ARTIMUS PYLE BAND & DOLLY PARTON “Free Bird” Video – with Web-Exclusive Interview






High above the jet-black, inky expanse of the ether’s murky cloud bank, the angel of darkness cuts through thick velvet air with its foreboding presence. Its whispers, pregnant with ominous locution, gently caress the ears of 26 Southern souls. Yet, amidst the relentless hum of a Convair CV-240’s engines, not a single one could decipher the portentous prophecy but a gasoline-soaked smell lingered hinting at the impending revelation—losing altitude and plummeting earthward with the velocity exceeding that of a fired bullet, the tin tube falls from the heavens descending into a hellish swamp near Gillsburg, Mississippi. Pine trees pounded the fuselage like an angry mob incited to violence, wielding baseball bats, while its beleaguered inhabitants clung to fleeting hope and prayers of a safe landing.

With malevolent intent, the mechanical bird of prey crashed to earth below leaving a battered and bruised Artimus Pyle to be birthed from the jagged jaws of its wreckage. Overcoming torn chest cartilage and other injuries sustained by the impact, Pyle traversed a rivulet and sward expanse leading him to the doorstep of a farmhouse. Farmer Johnny Mote, opening the door, was taken aback by Pyle’s jarring appearance. With long matted hair and beard, the sweat-and-blood-stained Pyle resembled a maniacal character from Tobe Hooper’s 1974 slasher The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, not the drummer of one of the biggest rock ’n’ roll bands of the time. Mote initially suspected Pyle to be a jailbird who had flown the coop, but after a frantic Pyle’s bellow about the plane crash, the farmer grasped the gravity of the situation, offering succor to the distressed Pyle. As the events of October 20, 1977 unfolded, the three preceding years must have felt like another lifetime for the 29-year-old Pyle.

Artimus Pyle, a sole surviving son, has kept himself together during a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps during the height of the Vietnam War, as a drummer with the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the dangerous labyrinth sometimes referred to as the music business. Peeking out from under a Stetson, Pyle’s dirty-blonde tresses bear the badge of untamed pilosity—his facial bristle projects a devil-may-care southern chevalier, complementing his nonchalant tone of voice which promises nothing less than absolute honesty in every declaration uttered from his lips.

“Every Mother’s Son”—Memories of Louisville, Kentucky
Baby boomer, Thomas Delmer, known by the moniker “Artimus,” entered the world July 15, 1948 by way of Louisville, Kentucky. Artimus’ lineage was reflective of Kentucky’s values—Mildred “Midge” Pyle, the matriarch, was a homemaker, and family patriarch and Purple Heart recipient Clarence “Del” Pyle, was a construction superintendent. “Del” was shot in the leg during his tour of duty with the U.S. Marines in the South Pacific theater during World War II.

Artimus’ Mom and Dad were very musical and listened to records such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Jimmy Dorsey—big band and swing era artists associated with the late 1940s and early 1950s promises of prosperity. Jazz guitarist and songwriter Les Paul, and vocalist and guitarist Mary Ford, were Artimus’ first influences on the radio. Pyle transports himself back to childhood, “They had that really bubbly sound coming over the radio. It was this lush sound and you know Les Paul—he was one of the first people to use overdubbing, so I just loved the sound that was coming out.”

Rock ’n’ roll would come later for Pyle. He loved music and his father Del was a singer. A builder and an architect by trade, Del would step outside of his professional box, and indulge his passion for singing, patting on the dashboard of the car in time with the music. Flashing back to a time when he and his father bonded in cars that were made of steel, Pyle describes how he became interested in drumming, “He would hit the dashboard, that’s in the days the dashboards weren’t safety, they weren’t padded—they were just these big bulbous solid steel dashboards, and they had kind of a really good sound when you hit them—they were like a drum, they sounded like a drum.”

He expands on his origin of love for all things percussive, “I rode horses and later I drove bulldozers for my grandpa in the summer, and having those big diesel caterpillar engines underneath me set up all kinds of rhythm. I’m a natural drummer and I hear rhythms, and music basically in everything including windshield wipers.”

“What’s Your Name”—Will the Real Gomer Pyle Please Stand Up
Enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War epoch, Pyle’s experience in the military had more in common with Saving Private Ryan than Full Metal Jacket. Although Pyle’s orders were to go to Vietnam, he was spared serving in-country because his father was killed in a mid-air plane collision in Albuquerque, New Mexico, leaving Artimus a sole surviving son.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. the 1960s CBS television series was the catalyst for a lot of unusual times in boot camp for Artimus, who would frequently be called upon to repeat the catchphrase “shazam” made famous by actor Jim Nabors, while playing the show’s titular character. Expressing the rationale of such comic relief, Pyle succinctly articulates that at his expense, he was giving some guy who went to Vietnam and gave his life for this country a belly laugh, which was no problem. Adding, “That’s okay, they can laugh at me and there are a lot of women as well who gave their life for this country, so I just thought the Gomer Pyle thing was funny. And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and some of it was funny and I kind of am Gomer Pyle.”

Earnestly reflecting on those turbulent times when some young people burned their draft cards and protested Vietnam as an unpopular and unjust war, Pyle states, “I wanted to go. I trained to go. I’m a Marine. You know I’m trained to go to Vietnam and deal with it, but I didn’t want to kill anybody, and I certainly didn’t want to get killed. So when dad was killed, the dream with my father was for me to fly jets for the Marine Corps, get some more education, go to Quantico, Virginia to OCS (Officers Candidate School) get my bars, then go to flight school. After dad was killed, I went from being a Marine Corps Officer with hopes of flying jets to being a drummer in a rock band called Lynyrd Skynyrd. So, life throws you some curves.”

“I Know a Little”—Academic Anxiety
After Pyle’s dad was killed, his mother was residing in Columbus, Ohio, so he went to Ohio State University; but his lack of enthusiasm for academics discouraged him from going back to school. Pyle attended Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, which is a full-fledged university, but lacked the confidence of a good student and describes himself as not being very academic. For a while, Pyle entertained the notion of becoming an attorney, but the high-pressure prerequisite to remember case law and the fragile balancing act of holding somebody’s life in your hands seemed to be a responsibility for which he was not academically inclined to accept.

Finding the answer to what Pyle wanted to do with his life was provided by Del, who bought him a set of drums early on—a set of red sparkle Slingerland drums. Without reservation, Pyle expands on his purpose and source of bliss, “That’s what I love doing, running bulldozers, riding horses and playing drums. That was kind of my world, and being a student I never made good grades in school. I may have gotten an A or a B in music, but all you had to do was show up. However, the other classes—I just didn’t have the academic touch.”

After being honorably discharged from the Marines in 1971, Pyle traded a regimental military lifestyle and buzz cut for a hippie counterculture long-haired rock ’n’ roll excursion. Joining a band in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pyle reminisces, “It wasn’t really a band. I mean, we got together and rehearsed a couple times, but we were looking for a name, and I think I came up with it—Thickwood Lick, you know, when you play drums, you use wooden sticks and you have licks. So if somebody has chops or really good licks—Thickwood Lick just came out of that. I don’t think we ever even did a gig—it was just one of the many bands.”

“Double Trouble”—Drummers Bob Burns & Artimus Pyle
After playing with Thickwood Lick in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Pyle joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1975. Pyle’s baptism by fire came in the form of playing alongside original Skynyrd drummer Bob Burns, ultimately replacing Burns—the man behind the drums when Lynyrd Skynyrd opened up for The Who on their 1973 North America Quadrophenia tour. Pyle connects the numbers, elaborating on “The Rock” contributions provided courtesy of Burns, “I was still in the Marines, that was Bob Burns on that one. They got a dose of reality. I heard all the stories. I talked to Bob. I talked to everybody in the band about it, you know, opening up for The Who what a break! That was Al Kooper, the producer of Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd and Second Helping. Al was the one that produced those records and he got Bob a great drum sound—he was able to pull some strings with people he knew because Al Kooper from Blood, Sweat & Tears jammed with Bob Dylan. Al produced the Tubes, Fee Waybill, and all those guys out in Los Angeles. It was Al Kooper who pulled some strings and got Ronnie and the band to open up for The Who. The promoters provided cartons and cartons of cigarettes, bottles of whiskey, Scotch and cases of beer. The guys told me that it was pretty scary to go out on an 18,000-people show. I came along after that.”

Recalling fond memories of his brother in arms, “Bob and I were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame together—the same night. They always let you play a couple songs. Bob did ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and I did ‘Free Bird’—and then we lost Bob in a car wreck years ago, which is very sad. Bob would actually come out and play a few songs. He would come out and do 3 or 4 songs with us—my band: Brad Durden, Scott Raines, Jerry Lyda and Dave Fowler. This is the band that we had for 15 years, and Bob would come out and play with us. The band loved him, and Bob loved the band, but we lost him in a car wreck. It was very sad, but I thought Bob did an incredible job before I came along. Al Kooper, the producer, got Bob a really nice, warm, fuzzy sound.”

Singer-songwriter, musician, actress and philanthropist are some of the credits on Dolly Parton’s resume. She transforms the iconic rocker into a Gospel-laced eulogy with the momentum of a freight train.

“Saturday Night Special”—The Debut of Artimus Pyle
Pyle’s recording debut with Lynyrd Skynyrd was “Saturday Night Special,” the first single off the band’s third studio album Nuthin’ Fancy (1975, MCA), produced by Al Kooper. Interestingly, the song was initially heard in the 1974 film The Longest Yard starring Burt Reynolds, before being released as a single the following year May 1975.

According to Pyle, when he entered the fold, “The band (Skynyrd) was already doing well. I’m not saying they were at the top of their game or top of the world, but they were making music out of Florida, and I didn’t join the band until I got out of the Marines. I can honestly say it wasn’t me that made Lynyrd Skynyrd—it was Ronnie Van Zant. It was his prolific writing, his vision—he had a dream, he had a vision and it was his. He ruled the band. He was the undisputed—that I can see when I came to the band.”

Shining a light on the meaning of “Saturday Night Special”, Pyle expounds, “It’s about gun control and throwing all the street weapons into the ocean. The way this planet is, I guess there needs to be a military force because not everybody is nice. Guns don’t necessarily pose the answer to everything, some people think it does, some people hoard massive amounts of guns because they think there’s going to be a big race war or some other crazy thing that they’re going to have to defend. Maybe they’re right, they could be right, the world could come to that—where the last chance you have is to defend your own home. I hope it doesn’t come to that. My personal feeling is we don’t need weapons of war for people that shouldn’t have guns. I’m an expert rifleman. I’m an expert pistol shot. I fired expert in the Marine Corps, and I know all about guns, but I hate to see these assault weapons that have large capacity magazines that they’re able to go into schools and do what they do—all of these mass murders all over the country. There’ll be one today somewhere, unfortunately. It’s just amazing that we can’t figure out a way not to let people that are mentally ill have a gun. They’re so readily available. I live close to Charlotte, North Carolina, and I get the news every night. Every single night, there are teenagers killing teenagers with guns, and it’s terrible. There’s nothing else you can say about it. Even gun people that believe in guns—of course they’re shocked. Most of them are shocked that guns are so readily available to people that shouldn’t really own one.”

Peeking out from under a Stetson, Artimus Pyle’s dirty-blonde tresses complement his nonchalant tone of voice, which promises nothing less than absolute honesty in every declaration uttered from his lips.

“On the Hunt”—Very Vegetarian
On the cover of Street Survivors, Pyle sports a blue shirt with the word “vegetarian” emblazoned across it. With the good intentions of a medicine man, he humbly espouses the benefits of a meatless diet, “It’s how food makes you feel. Eating big hunks of greasy dead animal didn’t really make me feel good. I love animals and I know that they’re here on this planet for a reason. Back in those days I just decided that I wasn’t going to eat meat. For a long time, I ate fruit and some vegetables. I eat fish now, if I’m in a pinch and I need some protein, which you get a lot of from avocados and walnuts. There are all kinds of things you get protein from, but after having three airplane crashes and being shot and stabbed over the years, I needed to get some protein as I got older. I will eat fish and I guess people call that a pescatarian. But for years and years, I was a strict fruitarian and vegetarian—I just liked the way it made me feel. It kept my body weight down. I’ve never been basically what you would call overweight, and it gave me a lot more energy. When we were playing on stages in front of 300,000 you need to draw from that energy, which is what I did. There’s a root that grows naturally, and I used to use that for energy—you can get it almost anywhere, usually health food stores. It comes in a liquid form usually from Korea, and it’s called ginseng. It’s very natural. Older men use it for longevity. It’s a blood cleanser. I would use that if we played in front of large crowds. It’s not a drug, it’s a natural root. I would use the ginseng to help with my energy level, and it’s just good for you. It’s good stuff.”

“Travelin’ Man”—Castle of King David on Mount Zion
Following the crash, Pyle lived in the Castle of King David on Mount Zion for three years—in Jerusalem, Israel. He was put in charge of the music program at Diaspora Yeshiva. The yeshiva, an edifice dedicated to the scholarly pursuits of Rabbinic literature, gained momentum with seekers from hippie and counterculture movements—appealing to their spiritual-based pursuits. Making a confession of faith and offering social commentary, Pyle says, “I’m a gentile. I was raised in the Methodist church, but I felt like I could help the Jewish people. I had a friend that I met at Ohio State University, and I introduced him to a girl. They got married and had 10 children. They live over there right now, and I’m very worried about them. I have Arab friends and Muslim friends, which aren’t the same necessarily, and I’m worried about them. Again, Jewish and Israelis are not necessarily the same, but I’m worried about all my friends and the people over there because of the insanity. I studied over there, but it was a whole different kind of music that I was exposed to—‘Hava Nagila,’ kind of a Klezmer approach. I’m from the South, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky—so there’s a lot of bluegrass down here. Bluegrass and the music that I was playing in Jerusalem were very much the same—a kind of upbeat, very simple kind of bluegrass feel. And I applied that to the music that I was playing over there with the bands.”

“I Never Dreamed”—Where Would We Be Without Music
A professional musician, Pyle advocates the value of music education in public schools and shares wisdom from his 75 years with young people who want to pursue music as a career, “All the younger people who take up an instrument—it’s very important. It’s the arts. Music is the language of the universe. So where would we be without music? I’m sure the first musicians listened to birds singing and listened to waterfalls, the rhythm of nature, the rhythm of the rain, being outdoors in a beautiful snowfall and big snowflakes—there’s rhythm in all that. It’s very important in growing up and going to school—to have music. Some people are just naturals. I have eight children and grandchildren, and they all seem to be naturals. I started them off on drums because you have to learn time no matter what instrument you play. If you’re good at an instrument and you’re natural, you should pursue it to the highest levels. Some people are just natural. You see these young children with a violin in the Suzuki method. I love classical music. I love jazz music. I’m known as a Southern rock drummer, but I love all music. Music is so important. All my children are amazing musicians. My son Chris, I’m the drummer in his band—I have my band Artimus Pyle Band (APB) and we’ve been together 15 years. We play Skynyrd music, and we play it better than any band in the world. But my son Chris and Marshall, they started writing music when we lived in Jerusalem. I’m the drummer to their music, and a lot of percussion that’s very tribal. I am 100% in favor of everybody having the opportunity to play music, sing music. If you can’t play an instrument, then become involved in helping other musicians—promoting concerts and bringing music to people. I meet a lot of those types of people who love music but they just never were able to play an instrument to the level that they wanted.”

Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash
Getting up on stage and playing in front of an audience provides instant gratification, unlike a movie project, which is very involved and complex to navigate. Pyle received a story credit for the 2020 live-action film Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash (Cleopatra Entertainment). Pyle accentuates the creative process, timeline and motivation for the cinematic adaptation from inception to completion, “A lifetime, really. It’s everything that led up to the plane crash, and then the actual incident of the plane crash—because we lost Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, Dean Kilpatrick, and our pilot and co-pilot—they were killed on impact. I was able to get out of the wreckage, go to a farmhouse, and bring help back to the crash site. There were 26 people on board that plane, and there are 26 different versions of what happened. There were all the farmers where we crashed in Mississippi, on their farm, and they got their own stories as to what happened. One of the first farmers that got to the crash site was later quoted as saying ‘I couldn’t understand what a bunch of smelly, long-haired hippies were doing with their own private airplane,’ so that kind of tells you what he thought about hippies and long-hair people. He called us smelly, long-haired musicians, but the band was a lot more than a bunch of long-haired hippies.” Pyle’s son, singer-songwriter Marshall Pyle, wrote a bunch of songs for the film.

“One More Time”—Play “Free Bird”
After five decades, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music still endures—breaking free of the shackles of time and forging connections with new fans, Pyle contextualizes, “It’s the words. I mean, Ronnie’s writing style—writing for the common man—and it’s understood the common woman, as well. He wrote ‘Simple Man’ for his mother and his grandmother. I knew them. They were very strong Westside Jacksonville people. Ronnie wrote about stuff that people could relate to—listen to your mother and be a simple man, be a freebird, fly high. In ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ he was basically telling Neil Young in a song not to blame all southern men for the racism of some. Some of us men in the South are not racist—some racists give everybody a bad name. Ronnie felt the same way as I do—if you’re a good person, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what gender you are, or what your lifestyle is. If you’re a good person, then you’re a good person. What we are as human beings—we have the ability to overcome those prejudices and live in peace on this planet. That’s what Ronnie would like to see. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was telling Neil Young don’t blame everybody in the South for racism because we’re not all like that. There are men and women that live in the South that are open to people as they should be. We should live in peace, but of course, I am a liberal hippie—so that’s just the way I am. Ronnie Van Zant was a prolific writer, Steve Gaines was a prolific writer—everybody in the band was extremely efficient at their instrument: Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Leon Wilkinson, Billy Powell, Steve Gaines, and Bob Burns, of course. Ronnie Van Zant taught me to give credit where credit is due. It’s number 1—that’s one of his mantras. Everything that Ronnie said was prolific and about the common man—that’s why the songs will be here 1,000 years from now.”

“Whiskey Rock-A-Roller”—Ronnie Van Zant’s Creative Collaborations
Chronicling Ronnie Van Zant’s creative collaborative efforts and friendships, Pyle recounts partnerships and backstage shenanigans, “Ronnie collaborated with many, many people. He would’ve collaborated with country artists—he would’ve collaborated with rockers like Steve Marriott. He and Peter Frampton were good friends. Ronnie loved The Rolling Stones. I sat in a room one day at Roosevelt Stadium in New Jersey, with Mick Jagger and Ronnie in our dressing room. We opened up for Rod Stewart that day, and Mick and his wife Bianca, came to visit with Rod Stewart. There were like 80,000 people. Ronnie and Mick were getting along really good—Ronnie loved The Stones. But when we opened for them in Knebworth outside of London for 300,000 people, there’s a famous picture of Charlie explaining something to Ronnie and Ronnie is just looking at him real mean. It’s the moment when Charlie Watts told Ronnie—don’t go out on the tongue because the Rolling Stones at that time had that logo of the big set of red lips and a big tongue, and Mick said ‘Ronnie you’re not allowed to go out on the tongue’ through Charlie. You don’t tell Ronnie you can’t do something. Ronnie grabbed his two guitar players and pulled them by their hair down on the tongue during ‘Free Bird.’ I think Ronnie and Mick would have possibly collaborated. Neil Young had sent about 4 or 5 songs for Ronnie to look at for the next album, and they were going to work together. I talked to Neil for a long time one night. He really respected Ronnie, but after Ronnie was killed—that kind of ended that. But Ronnie would’ve collaborated with country and rock.”

Anthems—Honoring The Music Of Lynyrd Skynyrd
Pyle’s new album Anthems—Honoring the Music of Lynyrd Skynyrd features special guests such as Dolly Parton, Sammy Hagar and Billy Ray Cyrus. Pyle portrays how the album came together, “On this new album, we had Dolly Parton, Warren Haynes, Sammy Hagar, and a whole cast of amazing singers that we asked to come in and play on the songs that we cut. On the album, Kent Wells, Dolly Parton’s producer, got me one of the best drum sets I ever had, and I was able to play the Skynyrd songs the way they’re supposed to be played. The music that we just put out with this album with Dolly Parton, it was harder to navigate the Nashville, Tennessee shenanigans with the lawyers and the managers and their record companies. But we did, with the help of our record company out of Texas, Get Joe, and a management company out of Nashville called Spinning Plates. We somewhat navigated the very difficult road in Nashville when you’re trying to make a record, but we did it—it’s done, it sounds great. Sonically, it sounds great because we did it in Nashville, I got a great drum sound, and we’re using modern technology to get those sounds and recording techniques. A lot of people say why now? Why do you do a Lynyrd Skynyrd album now. Well, because Ronnie Van Zant deserves it—because this is a tribute to Ronnie Van Zant and his band.”

Pyle relays how artists were chosen for specific tracks, “Some people wanted to choose their own songs. Dolly had first choice, and she did ‘Free Bird’—the most iconic song of the band. Sammy Hagar chose ‘Simple Man.’ Some of the other artists, we have a certain selection of songs that we already cut—the basic track, and they chose their song out of what we had available—that was the process. Some people chose, some people were given ‘Well, we have this song available—would you like to sing it?’ And the answer was yes—because all of these artists want to be on an album with Dolly. ‘Free Bird’ is on Dolly’s album, and it’s our version of ‘Free Bird.’ We cut the track—Brad Durden, Scott Raines, Jerry Lyda, Dave Fowler and me. ‘Thomas Artimus Gomer Pyle’ U.S.M.C.—we cut the track in Nashville. It was two years in the making. It feels like 10 years, but finally, we got all of the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. A lot of people love the sound of an album, the analog vs digital.”

Anthems Review

“Gimme Three Steps”—Marty Raybon
Rabon, a singer-songwriter, gained attention as the lead singer of the country band Shenandoah, and along with his brother Tim, was one half of the duo The Raybon Brothers, known for the hit single “Butterfly Kisses.” Raybon infuses this track with visions of a juke joint and the dusty roadside’s penchant for volatility and bar room brawls.

“Simple Man”—Sammy Hagar
The Red Rocker, singer-songwriter, guitarist and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Hagar has enjoyed success as a member of Montrose, a solo artist, and a member of the supergroup HSAS (Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve) along with Journey’s Neal Schon. Hagar stepped into the role of lead singer for the mighty Van Halen, after David Lee Roth’s departure. Chickenfoot and Sammy Hagar, and the Circle are side projects with Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony. Hagar’s lead vocal waves the banner for the working, common and everyday man and woman not typically represented or given a voice.

“Free Bird”—Dolly Parton
Singer-songwriter, musician, actress and philanthropist are some of the credits on Parton’s resume. She transforms the iconic rocker into a Gospel-laced eulogy with the momentum of a freight train.

These three tracks originally appeared on:
(Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, 1973, MCA—produced by Al Kooper).

“Sweet Home Alabama”—Ronnie Dunn
Dunn, a singer-songwriter, record executive, and one-half of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn chooses not to compete with the original, but rather to inhabit the song with a laid-back approach that offers the best of Southern hospitality.

“Workin’ For MCA”—Lee Brice
With this track, Brice injects a shot of venom into the veins of the music business.  The singer-songwriter’s voice projects the anger and unapologetic tone of the original.

“The Ballad of Curtis Loew”—Chris Janson
Grand Ole Opry member and singer-songwriter, Janson channels Ronnie Van Zant and is very close in vocal quality and tone to the original lead singer—taking on the role of storyteller and provocateur.

“The Needle and the Spoon”—Lindsay Ell
Television personality, singer-songwriter and guitarist, Ell presents this cautionary tale about the dangers of substance abuse without reservation, while the guitar work takes the listener to a universe where altered states of consciousness are the norm.

“Call Me the Breeze”—Billy Ray Cyrus
Patriarch to Miley Ray Cyrus, singer-songwriter and actor, Billy Ray croons—each syllable a defiant statement of self-reliance and non-conformity.

These 5 songs were initially offered on Second Helping (1974, Sounds of the South/MCA) produced by Al Kooper.

“Saturday Night Special”—Warren Haynes
Musician, singer, guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band, and founding member of Gov’t Mule, Haynes takes aim and fires—the swagger he projects with his vocal performance is synonymous with Ronnie Van Zant stalking the stage barefoot during Lynyrd Skynyrd’s live performances.

“On the Hunt”—Artimus Pyle Band
Brad Durden’s masterful interpretation of the thought-provoking lyrics oozes just enough sleaze without sinking to the depths of adolescence.

From Nuthin’ Fancy (1975, MCA) the band’s third studio album produced by Al Kooper.

“I Know a Little”—Michael Ray
Singer-songwriter Ray polishes and spit shines this deeper cut with an enthusiasm that makes the track feel as if it could coexist alongside any country-pop crossover hit currently on the charts.

“What’s Your Name”—LOCASH
Musical duo LOCASH takes a laissez-faire approach to the song, allowing it to breathe while the subtle vocal styling lets the lyrics sparkle.

From Street Survivors (1977, MCA) produced by Tom Dowd, Jimmy Johnson and Tim Smith. It’s the album that came out three days before the plane crash, with cover artwork featuring the band consumed by a conflagration. MCA recalled the original cover as the imagery conjured up visions of the crash and its carnage, and reissued the album sleeves—replacing the inferno with a black cover that could be interpreted as a monument to the loss of life and vinyl epitaph.

— by Rodeo Marie Hanson

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