I think I have seen somewhere that this particular article is one of those that fans of this band sees as one of the most pivotal in the band`s history. Well, I can sort of understand why. So here it is in all its glory.
Skynyrd singe God`s beard in Memphis
Down in Memphis Lynyrd Skynyrd are hot property. Their recent gig at the Memorial Stadium was supporting their idol Eric Clapton on the last leg of his American tour and they made it tough for the guitar God. But, Clapton produced one of the best gigs he`s played to date and Sharon Lawrence was there to report on the fireworks.
This is a story about a steamy, hot, lazy Sunday afternoon in Memphis, Tennessee, and what happened when blues master Eric Clapton met up with an authentic, young Southern band named Lynyrd Skynyrd, the same Lynyrd Skynyrd who learned more than a few of their tricks from Eric Clapton records and a live Clapton gig or two when Skynyrd were punk kids playing for a few bucks a night and virtually starving, and Eric Clapton was God.
Lynyrd Skynyrd are simply loved to death in Memphis, Tennessee. They were specifically put on the Clapton bill by promoters who weren`t quite sure how the “new” Eric Clapton would draw. Ross was the first act onstage, then Foghat. Ho hum.
Then the stirring strains of “Dixie” and the big Confederate flag behind Skynyrd`s drum kit was unfurled and the seven men of Lynyrd Skynyrd hit the stage and the tens of thousands of people who almost filled the big Memphis Memorial Stadium went wild.
Skynyrd are their boys, Southern boys whose most ingratiating ingredient is a certain strong spirit that encompasses pride, freedom and brotherhood. You can love `em even when the sound system is failing, and you can`t quite make out those three glorious lead guitars.
Masses of people bunched together sweating in the hot sun and loving every minute of it… thousands of hands raised in applause to the skies. It was a thrilling sight, what the best of rock is all about, what all those hyped-up festivals seldom really are.
“You stop that fighting,” said Ronnie Van Zant, Skynyrd`s lead singer. “You stop it right now!” Ronnie Van Zant commands his stage like a field marshal and two spaced-out people in the audience trying to kill each other are simply not going to be allowed to succeed if Ronnie Van Zant has anything to say about it.
Ronnie Van Zant likes to talk, especially if he`s had his whisky. And he`s an eloquent talker. Ronnie Van Zant is often someone well worth listening to, and as he introduced that Skynyrd stunner “Free Bird”, the audience listened well.
“Three years ago my band and me collected enough Coke bottles to turn them in for the deposit money we needed to get down to Miami to see Derek and the Dominoes. Eric Clapton was one of our idols. And we`re happy we`re playing with him today. It`s a thrill.
“But now we`re doing a song for a hero who can`t be here today. Put your hands together for Duane Allman.”
Eric Clapton had his hands full following Lynyrd Skynyrd, and he was well aware of it. People in the Clapton camp had been quietly talking about Skynyrd for several days before the Memphis gig. “Eric is up for Memphis,” was the word. His reputation was on the line, especially in Memphis, one of the homes of the blues.
Some of the Clapton band watched Skynyrd devastate the audience with “Free Bird”, then encore with “Sweet Home Alabama”, their first hit single currently climbing the American charts. The Clapton people seemed to like Skynyrd and they were impressed by the reception the band was given. Eric stayed in the dressing room.
A few minutes later, Eric, his face looking pale, and drinking a tall Vodka and orange, received Skynyrd in his dressing room for a few minutes. The Skynyrd boys were nervous and excited. Eric was gracious.
God knows it must have been a strange feeling to be with people with all that fresh young energy who had learned their craft listening to his songs and who do a version of “Crossroads” that`s a killer.
Then, Ronnie Van Zant, feeling his whisky and never ashamed to speak his mind, started talking about Duane Allman. It made Eric nervous. Finally he nodded when Ronnie kept insisting, “You go out there and play for Duane.”
Clapton, as they say, did good, even after starting out with that diabetes-inducer “Smile”. Eric`s set built in momentum and bass player Carl Radle, the unsung hero of the Clapton tour, and the drummer Jamie Oldake kept it cooking. The audience liked all those reggae riffs Eric seems to be into these days, but they most liked “Badge”, “Crossroads” and “Blues Power”.
Lynyrd Skynyrd were up at the back of the stage watching intently. Eric had damn well better be playing for Duane.
Skynyrd kicked Clapton`s ass and one had the feeling that after the gig in the back of his mind, he was grateful. It was one of the best dates on his American tour. He was on the spot to deliver.
Look at Eric Clapton and you see where rock has been. Look at a band like Skynyrd and you pray this is where rock is going. The arrogant, frightening, English guys who surround people like Eric Clapton don`t seem to be interested in the music. Their pleasure comes from throwing people bodily off the stage for no apparent reason as often as possible.
Lynyrd Skynyrd know who their friends are. They have a crew who would and have worked for free when the band was starving. As Ronnie Van Zant says, “We`re the real brothers of the South.”
Van Zant`s not bragging, simply stating a fact.
“We`ve gone through hell for seven years. We love each other and we`re not ashamed to say it. We know who we are and who we play for. I couldn`t work without our roadies. They couldn`t work without me.
“The sharks are moving in on us, but we`ll fool `em. Pressure us too much and we`ll go back to the swamp and wait it out. And if it takes us three years of starving we`ll be back. And we`ll be better than we ever were. But we won`t be bought and sold like pieces of meat.
“And we won`t have people around us who are greedy and who don`t care about human beings.
“We`re Southern rebels but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.”
Skynyrd learned plenty from Eric Clapton a few years ago. He could learn from them now.
The day after the concert the two leading Memphis papers declared Lynyrd Skynyrd to be the champion of the Sunday gig. Lynyrd Skynyrd had delivered for the audience was the gist of the reviews Skynyrd were thrilled with those reviews. But they`d be more than happy to play with their friend Eric Clapton again and let him blow them off the stage.
That`s the kind of Southern boys Lynyrd Skynyrd are.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Marley, Billy Preston, Ronnie Lane, Golden Earring, Ronnie Spector, Duane Eddy, Argent, Andy Fairweather Low, Viola Wills, Mick Jagger, Suzi Quatro, R. Dean Taylor, Johnny Bristol, Julie Driscoll, Status Quo, Georgia Fame, Vangelis, Greenslade.
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