Vyntyge Skynyrd tribute band members from left are Steven Sorum, drums; Richie Sullaway, bass guitar; Kevin Meaney, guitar; Carl Johnson, guitar; Dave Musgrove, lead vocal; and Tom Rossi, piano/organ. Submitted photo

This is the third of five in this month’s series of “new to me” acts, and after two singer-songwriters it’s only right to highlight a band. So if you like your rock with a Southern flavor, then Vyntyge Skynyrd is the group for you. This six-piece Massachusetts-based band brings the music and the magic of Lynyrd Skynyrd to life with a hit-filled show that focuses on that group’s first four albums — as was explained to me by keyboardist Tom Rossi in a recent telephone interview from his home in Danvers, Massachusetts. After the initial call, he asked if I could call back after he’d prepared his morning beverage, which was an easy request to comply with.

Q: Have you got your coffee brewed?
Rossi: I do.

Q: Well, in your line of work I’m sure that’s a requirement first thing in the morning.
Rossi: I tell ya, this flying around the country playing Skynyrd tunes is actually a side gig for me. We do have a couple of full-time musicians in the band, but I’m not one of them (chuckle).

Q: Well, having been a music journalist as a side gig for more than 50 years, I can say that it’s my favorite job of them all. I can imagine this band is a similar thing for you, too.
Rossi: It sure is, and fortunately it’s manageable. We probably only do maybe 30 to 50 shows a year; we don’t do a whole lot which I think is a good thing.

Q: How so?
Rossi: Because we’re not really over-saturated, you know what I mean? Skynyrd’s still touring, they’re doing their thing, so we really try to pick our spot and make the shows meaningful, more meaning than many, I guess. I just made that up (chuckle). But I enjoy the hell out of it, if I may speak freely; I’ve been playing piano since I was 4 years old and to be able to recreate, to me, as a piano player and as a music fan, some of the most iconic piano solos and riffs in rock ‘n’ roll history, well, to have been playing these songs my whole life and be able to jump in as the piano player in this Skynyrd band has been a blast.

Q: What have you been hearing, feedback-wise, from the audiences?
Rossi: Well, they’re coming to see Skynyrd and hear Skynyrd songs, and our show is very well-received. And to be well-received in the south, I think for me, is the most enjoyable part of this.


Q: I would certainly think so!
Rossi: I mean, we’re all Yankees and the city of Jonesboro, Georgia, hired us a couple of years ago to play in an amphitheater. And come to find out, we learned that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album cover was shot right around the corner from where we were playing. We hopped in a golf cart and went over there and actually recreated the photo from that first album cover. We had the same font and the album title, “Pronounced Vyntyge Skynyrd,” and used it as a promo shot. And we’ve had a couple of plane crash survivors. Artimus Pyle gave us his blessing, and we ran into him up in Derry, he did a little video with us. Gene Odom is another plane crash survivor; he was head of security for the band. He’s still alive and kicking, and we’ve brought him up for shows from time to time and let him sell his wares and try to help him along. He’s kind of adopted us a bit. So it’s been great having brushes with the actual band and crash survivors; it really gets me a closeness to Skynyrd that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Q: Now, do you get up to Maine often?
Rossi: We get up to Maine probably three or four times a year, I guess, depending.

Q: Have you done Somerset Abbey before?
Rossi: We’ve done Somerset Abbey; we did that last year. I think that it may have sold out; I thought it was really close. We got a lot of really good feedback from that show; it’s really neat that we’re getting a little bit of traction in Madison. We’ve been to the Portland area more, though. So this will be two years in a row for us up at Somerset Abbey.

Q: Now how do you go about picking what you do material-wise? There are a lot of songs to choose from in that catalogue.
Rossi: I mean, you have to play “Gimme Three Steps.” You have to end with “Free Bird” (chuckle), and the die-hard Skynyrd fans may say that there are a couple of opening tunes that are a one-two punch that you need to open with, and we do. But for us, they’re not writing any more classics, and we’re Vyntyge Skynyrd so we’re from 1977 and before. So, you’ve obviously got a multitude of hits there: “Gimme Back My Bullets,” “Saturday Night Special,” “The Breeze,” you could go on and on and on. And the beautiful thing is that, at the end of the show, folks come up to you and go, “Wow, I didn’t realize how many songs I actually knew!” and “I didn’t realize that that was Skynyrd!” We just try to keep it fresh, keep it fun, and to think that everything they’ve done, in the four albums officially that the original band left. It’s just amazing.

Q: I was going to ask what people can expect, but I think you’ve answered that one.
Rossi: Here’s what I love about this band: there’s no make-up, there’s no wigs, there’s no backing tracks, there’s none of that. So what people can expect, truly, is just six guys and the truth, man. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s a true concert experience. It’s animated; it’s what you would see if you went to a Skynyrd show. It’s everybody working together to get one sound coming out of the speakers, quite frankly, to punch you in the mouth. So we try to take a little bit of that energy and make it a fun time.

Q: Is there anything, Tom, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article about your return to Madison?
Rossi: Oh, absolutely, yeah! I would suggest getting tickets if you’re thinking of coming, because it was near to a sell-out last year. We’re looking forward to coming up and blowing the roof off the place, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone. And we’ll take care of business when we get there!

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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