Lynyrd Skynyrd sues ex-drummer over movie about 1977 plane crash

Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:34pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd have filed a lawsuit against the Southern rock band's former drummer to halt the production of a movie depicting the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant.

Lead guitarist Gary Rossington, Ronnie's brother and current lead singer Johnny Van Zant, and others contend that "Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash," based on recollections of former drummer Artimus Pyle, violated a 1988 consent order governing the use of the band's name.

The lawsuit against Pyle and co-defendant Cleopatra Records Inc was made public on Friday in the U.S. district court in Manhattan. A trial is scheduled for July 11, court records show.

Pyle could not immediately be reached for comment. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

Brian Perera, Cleopatra's president, said in an interview he would be willing to settle, but added, "I understood my First Amendment rights. Filmmakers can make biopics."

Known for such songs as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird," Lynyrd Skynyrd went on hiatus after its touring plane crashed in Mississippi on Oct. 20, 1977, killing Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steven Gaines and four others. Twenty people, including Pyle, survived.

In 1987, surviving band members reunited for a "tribute tour," prompting litigation that led to the consent order.

The plaintiffs, who include representatives of the estates of Ronnie Van Zant, Gaines and late guitarist Allen Collins, said they had issued a cease-and-desist letter last summer to halt the defendants' plan for a movie titled "Free Bird."   Continued...

FILE PHOTO - Singer Kid Rock (L) performs with Johnny Van Zant (R) and his band Lynyrd Skynyrd on ABC's "Good Morning America" in New York, U.S. on August 22, 2008.   REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo