New Lynyrd Skynyrd Doc Shows Plane Crash Footage, Traces Band History

‘Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow’ premieres on Showtime August 18th

A new documentary promises to tell the full story of one of southern rock’s defining bands, warts and all. The film, Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow, covers a lot of ground: the band’s rise from Jacksonville, Florida, the plane crash that killed vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and several crew members, their return and unflinching use of the Confederate flag. It will premiere on Showtime on August 18th at 9 p.m. ET and PT.

A clip from the juxtaposes the tragic plane accident with the band’s hard-partying image. “When I think of Lynyryd Skynyrd, I just think of outrageously fun times,” says one of the speakers over pictures of the guys hanging out, shirtless and drinking and feeding whiskey to a monkey. There’s footage of them playing live, remembrances of writing “Sweet Home Alabama” and an explanation of the rebel flag. “The one thing that I want the world to know is how bravely my band met their death,” says one of the voices.

Guitarist Gary Rossington, one of the last surviving founding members of the group and the only one still in the band, narrated most of the documentary, which was made by director Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, We Are X).

The documentary also features interviews with drummer Artimus Pyle, “Sweet Home Alabama” cowriter Ed King, producer Al Kooper, late drummer Bob Burns and “Honkette” backup singer JoJo Billingsley. Its archival material includes recently discovered radio interviews with Van Zant, guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Leon “Mad Hatter” Wilkeson.

The band is currently on a tour in North America that ends in Bethel, New York.