The world of rock and roll is rife with stories that are the stuff of legend. Choose any band from any era, and one will find any number of stories. Now another band has some of its stories told thanks to its former tour manager in a new book titled, Turn it Up! The band in question is one Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Turn it Up! was written by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s former tour manager, Ron Eckerman. In his new memoir, Eckerman tells the story of his time with one of rock’s most famous, and infamous bands. His book follows the course of his time with the band from his first meeting right to the dark day when the world lost Lynyrd Skynyrd in that horrible plane crash. One of the book’s funniest memories comes early on in Eckerman’s time with the band. He writes of how the band teasingly called him Roneckerman just to get under his skin. He notes how the band would use both his first and last name with no pause in-between. It was because of the band’s frontman, Ronnie Van Zant. They were making a joke of another Ron being linked to the band. Yes, it was entirely juvenile. But that’s what makes this story so funny. It shows that the band was just a bunch of grown up kids.
Eckerman also tells readers of the band’s drug and alcohol use throughout its tours, and what is perhaps one of its most outrageous moments when drummer Artimus Pyle actually climbs across the roof of the car he’s riding in, from one side of the car to the other and then gets back in. If ever there was a memorable moment that is definitely one. Of course, it’s only a tiny sampling of the unbelievable stories that Eckerman shares with his readers.
For all the wild and crazy stories that surround Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eckerman does offer readers a softer side to one member of the band, too. In one instance, he writes of a fishing trip he took with Ronnie Van Zant during some of the band’s downtime. He notes how Van Zant told him that the serenity of fishing was really what he loved. It showed that for all the wild and crazy antics of the band, at least one member of the band was in reality, as ordinary and calm as anyone. It’s kind of like the legends surrounding the likes of Ozzy versus the behind the scenes reality of how he really is.
What is perhaps one of the most interesting moments in the book is another moment between Eckerman and Van Zant. At one point, Van Zant is alone with Eckerman, and tells him that he’s going to be a father. Van Zant’s next statement is prophetic in a way. Eckerman writes that while they’re celebrating the good news, Ronnie told him, “This is gonna change a few things, and we really gotta clean up this band. Sooner or later somebody’s gonna die.” The irony of Van Zant’s statement is that it wasn’t drugs and alcohol or the general rock and roll lifestyle that ended Lynryd Skynyrd. It was the now infamous plane crash that took the life of Van Zant and five others.
The plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens was a dark moment in one era of music history. The plane crash that ended the original Lynyrd Skynrd was another generation’s dark moment. Eckerman notes in his book of how he fights with himself to this day on what happened. On the one hand, he blames himself and friend Peter Rudge for wanting the band to travel by plane. But then he continues on the other hand, “But I do believe, like Ronnie, that we are in the hands of destiny, and when your number’s up your number is indeed up, so it might have happened regardless of the circumstances.” What really makes this moment hit home is when Eckerman notes of his friendship with Van Zant, “I lost my closest brother on that flight, closer than my brothers by blood, and an entire family whom I loved dearly.” That sentiment, combined with his obvious mixed emotions makes for what is arguably the most touching statement in the book. Here is a man who started out admittedly knowing next to nothing of Lynyrd Skynyrd and hardly being overly fond of its members, but then came to be that close to the band in the end. It’s the sort of story that is perfect for a big screen adaptation. It’s enough to make enough the strongest reader tear up.
Whether it be for this story, the stories of wild parties and everything else that went on during his time with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ron Eckerman’s new memoir is a wonderful look behind the scenes of arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time. It showed the band’s wild side, and its gentler side. It’s a piece of rock history that readers and fans alike will enjoy from the first page to the last.