Guitarist Gary Rossington, the last founding member of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, has died, the band confirmed Sunday.
The band released a statement on Facebook about Rossington’s death.
“Gary is now with his Skynyrd brothers and family in heaven and playing it pretty like he always does,” the statement said.
Rossington was the band’s last original member, according to Rolling Stone.
Rossington was born on Dec. 4, 1951, in Jacksonville, Florida. Rolling Stone said he was raised by his mother following his father’s death.
According to the band’swebsite, Rossington, Ronnie Van Zant, and Bob Burns met during the summer of 1964 while playing baseball on rival teams. A jam session led the three of them to form a band. Soon after, Alex Collins and Larry Junstrom joined the group. They were called “My Backyard,” then “The Noble Five,” and “The One Percent.” In 1969, they became “Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
The name of the band was inspired by the physical education teacher at their high school “who was known for his strict policy forbidding long hair on boys,” the band’s website said.
Rossington “cheated death” multiple times, the website said, including surviving a car crash in 1976 in which he drove his car into a tree. The incident led to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, “That Smell,” according to Rolling Stone.
Rossington also survived the plane crash the following year that killed Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines. He broke both arms, a leg, and his stomach and liver were punctured.
In 2009, Rossington became the last original member to remain with the band, WFLA reported. In 2019, he became the last surviving member.
Rossington underwent multiple heart issues starting with a quintuple bypass procedure in 2003, a heart attack in 2015, and multiple heart surgeries. Rolling Stone said he left the band in July of 2021 to recover from another heart procedure.
Rossington rejoined the band after his recovery, Deadline reported. The band has been preparing for a 22-city North American tour with ZZ Top beginning in June. No information has been released yet about the impact his death will have on the upcoming tour.
A cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
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