October marks 44th anniversary of deadly plane crash involving Lynyrd Skynyrd band

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – During the month of “Rocktober” at radio station KSHE 95, every hour they feature two songs in a row from an artist of the day. On Wednesday, it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd on the anniversary of a deadly plane crash 44 years ago in Gillsburg, Mississippi.  

“Oct. 20, 1977, was the date the year that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down in a small town in Mississippi,” said Mark Klose, KSHE Deejay. “Three of the original members died. And Ronnie Van Zant who was the leader of the band.” 

As “Freebird” played during the lunch hour, one St. Louis musician is all too familiar with the significance of this Oct. 20, 1977. 

Six people were killed in that crash including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Pat Liston’s band, Mama’s Pride, opened for Skynyrd and was set to work on their next album with Van Zant. 

“We worked with Skynyrd about three months before the plane went down and Ronnie wanted to produce our third album,” said Pat Liston, Founding member Mama’s Pride.  

“He said, ‘You and your brother are the principal writers, and I’d like to write with you guys, so we need to be together all the time.’ So, it didn’t dawn on me that you’re on the tour, we would have been on the plane. We would have been on that plane.  There’s no doubt we’d have been on that plane.” 

The night of the crash, Liston and his bandmates were celebrating their upcoming collaboration. 

“The news came on and I saw a picture of Ronnie and saw the words crash and I screamed ‘Stop, turn the jukebox off,’” Liston said. “We one at a time got up and walked out. We knew it was the end of Skynyrd, but it was also the end of our career because Atlantic dropped us a week later.” 

But it wasn’t the end.  

Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed with Ronnie’s brother Johnny 10 years later, and Pat Liston, well, he’s continued playing music to this day, including occasionally a tribute to Ronnie Van Zant called “Sail On.”  

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