Gary Rossington, the last original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, died not long ago. Following this, the band decided to continue despite the absence of the original members, which divided fans. Some were enthusiastic about the band carrying on the heritage, while others were opposed for a variety of reasons. One major factor was the ‘blood oath’ that the founding members took years ago. The origins of this pledge can be traced back to a tragic plane disaster in 1977. Skynyrds first disbanded following the deaths of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup vocalist Cassie Gaines in a car accident. The other members suffered major injuries in the collision, and the terrible occurrence ended the band’s original run.
The survivors agreed not to use the band’s name for money again out of respect for their fallen companions and at the request of their families. This pact was dubbed the ‘blood oath.’ They stuck to it for eleven years until 1987, when they decided to regroup. The band reformed for a tribute tour and continued to release music under the Lynyrd Skynyrd moniker. This decision, however, did not sit well with Ronnie’s widow, Judy, who believed it violated their vow. She and Steve’s widow, Teresa, sued the band, and a new deal was reached. The band could preserve the name Lynyrd Skynyrd if Gary Rossington and at least two other surviving members—Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ed King, and Artimus Pyle—were in the lineup. The band clung to this ‘Rule of Three’ for a long time, even when they sought to cast off the shadow of the original lineup by adding ‘1991’ to the name at one point.
In 2017, the court even halted the release of a film titled ‘Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash.’ Why? Because of the initial oath and the same agreement. The film was supposed to focus on Pyle’s experiences, but it was never released since it used the band’s name and history. If you think about it, the band should have called it quits in 2001. Wilkeson died at that point, leaving just Rossington and Powell as original members. But they kept rocking thanks to some clever maneuvering by Rossington and others, such as declaring guitarist and singer Rickey Medlocke, who played on some of Skynyrd’s early material, to be a ‘pre-crash member.’ The deal was ignored even after Powell died in 2009, leaving Rossington as the sole survivor. Today, the band continues to perform without any of the original members, claiming that it is in the best interests of the band and that the deceased members will always be present during performances. The pact, which was once an important part of the band’s history, has slipped into obscurity, and Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to perform and preserve the legacy.