Artimus Pyle's Movie Invited Lawsuit From Former Band Member Gary Rossington
Although Artimus Pyle’s contribution to the legendary southern rock band Lynrd Skynrd is undeniable, his relationship with this former band member Gary Rossington has pulled the band’s name into controversy. His strained relationship with Rossington revolves around a few lawsuits—the lawsuit related to his 2020 movie Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynrd Skynrd Plane Crash being the latest.
The movie explored true accounts of the tragic 1977 plane crash that took the lives of numerous prominent people associated with Lynrd Skynrd along with the two pilots flying the craft.
Artimus Pyle Survived the 1977 Crash
The crash took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, Cassie Gains (Steve Gaines’ sister), one of the background singers, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and the two pilots.
Pyle and Rossington were two of the 20 survivors among the 26 passengers that were in that plane. After the crash, Pyle emerged from the crash site with a torn chest cartilage before managing to drag himself to a farmhouse to get help.
Gary Rossington is still active with the band as of September 2020. Current members of the band crew include Mark “Sparky” Matejka, Johnny Van Zant, Michael Cartellone, Dale Krantz Rossington, Rickey Medlocke, Carol Chase, and Peter Keys.
Rossington is also the last original member of the band. The band was originally formed in 1964 by Garry Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Ronnie Van Zant (lead vocalist), Larry Junstrom (bass guitar), and Bob Burns (drums).
What was Pyle Role in Lynrd Skynrd?
Artimus Pyle played drums for the legendary southern rock band Lynrd Skynrd, which was formed in 1964. He served as the timekeeper of the band initially from 1974 to 1977 and then again from 1987 to 1991. He was inducted in the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2006, along with his band members.
Exit From Lynrd Skynrd and Lawsuits
Pyle contributions to the group as a drummer were priceless. He drew upon his primary inspirations from the likes of Ringo Starr, Buddy Rich, and Joe Morell to compliment the Skynrd music like no other.
In 1991, Pyle chose to go his own way. He had rejoined the band in 1987. After his exit, he formed a Lynyrd Skynyrd tour band to pay tribute to singer Ronnie Vant Zant, and that was when he was sued by Ronnie’s widow Judy Van Zant.
In an interview with Lucas H. Gordon, Pyle talked about how his tribute group was making money for Judy and Ronnie’s children, since that was the right thing to do. He expressed his disappointment with Judy’s actions and claimed that Judy wanted the Skynrd name for herself.
“Judy ... sued us while we were on the  tribute tour ... We were on the road making money for Judy and her children—doing what we should do—but Judy sued us the whole time, wanting control of the name, which she didn’t deserve. So she got a bunch of sinister, crooked lawyers ... and she got the name. But the judge said there must be three members ... from the plane crash in order to call it Lynyrd Skynyrd,” told Pyle.
In the interview, Pyle also expressed his concerns about original guitarist Gary Rossington touring under the band name despite a court settlement ruling against such a move.
Now there's one member—Gary—and 10 people they hired yesterday, and they charge $100,000 and call it 'Lynyrd Skynyrd....It's a fraud ... but Judy doesn't care if a bunch of monkeys go out onstage.
Further, Pyle maintained that his 1991 departure was business and not personal.
“Gary is surrounded by some very sinister people, motivated by money, trying to milk every single penny out of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and they use Gary to do it ... I love Gary, and Gary loves me. We’re brothers. We played for the kings and queens of the world. I saw him at [original keyboardist] Billy [Powell] ’s funeral [in 2009], and he hugged me, and I hugged him, but they try to keep Gary and I apart, because there’s more money for them to steal,” Pyle retrospected.
Book, Movie and Yet Another Lawsuit
When it comes to Lynrd Skynrd, Artimus Pyle does not seem to catch a break from lawsuits. In 2017, Pyle had another lawsuit in his hands— this time by Judy Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant (younger brother of Ronnie Van Zant), and heirs of former members Steve Gaines and Allen Collins.
The plaintiffs claimed that the then-upcoming movie (Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynrd Skynrd Plane Crash) about Skynrd’s plane crash infringed upon a consent mandate done by the band in 1988. The 1988 agreement prevented individual band members from exploiting the band’s tragic history.
In 2018, the court dismissed the lawsuit. The decision from the court justified that Pyle could share his accounts of the events.
In October of 2018, Pyle released his memoir book titled 'Street Survivor: Keeping the Beat in Lynrd Skynrd.' Dean Goodman co-wrote the book.
Furthermore, Pyle also finally released the movie, Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynrd Skynrd Plane Crash. The movie premiered at Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles on February 16, 2020.
“They chose to try to destroy me rather than come to the table and make a film together. So this is what it turned out to be ... I think the movie is going to be a cult classic...There is also humor and sex, drugs and rock’ n’ roll. That’s the way it was in the ’60s and ’70s,” Pyle had stated about the lawsuit and the movie.