Gary Rossington: 5 Things To Know About Lynyrd Skynyrd Guitarist Dead At 71

The southern rock legend's death was announced in a statement by the band in a statement. He had performed on many of the band's classic songs.

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  • Gary Rossington was one of the original members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  • He played in a few other projects outside of the southern rock group.
  • Gary died on Sunday, March 5.

Founding Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington has died at 71. The classic rocker’s passing was announced by the band in a statement on Facebook on Sunday, March 5. “It is with our deepest sympathy and sadness that we have to advise, that we lost our brother, friend, family member, songwriter and guitarist, Gary Rossington, today,” the band wrote. “Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty, like he always does.”

Gary was a founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the last original member. (Shutterstock)

The band also asked fans to keep Gary’s family in their thoughts and prayers and asked them to respect their privacy. Find out everything you need to know about Gary here.

1. Gary was the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd

Gary was one of the original members of the band, forming the group with singer Ronnie Van Zant, bassist Larry Junstrom, drummer Bob Burns, and fellow guitarist Allen Collins in 1964. The original bandmates were all students at Robert E. Lee High School. Ronnie and Allen were consistent members of the group along with Gary for their first five albums, which included hits like “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird,” which Gary played the iconic slide guitar riff for. In 1977, a chartered plane that the band was traveling in crashed, killing Ronnie and bandmates Steve and Cassie Gaines. Gary had recalled waking up after the crash with a plane door on top of him after the crash in a 2018 interview. He said that while in the hospital, his mother visited him in the hospital and he asked if anyone had died. “She started right off with Ronnie, and that really freaked me out, because he was the tough guy. I thought if he died, everybody else did,” he said.

After the deaths of many of the members, the group broke up until 1987, when they reformed with new members, including Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny. When Larry Junstrom died in 2019, Gary became the final surviving member of the group.

2. He also played in the Rossington Collins Band

During Skynyrd’s hiatus, Gary and his bandmate Allen Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band in 1979, along with fellow surviving members Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson. The band released two albums: 1980’s Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and 1981’s This is the Way.

After the two albums, Gary got married and formed The Rossington Band with his wife Dale Krantz, which recorded three albums: 1986’s Returned To The Scene of the Crime, 1988’s Love Your Man, and 2016’s Take It On Faith.

Gary performs with Lynyrd Skynyrd during a 2017 concert. (Shutterstock)

3. He was suspended from school for having long hair

Gary’s closeness with Ronnie Van Zant, and his family has been well-documented. The guitarist grew up with a single mother, and it appears that Ronnie’s family treated him like one of their own children. Early in the band’s career, Gary was reportedly suspended from school for having long hair, and Ronnie’s dad Lacy Van Zant went to go help his son’s friend and bandmate, according to The New York Times. An obituary for Lacy said that he told the principal that as the son of a single mother, Gary helped his family by playing music, and that the long hair was “part of the job.”

4. He had a heart attack in 2015

A cause of death for Gary hasn’t been released, but the guitarist did face a series of health issues in recent years. His family revealed that he’d had a heart attack in October 2015, after having some heart complications over the years, including having stents put in and undergoing a quintuple bypass in 2003, per Ultimate Classic Rock. “Please keep him and us in your prayers as well as all the amazing medical staff that have saved his life several times now,” one of his daughters wrote.

More recently, the band had announced via a Facebook post that Gary underwent emergency heart surgery in July 2021. The band continued to perform without the guitarist as he recovered. “After this past year, the country being shut down and everything we have all been thru, The Rossington’s encouraged the band to go perform in his absence,” they said.

5. He was married and had two daughters

As mentioned above, Gary wed his wife Dale in 1982, and the two formed a band. The pair had two daughters, while one has kept very private, the other is Mary Elizabeth Rossington, who has occasionally shared updates on her dad. When the Rossington Band released their 2016 album, Dale revealed that one of the songs was inspired by their daughters in an interview with Rock Cellar. “There’s one fun and crazy [song] called ‘Dance While You’re Cookin.’  I kind of cheated a little on that one; that song is more me singing to me daughters. Or it could be them singing it,” she said.