On October 19, 1977 at Greenville Memorial Auditorium (which was imploded in 1997) here in Greenville, the band Lynyrd Skynyrd (creators of the iconic song, Sweet Home Alabama) played their last show together. The next day, the band boarded a plane at Greenville’s downtown airport that was headed to Baton Rouge, LA, where the band was supposed to play a show that night.
But the band didn’t make it to Baton Rouge. Apparently the plane’s engines were faulty + burned through their fuel too quickly. They needed to make an emergency landing, but with nowhere safe to land in time, the plane crashed into a wooded swamp in Mississippi.
The crash took the lives of three band members – lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Steve + Cassie Gaines – plus the band’s manager and the two pilots of the plane. Multiple band members had expressed concern over the plane beforehand (just days before, during a flight on the same plane, they had seen flames shooting from the right engine), but Ronnie Van Zant insisted they use the plane, saying, “When it’s your time, it’s your time. Let’s go, man. We’ve got a gig to do.”
The last song the original band ever played together that night was Free Bird, which starts, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”
Lynyrd Skynyrd has since been performing (the only original bandmate is Gary Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant’s brother, Johnny, joined as the singer in 1987) and still have a few shows left on their farewell tour, which is supposed to be the last tour conducted by the band.
You can hear more details about the crash + it’s tie to Greenville by watching this video.