What I feared most did not happen; that my life would have been spent doing something I did not believe in. Although I had to adjust my value system to accommodate a more…”philosophical” approach to defining a successful life. After listening and watching a tribute documentary to Lynyrd Skynryd I feel glad that I was incarcerated in the Deep South as a child. I felt like I did not belong but I learned to respect what I saw and felt, and heard. The music is truth and soul and guts and heart, and pure blissful boogie grooves. In the long run, the sensation of playing and hearing that music is what I value most today. It is a source of survival energy. It is a source of wisdom.
The connection to Skynyrd is in time and place. There were so many great bands playing around the Southeast in the late sixties and early seventies, that it seemed like that was the natural order of things.
Frank O’keefe, one of the lead guitar players in my high school band, Those Five, ended up playing bass, helping to create the band, The Outlaws. That was a Florida West Coast spawn, which eventually migrated to Skynryd. The Allmans had set up shop in Macon, Georgia, a few hours north of the Florida/Georgia state line. Seemed like Jacksonville and points south were the growing fields for good blues. In the long run history gets told by people who weren’t really there. So what existed don’t exist anymore, except the music that survived. That’s what hurts so good. Frank O’keefe called out of the blue, and asked my to come on up to the Fillmore in San Fransisco and hang out with the local boys from Florida. He knew that Tim Buckley had just been murdered and that I was not really a ball of fire about getting into another band. He thought this would do me some good.
The backstage bathroom at the Fillmore, had “Florida Rules!” scrawled very largely across the clean white wall. Frank went out of his way to involve me with all their success and fun. Even though Hughie stated critically that Tim Buckley,
“He only had a pair of two’s”. Which was cruel, and totally cracker. I responded by saying,
“He had a great band.” Instead of punching him in the mouth before he went on stage at the friggin Fillmore. I wasn’t gonna get bitch slapped by my hometown good ‘ol boys about what I did instead of sitting at the back of their band, drumming, drinkin’ Jack til I die of whatever corruption I settle on. Tim’s band was great. I had carried the grooves over from Macon, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Clearwater/St. Pete, Tampa and Coconut Grove all the way out to LA, and found the best goddamn singer I ever heard, and we did it. If Tim was murdered for his high minded mouth, I guess I couldn’t count on these crackers to cut me any slack. They were happenin’, that’s all that mattered. When the gigantic red Rebel Flag unfurled behind Lynyrd Skynyrd the roof blew off the Fillmore. Everyone cheered, not out of racism but out of individual love of themselves and others. The power to be yourself was being celebrated by all different types of people. It was the era where civil rights became a reality. That night at the Fillmore, everybody was a Southern Rebel. And we were all on the same side.