FREEBIRD... THE MOVIE
Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Premiere
August 14, 1996
We're back home after nearly three weeks of travelling with the Lynyrd Skynyrd band on their 1996 Outta The Hole Tour. . After a few premliminary dates in North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the entire "staff" of the Freebird Foundation boarded a Silver Eagle tour bus for ten days of Skynyrd.
We -- Judy VanZant, Melody VanZant, Jim Jenness, Matt Grondin, William Jordan -- left Jacksonville for Washington D.C. on May 6th. Our bus driver, Buck Harden, was almost as excited as we were. Buck has been a longtime fan of Skynyrd and Southern rock. This was like a reunion for him, since he had previously worked with VanZant in the 1980s, as well as Molly Hatchett and the Outlaws.
Meeting the fans was probably the most fun of the whole trip. So many fans want to do anything to connect with the original band and Judy and Melody were touched by the fans' tremendous support and love for the Skynyrd band. From our first day on tour the fans simply freaked over the fact that Judy and Melody were out front meeting the people coming to the shows. This was the first time that many people had heard about the Freebird Foundation or Freebird... The Movie. The response has been phenomenal!!
In Buffalo, New York we were joined by Corrina Gaines and Teresa Gaines Rapp, Steve's daughter and widow, and also Barry Rapp and Corrina's boyfriend John. While in Buffalo we feasted on chicken wings at the famous Anchor Bar -- the home of the original buffalo wings -- and spent the next day at Niagara Falls.After the show in Darien Lakes, New York we were off to Cleveland.
Cleveland was probably the most hectic part of our trip, but the most rewarding. We arrived in town about 3 am. Judy, Melody, Gary, Billy, Leon, Johnny and Artimus spent most of the day sitting for personal interviews with a wide range of reporters from across the country. Artimus and Judy were also on several local television news programs.
At the Hall of Fame there was a news conference attended by the current Skynyrd band, Artimus Pyle, Leonard Skinner, co-executive producers of Freebird... The Movie Judy Van Zant and Tom Molito and producer Jeff Waxman. Camera crews from Entertainment Tonight as well as TNN, CNN and E! were on hand for the event.
Finally it was time for the invited guests and lucky contest winners from all over the country to sit down for the official premiere of Freebird... The Movie. The response was stunning. Like Atlanta, you couldn't tell the cheers onscreen from the cheers in the theater. The film ended to a tearful standing ovation.
There will be a lot of long-lasting memories resulting from this trip -- a lot of dreams were realized with the offical release of Freebird.. The Movie. We've tried to include a wide range of photos in our scrapbook so you can share in this part of rock and roll history.