When Southern rock legend Lynyrd Skynyrd takes the main stage of the Washington Town and Country Fair Friday night, Aug. 4, at 8:30 p.m., it will be the band’s second performance here in four years.
Lynyrd Skynyrd headlined the 2013 Fair’s main stage entertainment, and made for one of the biggest nights in Fair history. In the post-Fair wrap-up news story from that year, Co-Chair Paul Brune estimated close to 17,000 people were on the fairgrounds the night Lynyrd Skynyrd performed.
Brune also noted that Lynyrd Skynyrd band members were impressed with the concert stage and the crowd.
Prior to the 2013 show, The Missourian’s Currents Arts and Entertainment Editor Ethan Busse spoke with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Johnny Van Zant about the band, their music and what fans coming to the Fair’s show can expect.
John Roy “Johnny” Van Zant is the band’s current lead vocalist. He is the younger brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder and former lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, who died in an airplane crash in 1977 at the peak of the band’s success. He also is the brother of .38 Special founder Donnie Van Zant.
Following are highlights of that 2013 conversation, edited for timeliness:
MISSOURIAN: Do you guys have a good time when you play these small town and country fairs?
VAN ZANT: We play everything, but sometimes the smaller fairs or whatever —we play the state fairs, too, we do arenas, we do them all —- but sometimes the little fairs are something special. You know what I mean, you’re closer to the crowd. It’s a good time.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is about real people, and real people go to fairs. It’s what we’re all about. I still go to my county fair. I live in a little town called Middleburg, and they have the Clay County Fair every year, and I’m out there every year enjoying the rides, cotton candy, corn dogs — that’s real American stuff. And Lynyrd Skynyrd’s an American rock band.
MISSOURIAN: That’s what I like to hear. That’s excellent.
So I’m a big Van Zant fan. Just wondering if we’re going to hear any Van Zandt songs?
VAN ZANT: Well, no, it’s Skynyrd, man.
MISSOURIAN: Is the (2013 album) . . . a country album?
VAN ZANT: You know, man, it’s kinda hard to define what the hell we do —we have country, we have rock. We love it all. We have yet to hit the rap part yet. We’re not doing that yet . . .
We just love music . . . when we were kids, our dad was a truck driver, our mom was a housewife. Hell, we had four channels on TV. There was no such thing as a computer or an iPhone or anything.
So what we did, we had a swing set. We’d go out and sing songs, hang out together, get dirty, play in the yard.
That’s how all of this came about. So it’s one of those things.
MISSOURIAN: How long has Lynyrd Skynyrd been around?
VAN ZANT: We’re celebrating (44) years since “Pronounced” came about. That’s (44) years, and that’s a lot of traveling.
It’s what we do. People ask me all the time, they say, “Do you still enjoy it?” I say, “I hate the traveling, and I love the playing.”
MISSOURIAN: What is the song that people are most excited about or that you feel that the crowd connects the most to when you perform?
VAN ZANT: There’s so many of them. There’s “Simple Man,” there’s “Sweet Home,” of course . . . you know Skynyrd’s catalog is deep, so in (44) years, you have a lot of great songs. It just depends on the night and the people who you’re playing for in different parts of the country.
MISSOURIAN: Any last thoughts or message to our fans, your fans?
VAN ZANT: Hey, the people who are there that we call our fans, this is Skynyrd nation. We’re three generations bold. We look forward to coming to see ya. We’ll rock your socks off, so leave all your problems at home and come on out and enjoy some Skynyrd music.