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Quendrith Johnson

Quendrith Johnson is Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Tune it up for Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash right now

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Pop quiz trivia, ready? What was the first band name of Lynyrd Skynyrd? Right: “My Backyard” for the Jacksonville-formed group until 1966, when they came up with the iconic slur of their gym teacher’s name. Don’t believe it? StreetSurvivorsLynyrdSkynyrd2020Proof comes later, but for now, Cleopatra Entertainment offers a biography about the band, and how they won big, lost big, and reshaped music culture all the same with their Southern Rock style. Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash was just released last week, and let’s brush up on the boys in the band before tragedy struck.

From, “Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American band known for its specialization in Southern rock. The group was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, by five teenage friends who went to the same school. Their gym teacher Leonard Skinner led them to quit school in 1964 and later form the band because he demanded that they shave their hair before coming to school. The founding members of the rock band were Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Larry Junstorm, Bob Burns, and Gary Rissington.”

Sounds too academic, right, just reading the details? This kind of party music from the 70’s just can’t be summed up with words. The smash hits of Lynyrd Skynyrd are etched in so many American teenage minds - from Prom Night to Skating Rinks to Top 40 - that you can probably sing the entire lyrics to? “Sweet Home Alabama" and many more just as a reflex.

In fact, you can actually tell a story just using their song titles: “What’s Your Name,” “Call Me the Breeze,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Double Trouble,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” “You Got That Right,” “Don’t Ask Me No Questions,” “Free Bird,” “I Know a Little,” “All I Can Do Is Write About It.”RonnieVanZant1975

And who doesn’t always pinch up the volume even a little when Lynyrd Skynyrd commands: “Turn it up… Sweet Home Alabama.” So how does new release Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash cope with the aviation accident that changed many a musician's personal history?

Remember, this was the life-altering event that nearly every guitar player and pro musician knows by heart - either where they were, or the exact anniversary (Oct. 20, 1977)  - that took out the legendary three, Ronnie Van Zant (singer/songwriter), Steve Gaines (guitarist), and Cassie Gaines (back-up singer), but also the pilot Walter McCreary, co-pilot Wm. John Gray, and the road manager’s assistant Dean Kilpatric...

It was a tragedy of such magnitude that Rock died a little bit that day when the band that penned “if I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me” in “Free Bird” lost their own songbird on a tour charter that even Aerosmith wouldn’t fly on because they thought it was unsafe. Of course Steven Tyler’s band should know something about flight with “aero” baked into their name. But no one could have predicted that 20 others on this flight, injured and shaken, would live, specifically the man who tells his story in Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash.

His name is Artimus Pyle, the drummer who came later than the founders, who literally “pulled others out of the wreckage,” and it is his POV this film relies on. It’s a fascinating one.

Watch & Listen to Music History Told by a Real Survivor


Meanwhile, here’s the official word from Director Jared Cohn & Prod Co.

In 1977, a plane carrying Southern rock legends LYNYRD SKYNYRD mysteriously runs out of gas mid-air en route to a concert, crashing into a dangerous Louisiana swamp while killing several of the band members, crew and both pilots. STREET SURVIVORS: The True Story of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash tells the story thru one of the survivors, drummer Artimus Pyle, who not only survived the fatal crash (that claimed the life of the band’s founder and front man Ronnie Van Zant amongst others), but who also bravely pulled the remaining survivors out of the plane wreckage before staggering towards the nearest farmhouse in rural Louisiana to seek help.

And, just a bonus rearview 70’s reminder for you, here’s their top charting songs.

LYNYRD SKYNYRD BILLBOARD 100 Charted Spots & Dates

“Free Bird” - Jan. 24, 1975 - #19 (20 Weeks on Billboard Chart)

“What’s Your Name” - Mar. 10, 1978 - Top Spot #13 on Billboard Chart

“Sweet Home Alabama” - Oct. 25, 1974 - Top Spot #8 on Billboard Chart

“Saturday Night Special” - Aug. 1, 1975 - Top Spot #27 on Billboard Chart

“You Got That Right” - Apr. 28, 1978 - Top Spot #69 on Billboard Chart

“Double Trouble” - Mar. 26, 1976 - Top Spot #80 on Billboard Chart

[GodSpeed Ronnie Van Zant & Steve Gaines & All those ever lost on tour.]

Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash

Written & Directed by: Jared Cohn

Narrated by: Artimus Pyle

Original score by: Chris Ridenhour, Christopher Cano

Cast: Ian Shultis, Taylor Clift, Samuel Kay Forrest, Rich Dally III

Genre: Biography

Jared Cohn, writer-director of “Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash” has captured a rare look-back at one of rock’s greatest-ever bands. The film debuted at Regal Cinemas in Los Angeles back in Feb., but  hit Blu-ray, DVD & Digital 6/30 from Cleopatra Entertainment, on 6/30, and is on a roll now here.

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About Quendrith Johnson

Johnson Quendrith

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