Gary Rossington, the last surviving original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, recently underwent emergency heart surgery. The legendary Southern rock act announced the news after the guitarist missed the band’s recent concerts.
Rossington was with Lynyrd Skynyrd when they resumed their long-running farewell tour in June, following 15 months off the road due to the pandemic. However, he hadn’t been onstage with the band for their latest gigs.
The guitarist has had a history of heart issues in recent years, suffering a heart attack in 2015 and undergoing quintuple bypass surgery. That was followed by having his heart valve repaired in 2019. He once told Tampa Bay Times, “I’ve had heart attacks on stage a lot.”
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame act explained Rossington’s absence with a Facebook post on Friday (July 23rd):
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Gary Rossington as he recovers from emergency heart surgery. Gary is home resting and recovering with his family at home. He wants everyone to know he is doing good and expects a full recovery.
After this past year, the country being shut down and everything we have all been thru, The Rossingtons encouraged the band to go perform in his absence. Music is a powerful healer! We all felt playing the shows and bringing the music to y’all was a better option than cancelling the performances.
We wish Gary a speedy recovery and we will see the Skynyrd Nation very soon! Please do us a favor and say some prayers for the Rossington family and if you would like to leave him a (positive) message please do! He will look forward to reading them!”
In a video accompanying the message, footage can be seen of singer Johnny Van Zant addressing the crowd at the Twin Cities Summer Jam on Thursday night, explaining that Rossington “had to have an emergency stent out in his heart.”
Rossington’s health is one of the reasons the band is calling their current outing their final run. “That’s why I was calling it a farewell tour — I don’t know if I’ll be here,” Rossington said in 2018. “I don’t want to just say, ‘Well, we’re never going to end,’ because I don’t want to die and then it end that way. Which is a heavy thing to talk about, but I have to.”
In 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd experienced one of rock’s greatest tragedies, when a plane crash claimed the lives of members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines. In recent years, Lynyrd Skynyrd lost founding members Bob Burns and Larry Junstrum.
Guitarist Damon Johnson is filling in as Rossington’s replacement as the band continues to tour. As of now, Lynyrd Skynyrd have dates scheduled through November 19th in Bossier City, Louisiana. Check out their full itinerary on their official website, and pick up tickets via Ticketmaster.
See singer Johnny Van Sant address the crowd at Thursday night’s concert to explain Rossington’s absence, followed by video of Lynyrd Skynyrd performing “Sweet Home Alabama” (with Rossington onstage) during a concert last month in Texas.