In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, LYNYRD SKYNYRD frontman Johnny Van Zant talked about the band's 2018 announcement that it was embarking on a farewell tour, only to apparently back away from those plans. He said: "I want to be upfront with you. We were on our last year – 2020 was really going to be our last year. It was like, okay, we'll go out and maybe do two or three shows after that or do some charity work. We were [in our] last year and COVID hit. We were, like, 'Well, shit. This is great.' We sat at home for 15 months and when those months were up, we were obligated to finish off the dates that we had booked. So we said, 'Okay, well, let's reform and get back out there and put everybody back to work.' We got back out there and went, 'You know what? We really missed this.' We missed seeing our fans. [Late LYNYRD SKYNYRD guitarist] Gary [Rossington] was a big part of that. He was, like, 'I don't want to sit at home. COVID retired me for 15 months and I didn't like it.' [Laughs] That's all he's ever done. That's all any of us have ever done. So we said, 'Okay, maybe we were wrong about that.'
"I've come to a conclusion: Musicians never retire; they just play less shows. We'll see where the heck the future goes. There isn't a thing happening right now that Gary didn't know about, and he wanted it to happen. So we're going to fulfill those wishes and we'll see what the future brings."
Last November, LYNYRD SKYNYRD guitarist Rickey Medlocke told Fort Myers News-Press about the band's abandoned plans for a farewell tour: "Well, let's put it this way: Basically, when we announced the farewell tour, it was a farewell tour. … Then COVID knocked us out of — oh, I don't know — 60-plus shows. And when that happened, we said, 'Man, people have gone out and bought tickets. You know, they want to come see the band.' So what we ended up doing is we said, 'Hey, let's go out and we'll make up shows and the dates that were booked and all that.' In order to do that, you gotta add other dates. So we took it upon ourselves … (and we called it) the 'Big Wheels Keep On Rolling Tour'.
"I'm not really sure how many more years it's gonna ensue," he continued. "Nobody really does. ... For myself, personally, I'm never gonna stop playing. I'm a lifer. I've been playing guitar ever since I was five years old, man. And you know what: You don't just lay it down one day and go, 'Okay, I'm gonna go fishing. I'm gonna go fishing for the rest of my years.' You know, it just doesn't happen."
Rossington was the last surviving founding member of LYNYRD SKYNYRD. On March 5, his bandmates announced the news of his death in a statement shared on their social media.
The guitarist had previously dealt with various heart problems throughout the years, including emergency heart surgery in 2021.
LYNYRD SKYNYRD's co-headlining tour with ZZ TOP, the "Sharp Dressed Simple Man", is staging performances in twenty-five cities in North America this summer, with special guest UNCLE KRACKER. Produced by Live Nation, the tour kicked off on July 21 at iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida and will wrap in Camden, New Jersey at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion on Sunday, September 17.