gibson SG and sometimes on his Gibson Les Paul. And Gary was a great man.
He was a kind man. He was a dedicated musician. He had a great work ethic. All the things that makes an American rock solid in the asset column is Gary Rossington. So God bless him for enriching our lives with his amazing music with the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. But at 71, he went too early. He had some heart problems in the last few years… [He was] a musical blood brother. We should all be very thankful that guys like Gary helped create the soundtrack for our lives. But, yeah, he was a good man, a good friend. And boy, we did a lot of concerts together.”
“In 1977 — I believe that was the year when their plane went down — Lynyrd Skynyrd and I were co-headlining two nights at Madison Square Garden. And after the plane went down, there was a lot of heartbreak, obviously, and a lot of disarray. And the promoters in New York, Ron Delsener — I can’t believe I remember all these guys’ names. But I played Madison Square Garden so many times. Many times AC/DC opened up for me and Def Leppard opened up for me and Blackfoot opened up for me. Michael Jackson came to see me at Madison Square Garden.
So this is a Madison Square Garden celebration. But the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane went down. And they lost Ronnie and they lost members of their band. So, everybody goes, ‘Well, we’re gonna have to cancel.’ And then Ron Delsener said, ‘You know, it’s sold out both nights.’ I said, ‘I’ll play double the length and we’ll donate all the proceeds to the Lynyrd Skynyrd family.’
“Now it’s amazing you never heard that story, because if Ted Nugent does something good — which it wasn’t just me; it was my entire team, my band, my crew, my management. But we donated all that money from two nights at Madison Square Garden to the Lynyrd Skynyrd families after that tragic accident.
So I had a real bond with Gary, a real bond with the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd — as I try to do with all the bands that I work with, from ZZ TOP to Cheap Trick to Van Halen to Foreigner to — you name a band, I’ve done concerts with them,” Ted concluded. “But he was the Real McCoy. And thank God we have his musical legacy to stay with us forever. But we’ve lost a great man in Gary Rossington. So may he rest in peace. And in the wind, he, via his music, is still alive.”
Rossington was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2006, along with other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and contributed to many of the group’s most iconic songs, including “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird”.