May 1975: Lynyrd Skynyrd Release "Saturday Night Special"

Lynyrd Skynyrd perform on stage in Rotterdam, Netherlands, 16th October 1975. L-R Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
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Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd had arrived. The band's sophomore album, Second Helping, boasted a genuine hit record for the band in "Sweet Home Alabama," which peaked at #8 on the Hot 100.

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While on the road to support that album, the band wrote a new song that would be the lead single on Lynyrd Skynyrd's third studio effort, Nuthin' Fancy: "Saturday Night Special."

Ronnie Van Zant wrote the lyrics, which many fans might be surprised to learn were about advocating gun control: “It was a strong message that Ronnie was conveying,” Gary Rossington said in a 2015 interview. “Those cheap handguns were no good for hunting or anything else – they were just made to kill people. And those guns were easy to find. We came from a rough part of town, the west side of Jacksonville. There were a lot of bad people there, and every week you’d hear that somebody got shot or killed.”

Released as a single on May 19, 1975, "Saturday Night Special" made a respectable chart run, peaking at #27 on the Hot 100 for the week of August 2, 1975. Popcorn movie fans got a sneak preview when the tune was used in the opening car chase of Burt Reynolds movie, The Longest Yard, released in August 1974. "Saturday Night Special" also shows up in the 2005 remake starring Chris Rock and Adam Sandler.

“It’s a song that we all love, and I think it’s more relevant now than when Ronnie wrote it," Johnny Van Zant said in 2015. "When I was just a kid, growing up, we always had guns around our house. My family, we were hunters. But handguns scare me because I know there’s only one thing they’re gonna be used for. Every time I sing 'Saturday Night Special,' I feel the power in those words that Ronnie wrote. There are too many guns in America. My brother knew what he was talking about.”

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