Three members of the popular rock musical group, Lynyrd Skynyrd, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and his sister, vocalist Cassie Gaines, died in the crash of a chartered plane Thursday night near McComb, Miss. All three were 28.
Three others also were killed, others were injured when the propeller-driven plane, reportedly running low on full, skidded into a swampy area eight miles short of McComb.
"We like to call ours 'Southern Raunchy Roll,'" Mr. Van Zant once said of Lynyrd Skynyrd. "The other bands are just as bad, but we go to jail more."
Mr. Van Zant and his "fightin' Southern band" prided themselves on that battling image and a hard-driving blaring sound that they rode sold out concert tours and million-selling albums.
The other band members, Gary Rosington and Allen Collins, guitarists; Leon Wilkeson, bass; Billy Powell, pianist; Artimus Pyle, drummer; and Leslie Ann Hawkins, a singer; were injured in the crash.
All were from Florida except Pyle, from Spartanburg, S.C., and the Gaineses, from Seneca, Mo.
The band's million-dollar albums were: "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skinerd," "Second Helping," and "One More From the Road." The band's latest album, "Street Survivors," was released Monday and 500,000 copies were sold within five days.
The band came together in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1969. Mr. Van Zant, Rossington and Allen Collins played together in high school and added other members later.
That school, Robert E. Lee, also allegedly produced the group's strange name. It seems a physical education teacher named Leonard Skinner didn't like long hair or loud music. A run-in with him helped get the youths suspended.
As a way of getting back, they named the band for Skinner, changing the vowels to avoid a lawsuit and becoming famous enough to make the story a rock legend.
Lynyrd Skynyrd first hit national prominence in 1974 with a single called "Sweet Home Alabama," which extolled the virtues of the South in general and Alabama in particular. A huge Confederate flag became one of the band's symbols.
The raucous group went to achieve two gold albums (500,000 sold) and three platinum albums (sales of 1 million records) - and numerous run-ins with the law on tour.
"We're kind of like an old dog that ain't housebroke," Mr. Van Zant said in a 1976 interview. "I don't know . . . born under a bad sign, I guess."
The band's most recent hometown performance ended in an uproar with 16 arrests. Police said 15,000 persons took part in the disturbance at the Jacksonville Coliseum and caused $14,000 in damage.
Lynyrd Skynyrd began its career playing in southern bars and eventually the breakthrough success of the Allman Brothers Band, another southern rock group, paved its way to getting a record company contract. "Gimme Back My Bullets" was one of the group's hit albums.
The group's style mixed hard rock and country blues, and Mr. Van Zant once said, "If you ask me, we're closer to the classic British rock groups like Free than anything else."
The group's fans loved its boozing, hell-rising ways, which included a string of arrests for drunk driving and other charges.
"Most of the media people, especially the press, have consistently portrayed us either as children or a bunch of rowdy drunks," Mr. Van Zant once said. "That may or may not be true, but I know that I'd much rather deal with the audiences that really put us here."
Their plane was en route from Greenville, S.C. to Baton Rouge, La., when the crash occurred. The group was on a concert tour that was to last until the end of January, including a Nov. 10 performance in New York's Madison Square Garden.
Others who died in the crash were Dean Kilpatrick, a member of the entourage; the pilot, Walter McCrearey, and Pilot, John Grey, both of Dallas.
Mr. Van Zant is survived by a wife, Judy Van Zant; a daughter, Melody, a daughter from previous marriage, Tammy: his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lacey Van Zant, of Jacksonville; and two brothers, who both lead rock groups, Donnie Van Zant, 24, leads a group called "38 Special," and Johnny Van Zant, in his late teens, leads on amateur band called "Austin Nickle."