Lynyrd Skynyrd's accelerating career came to an abrupt halt in October 1977, when a plane en route from Greenville to Baton Rouge, La., crashed, killing lead vocalist/co-founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister Cassie Gaines (a back-up vocalist), and injuring the survivors.
The Greenville concert at Memorial Auditorium would be the last by the original band members.
Over the next decade, as the survivors tried to recover and form other bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd's signature anthem, "Free Bird," became one of rock music's most requested songs. A huge and loyal following greeted the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute band tour in 1987, for which Johnny Van Zant agreed to take over the lead singing spot of his deceased brother, Ronnie.
A live album ensued, "Southern by the Grace of God," as did the return of the band's soul. The members began writing again.