The 2023 CMT Music Awards closed out with a bang with an all-star tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Fellow rock music legend Peter Frampton introduced the performance by acknowledging his “dear friend” and Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder, Gary Rossington, who passed away on March 5 at the age of 71. Frampton remarked that guitarist Rossington “not only helped define the band’s sound,” but inspired musicians everywhere.
Rossington’s death made him the final member of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup to pass away. Frampton cited the band as “the kings of Southern rock” while stating that Rossington has now joined his bandmates in “rock and roll heaven.”
“We will all enjoy their music forever,” Frampton concluded. He then made way for Slash, Billy Gibbons, Warren Haynes, Chuck Leavell, Paul Rodgers, Cody Johnson, Wynonna Judd, and LeAnn Rimes to perform a pair of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s biggest hits.
Gibbons of ZZ Top and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash held strong on guitar, while Rodgers took lead vocals, which he shared with Johnson on the opening number “Simple Man.” Country star Johnson flexed the rock and roll tones in his twang-filled voice, as he and Rodgers’ voices proved to be unstoppable when joining forces on the chorus. Rimes and Judd performed as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s background singers, The Honkettes, their powerful voices soaring on backing harmonies throughout the set.
The supergroup of rock and country greats got the crowd roaring, and on its feet, with the instantly recognizable opening notes of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s biggest hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.” Allman Brothers Band guitarist Haynes and Gibbons traded chords that led to a group-sing-along on the iconic chorus. Meanwhile, Johnson beckoned the camera to follow him as he pointed at close-up shots of each of the musicians onstage, rocking out alongside Slash on the song’s fierce guitar solo before he passed it to Gibbons. Judd and Rimes brought the song to a soaring finish by belting out the final notes.
Several members of the current Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup were in the audience at the Moody Center in Austin, including Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlock. Rossington’s wife Dale Krantz Rossington was seated alongside her late husband’s bandmates to cheer on the performers.
The performance was also a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd).