Archive for Lynyrd Skynyrd

On The Road Again

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by 30daysout

It may not look like much in the photo, but this is the largest convenience store in the world.

In most places around the country, gasoline prices are dipping. You know what that means – summer’s here and the time is right for piling the kids and/or the dog into the car for a road trip.

We were on the road this past week, and deep in the heart of the Lone Star state we wheeled in to a truly awe-inspiring site: the Buc-ee’s truck stop/convenience store just north of New Braunfels, Texas, between San Antonio and Austin.

Buc-ee’s is a chain of stores found along the highways of Texas. They sell typical convenience store junk food, some hot kolaches and fudge and their own brand of beef jerky, hot peanuts, etc. They also sell a wide variety of knick-knacks, cheap Texas souvenirs and similar crap. We’ll get back to that in a moment.

But this Buc-ee’s we visited, it was friggin’ massive! It was at least the size of a Walmart and sure enough, my research tells me at 68,000 square feet it is truly the largest convenience store in the world (Wikipedia is your friend). It also has 60 gas pumps, about 78 toilets and 250 employees.

The Buc-ee’s beaver mascot.

This is the largest store in the Buc-ee’s chain and I’m told when it opened in May there were cars stretched up and down the frontage road just waiting to get in there. People in Texas love Buc-ee’s for some reason; everywhere, I see people wearing t-shirts with the logo featuring a goofy cartoon beaver. Instead of a Disneyland or Six Flags shirt; like Buc-ee’s is the destination tourists really want to make pilgrimage to.

Anyway, back to the crap they sell in the store. There’s a huge rack of CDs, mostly country music, but because it’s Texas the selection is considerably more choice than your typical roadside truck stop. You got yer George Jones, yer Willie Nelson, some Ray Price and even a disc of Johnny Bush. A Dolly Parton disc and wow, even Robert Earl Keen! Unfortunately, there’s Pat Green too.

There were some copies of the great series from New West Records, Live From Austin TX – glorious audio tracks of performances from the great “Austin City Limits” TV show. Here’s Willie Nelson on the show, Robert Earl Keen, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, even the Texas Tornados (which IMO is the best of the series). You don’t have to go to Buc-ee’s to find these; your friendly neighborhood record store ought to have a good selection, or you can shop online.

There are also discs from Icehouse Music, a company that rack-jobs music from Texas, Americana and roots artists. That’s the label where you can find the great Johnny Bush (he wrote “Whiskey River” for Willie) and his autobiographical Kashmere Gardens Mud, as well as the incredible two-disc tribute to Guy Clark This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark, which features Robert Earl, Willie, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris and many more.

Some years ago I picked up a CD at a truck stop, California Jukebox by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Now this isn’t the Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman Burritos, it’s the 21st century version, with John Beland and Gib Guilbeau and featuring guest shots from David Allan Coe, Waylon Jennings, Sonny Landreth and even original Flying Burrito steel guitarist “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow. It came out in 2001 from the last incarnation in a long line of imitation Flying Burrito Brothers. It overcomes low expectations and it was a pleasant surprise for me – dig one up if you can. It’s on Icehouse Records, apparently no relation to Icehouse Music above.

Well, this tirade has arrived at a place far from where we started – that’s a nice summer road trip. So, for your summer road trip, here’s a soundtrack for ya.

MP3: “On The Road Again” (live at Austin City Limits) by Willie Nelson

MP3: “White Line Fever” by Joe Ely

MP3: “Truckstop in La Grange” by the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash

MP3: “Bloody Mary Morning” by Johnny Bush

MP3 ” (Is Anybody Goin’ To) San Antone/Texas Tornado” (live at Austin City Limits) by the Sir Douglas Quintet

MP3: “Endless Highway” by The Band

MP3: “Automobile” by John Prine

MP3: “Truck Stop Girl” by Little Feat

MP3: “Highway Cafe” by Kinky Friedman

MP3: “California Jukebox” by the Flying Burrito Brothers

MP3: “Honkin’ Down The Highway” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Goin’ Down To Mexico” by ZZ Top

MP3: “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors w/John Lee Hooker

MP3: “Sweet Hitch-Hiker (live) by John Fogerty

MP3: “Life Is A Highway” by the Tom Cochrane Band

MP3: “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash

MP3: “Highway Star” by Deep Purple

MP3: “Let Me Drive Your Automobile” (live at Woodstock 40th anniversary) by Canned Heat

MP3: “Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

MP3: “Call Me The Breeze” (live) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

MP3: “The Road Goes On Forever” (live at Austin City Limits) by Robert Earl Keen

Rock and Roll Identity Crisis

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2011 by 30daysout

Axl Rose with guitarist DJ Ashba, ostensibly Slash's replacement - is it really GNR?

Walking into Houston’s Toyota Center for the big Guns N’ Roses show last week, we overheard people asking each other incredulously: “Slash is NOT with them???” Well, no. The guitarist left in 1996, on not-so-friendly terms with lead singer Axl Rose. As did pretty much all of the other original band members. So who was playing that Friday night in Houston?

Was it Axl and a bunch of no-name scabs? Hardly – this version of Guns N’ Roses can certainly deliver the goods and is totally worthy of the name. But what happens when other popular rock groups hit the road with just one or two original members in tow? Is it still the same group we know and love?

Lynyrd Skynyrd's current guitar lineup includes (from left) Rickey Medlocke, Sparky Matjeka, original member Gary Rossington and bassist Robert Kearns.

Just a week before GNR, we saw Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top in Austin. Skynyrd has had more attrition than any other rock band in memory, after a plane crash that killed original lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister and backup singer Cassie Gaines. Other original members have also died or retired; the current Skynyrd lineup contains only one original member, guitarist Gary Rossington.

Skynyrd became stars in 1973 with their debut album, so the crash meant that the classic lineup was in the national limelight for only about four years. The new Skynyrd lineup has been together, with various members, since 1987. So is it Lynyrd Skynyrd? Probably it’s a really good tribute band – paying tribute to itself.

In some cases it’s clear cut: it can never be the Rolling Stones unless Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts are involved, but if John Fogerty hired a new rhythm section and toured as Creedence, why not? If Van Halen tours with David Lee Roth, the only person who may dispute the authenticity would be Sammy Hagar, sitting in his living room. Classic ’70s bands Foreigner and Journey hired new lead singers and have both re-recorded their old hits – Walmart shoppers picking up the new CDs probably don’t know, or don’t care.

It gets stickier with bands with well-known, or even beloved, members playing behind the lead singer. Can Bruce Springsteen tour without Clarence Clemons and still call it the E Street Band? Heartbreaking as that may be, that’s probably what he will do. If Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston hit the road next year, can they still call themselves the Beach Boys? Probably. The Kinks? Only if Ray and Dave Davies are both on board.

What's Bruce Springsteen gonna do without Clarence Clemons?

Some years ago David Gilmour fronted a Pink Floyd lineup that included original members Rick Wright and Nick Mason, but not Roger Waters. It worked for millions, if not for Roger. The Who have been diminished by half, but Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend still sell a lot of tickets under the Who banner. If Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones can talk Robert Plant into a tour, Led Zeppelin will most certainly pack ’em in.

And I suppose that’s what it all boils down to: will the audience accept a lineup that isn’t original? Ask Axl Rose, while he’s counting the gate receipts from the current Guns N’ Roses tour, and the answer is yes – in some cases.

– Denny Angelle

YouTube: Guns N’ Roses playing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in Houston (the sound is horrible, but you can see it was a crowd favorite).

This one’s MUCH better – “Welcome To The Jungle” on 11/17 in New Jersey

Live: ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd, Austin

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by 30daysout

Dusty Hill, left, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons tearin' it up in Austin. (Photo by Jave Del Rosario)

There was all kinds of stuff goin’ on this weekend in Austin – the amazing Texas Book Festival, the always-popular Austin Film Fest, the Austin Record Convention and the nicer-if-it’s-a-nice day Gypsy Festival showcasing the city’s food trailers. So what was our big event of the weekend? The so-called “First Annual La Grange Fest,” featuring ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Austin has a semi-new outdoor venue called the Backyard – kind of new, because they closed the old one and rebuilt a new one in a different location in the hills west of the city. It holds about 7,500 people and although I don’t think they had that kind of attendance Saturday night it sure seemed that way.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's (from left) Johnny Van Zant, Rickey Medlocke, Peter Keys (on piano) and Gary Rossington.

Nobody really followed a theme for the “First Annual La Grange Fest,” but former Slipknot and Stone Sour lead singer Corey Taylor, who opened the whole shebang, seemed to set a good tone with his acoustic covers including the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” He even turned the Ramones’ “Outsiders” into a rousing country-rock anthem.

I wasn’t too impressed with Jamey Johnson, who is a more conventional country singer with an “outlaw” attitude. He has some nice tunes which he wraps with a gorgeous George Jones-style baritone, but his material tended to be a little slow and plodding for my tastes.

When he yielded the stage the sun was goin’ down, and out came the Confederate flags for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sporting only one original member (guitarist Gary Rossington) Skynyrd didn’t disappoint. Lead singer Johnny Van Zant pandered to the crowd with his big rebel and U.S. flags and constant points up to the sky (acknowledgement of the “man up there.” Who? Ronnie? Who knows?).

A patron of the arts performs his interpretive dance to Skynyrd.

The Skynyrd encore began with Van Zant asking the crowd, “As my older brother Ronnie would say, ‘What song is it you want to hear?’ ” and the crowd responded with … yes, “Free Bird.”  But during the long guitar duel between Rossington, Rickey Medlocke and Houston’s own Mark “Sparky” Matejka, a disco ball dropped down from the stage rafters and sprayed everyone with tiny little shards of light. Is that some kind of comment? Dunno.

ZZ Top hit the stage with thunder and flash, with “Got Me Under Pressure” and “Waitin’ On The Bus.” Gibbons donned a “blues hat” over his African cap and snarled through “Cheap Sunglasses” and “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” before performing a rousing “Hey Joe,” as a tribute to his old mentor Jimi Hendrix. Then, of course, the show wound down with the MTV hits “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” The only thing left for the Top was to come out for the encore and romp through an extended “La Grange” (the only reference to the festival theme) and “Tush.”

The ZZ Top set was broadcast live on Sirius XM Outlaw Country, the first time in the band’s 40 years that they have participated in a real-time live radio broadcast. It may have been a good idea to listen on the radio – while this place the Backyard is an OK venue, the parking lot is a nightmare. We hung in a traffic jam for more than an hour and as a result it was a long 20-mile drive back to Austin. Everything else was all right at the Backyard, but that traffic issue was a cluster f**k.

Thanks to Jave Del Rosario for helping us out with some cool photos! The best ones here are his!

Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top drummer Frank Beard.

Guess whose setlist.

Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's disco ball during the guitar onslaught of "Free Bird."

Forgot your camera? Any old iPad will work.

Hill and Gibbons.

Yep, again.

Frank Beard, one of the best rock drummers around.

Hey, that's movie director Robert Rodriguez in the background!

The Backyard is a cozy little place with mesquite trees and a big Texas sky.

Man, this is just wrong.

One more. Thanks Jave!

YouTube: “Hey Joe” by ZZ Top

YouTube: “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

YouTube: Corey Taylor

Attention, Walmart shoppers!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on June 18, 2011 by 30daysout

Treasures await you at Walmart.

The other day I cut out of work a little early because I had to get some groceries for supper. So I thought I’d save some time and pennies by dropping in to the local Walmart. My attention was diverted by one of their distinctive “discount bins,” this one with CDs for five bucks apiece.

All this for 20 bucks!

Now this bin had nothing really rare, and there was an awful lot of junk – Reba to rappers to crappy country, you had to dig for the rock and roll. And although I already own most of this music, I found some keepers: Destroyer by KISS, Captured by Journey, a Lynyrd Skynyrd collection.

I also picked up Flashback with the Grateful Dead, a shallow best-of on Rhino Records’ budget Flashback label. With “Truckin’,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “U.S. Blues,” “Shakedown Street” and “Touch of Grey” among others, it’s a nice one to have in the car. Same with Journey’s 1981 effort Escape: studio versions of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Stone In Love” and “Open Arms,” and four bonus tracks including live versions of “Believin'” and “Open Arms” (recorded in Houston!).

There were a lot of those Millennium Collection discs from the Who, Aerosmith, Eric Clapton, Steppenwolf and others, as well as must-haves like School’s Out by Alice Cooper, The Captain and Me from the Doobie Brothers and Live at Budokan from Ozzy Osbourne. And there were some Elvis collections, lumping his stuff in packages like Elvis Country and Elvis Rock – a few well-known tunes surrounded by a shitload of filler.

I really didn’t need another copy of Destroyer and I probably won’t listen to the live Journey Captured unless I’m really drunk. But it felt strangely good to buy music in a physical form, even if it was at a Walmart. So if you need to get your classic rock on, or just need a CD or two to spin at your July 4 cookout, you know where to go.

MP3: “King Of The Night Time World” by KISS (from Destroyer)

MP3: “Too Late” (live) by Journey (from Captured)

MP3: “Shakedown Street” by the Grateful Dead

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Lynyrd Skynyrd

Posted in Your Sister's Record Rack with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2011 by 30daysout

My sister actually locked her bedroom door this morning – I’m shut out of her awesome record collection! But never fear, I’ll pull out one of mine – hmmm, let’s go for the good stuff today. And so we have the soundtrack for Freebird: The Movie, by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Freebird: The Movie is ostensibly a documentary film, released in 1996, but it’s really a concert movie featuring Skynyrd’s vintage three-guitar attack, filmed during various concerts in 1976 and 1977. Most of the footage comes from a 1976 performance in Knebworth, England in ’76 and features most of the original lineup with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, the three stinging guitars of Steve Gaines, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, and the keyboard work of Billy Powell. Somewhere along the line Ed King left the band and was replaced by Steve Gaines – I haven’t seen the movie, but apparently only Gaines is on the soundtrack although King is in the movie.

So let’s slap on the soundtrack LP – It kicks off with some recordings from England in 1976, “Workin’ For MCA,” “Saturday Night Special,” “Whiskey Rock-A-Roller.” You hear immediately this recording is a bit rougher and less polished than the classic live Skynyrd album One More From The Road (1976 ). But I like the gritty sound of this one; it sounds more like a concert recording to me, although I think engineers boosted the audience sound in places.

About seven songs in, we switch to a performance from July 1977, where Skynyrd performs “What’s Your Name” and “That Smell,” and between the two Van Zant mentions the new album they’re from, “comin’ out around September.” Then we go back to England and 1976, with awesome performances of “Gimme Three Steps” and “Call Me The Breeze” before the band winds it up for a rousing version of the Jimmie Rodgers classic, “T For Texas (Blue Yodel No. 1).” The boys rock that Rodgers tune, and there’s some nifty guitar work here … and it’s longer than the version of One More From The Road!

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Leonard Skinner, R.I.P.

Posted in News with tags , on September 21, 2010 by 30daysout

Leonard Skinner, inspiration for the legendary band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died in his sleep early Monday at a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida.   A no-nonsense basketball coach and gym teacher at Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School, Skinner was known in the 1960s to send students to the principal’s office if their hair touched their collars.  Some of those students later had a little fun and named their band after Skinner.  In later years, Skinner made friends with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s band members and even introduced them at a concert in Jacksonville.

Leonard Skinner obit and vintage photo in the Baltimore Sun

MP3: “Gimme Three Steps” (live)

MP3: “Call Me The Breeze” (live)

MP3: “Free Bird” (live)

Sex, Drugs and …

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by 30daysout

There’s a new movie out, Get Him To The Greek, which is kind of a rock and roll road movie.  Jonah Hill plays a low-level record company executive charged with babysitting a decadent rock star, played by British comedian Russell Brand.  It’s pretty amusing and fairly entertaining (Brand plays Aldous Snow, reprising his role from Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and as you can imagine it gets all Serious and Introspective at the end.

Although this is a wild comedy, the movie does offer a fairly accurate peek behind the curtains of the rock and roll machinery – or at least, the parts of the machinery that still survive.  A crushing economic reality has smothered the excesses of the music business, and the world you see in Get Him To The Greek doesn’t really exist any more, if it ever did.  But as I said, it’s a comedy …

The film also toys with the idea of what it takes for a person to be a so-called “rock star.”  The characterization of Aldous Snow reinforces the general consensus that rock stars are also insecure, immature and sometimes lonely – just like the rest of us!

After seeing the movie with my son I told him this story: in the 1970s, the Who came through Houston on one of their tours.  There was this party thrown by record execs and the band was supposed to be there but I didn’t see any of the Who for the entire time I was at this party.  Anyhow, I was leaving and trying to find my way out when I came to a large usher dude standing in a doorway.  As he pointed to the exit, I peered into the darkness behind him.

It was a small little room, created by those portable room dividers and inside the room was a “Tommy” pinball machine.  And standing alone, quietly intent on the pinball game, was Roger Daltrey.  All by himself, in a dark alcove, while a big happy party raged just steps away.  That was one little peek into the “real”  life of a rock star, protected and kept in the darkness until it was time for the spotlights to be turned on once again.

MP3: “Turn The Page” by Bob Seger

MP3: “Going Up” by Infant Sorrow

MP3: “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh

MP3: “Star Star” by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “The Clap” by Infant Sorrow

MP3: “What’s Your Name” (live) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

MP3: “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad

MP3: “Real Good Looking Boy” by the Who