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  VAN ZANT, THE FIRST FAMILY OF SOUTHERN ROCK, SHOW THEIR COLOURS
Johnny Main

johnny main


van zant

The Van Zant clan from Jacksonville, Florida have been called the “First Family of Southern Rock" and you can understand why given that they’re the driving force to the legend that is Lynyrd Skynyrd but also encompass 38 Special.

Skynyrd was founded by Ronnie Van Zant along with Bob Burns, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington in 1964. Ronnie was the eldest of three sons of Lacy and Marion Van Zant with his little brothers, e was the older brother Johnny Van Zant, and of the founder and Donnie Van Zant completing the family.

Whilst Ronnie was off steering the good ship Skynyrd to international acclaim, Donnie was busy with his own band, 38 Special, which achieved modest success since their inception in 1974. 38 Special never reached the heights of Skynyrd’s fame but nonetheless they still managed to carve out a successful career spanning a dozen studio albums over a period of thirty years. Johnny, on the other hand, was fronting The Johnny Van Zant Band between 1980 and 1985 before other career opportunities arose.

Of course we’re all familiar with the Skynyrd plane crash that claimed the lives of Ronnie, guitarist Steve Gaines along with backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, the band's assistant road manager and the two pilots and this brought a premature end to Skynyrd's career – or so everyone thought at the time. In 1987, Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with the role of frontman offered out to Johnny where he still resides today, whilst Donnie went on to be the frontman of 38 Special.

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Ronnie Van Zant had always wanted to release a country record outside the Skynyrd band but never got the chance, so Johnny and Donnie got together to do one in memory of their fallen brother and so the Van Zant band was born. 2005s 'Get Right With The Man’ was followed up by 'My Kind Of Country' in 2007. The albums also gave the Van Zant boys the chance to hit the road opening the show for home grown country music star Gretchen Wilson and saw a good mix of Van Zant tracks with a couple of 38 Special and the ubiquitous Skynyrd tracks thrown in for good measure.

No professional recordings were known to exist from the tour until the show at Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia on 28th January 2006 was recently unearthed and it’s this release which now brings the Van Zant band back into sharp focus, and it shows what a great team Donnie and Ronnie make onstage.

Taking turns in sharing the microphone, the band drift through fourteen tracks most of which are taken from the Van Zant’s 2005 album, 'Get Right With The Man’. It’s a good listen though with the addition of a sole 38 Special number along with three Skynyrd numbers, 'Red White & Blue’, 'Call Me The Breeze’ and 'Sweet Home Alabama’ in there. If 'Red White & Blue’ doesn’t ring any bells with you, you can find the track on Skynyrd’s 2003 'Vicious Cycle’ release and it benefits from an airing here since a few Skynyrd fans are less than fond of the 'Vicious Cycle’ album.

van zant

The other tracks veer from rock based numbers to those with a more country based sound but it all merges together into an enjoyable set, the only downsides being the relative shortness of the set and the lack of any visuals to go with it. From the slow paced 'Ain’t Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do' with it's easy to remember chorus and the faster paced 'I'm Doin' Alright' it all adds up to what sounds like a great show and a great album.

Johnny keeps the audience enthused and therefore centre stage but this is no slight on Donnie who gives a solid vocal performance throughout. Sure, the boys name-check big brother Ronnie occasionally and the mantra of “Let’s do it for Ronnie” comes across load and clear as does the enthusiasm of the audience, and it just makes me want to track down the Van Zant studio releases.

You can see Johnny Van Zant performing with Lynyrd Skynyrd live here:
Thursday 4th August – The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands
Friday 5th August – Bold Sphere Music At Champions Square, New Orleans
Saturday 6th August – Choctaw Grand Theater, Durant
Monday 8th August – Sturgis Buffalo Chip, Sturgis
Tuesday 9th August – Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, Englewood
Tuesday 16th August – Wente Vineyards, Livermore
Thursday 18th August – The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles
Friday 19th August – The Chelsea At The Cosmopolitan Of Las Vegas, Las Vegas
Saturday 20th August – Tuscany Ballroom At The Peppermill Hotel, Reno
Sunday 21st August – Ironstone Vineyards Amphitheatre, Murphys
Wednesday 24th August – Emerald Queen Casino, Tacoma
Friday 26th August – Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre, Pocatello
Saturday 27th August – Usana Amphitheatre, Salt Lake City
Friday 2nd September – Foellinger Theatre, Fort Wayne
Saturday 3rd September – Harrah's Cherokee, Cherokee
Sunday 4th September – Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam, Panama City Beach
Friday 16th September – Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson
Saturday 17th September – Hard Rock Hotel And Casino - The Joint, Tulsa
Sunday 18th September – Clay County Fair, Spencer
Friday 23rd September – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, Boston
Saturday 24th September – Tag's Summer Sound Stage, Big Flats

'Red White and Blue – Live’ Tracklisting:
Takin’ Up Space
Ain’t Nobody Gonna Tell Me What To Do
Sweet Mama
Wild Eyed Southern Boys
Things I Miss The Most
I Know My History
Help Somebody
Plain Jane
I Can’t Help Myself
I’m Doin’ Alright
Red White & Blue
Kind Of Country
Call Me The Breeze
Sweet Home Alabama

Van Zant picture - Kristen Van-Zant


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