G.O.P.’s Southern Strategy? Cranking Up Lynyrd Skynyrd
By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON
Published: August 25, 2004
f the political right has a soundtrack, perhaps it used to be Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concerto No. 2, the piece that introduced William F. Buckley Jr. on his program “Firing Line.” But in 2004?
Two words: “Free Bird.”
On the Sunday night before the first day of the Republican National Convention, the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd (or its latest incarnation) will be performing at the nightclub Crobar in Chelsea for a party honoring Southern Republicans in Congress. There are only two original members left in the band, but, as the song goes, “a bird you cannot change,” and the band is still touring and still quite popular in the red states. For Sunday’s event, the band members are going to be paid as if it were any other concert, but their manager, Ross Schilling, said money was not the only factor.
“They make no qualms about it: they are definitely a Republican band,” he said, adding that the band performed at a party during the Republican National Convention in 2000 and at several campaign stops for President Bush.
Skynyrd is not the only member of the Southern rock delegation: on Monday, ZZ Top is scheduled to perform at a party at B.B. King’s; the Charlie Daniels Band and 38 Special will perform the same night at an event at Crobar, and on Wednesday night the Marshall Tucker Band is scheduled to play at a concert at a Midtown club with the Dickey Betts Band (Mr. Betts being a former member of the Allman Brothers).
“I don’t think anyone coordinated it this way,” said Brandon Winfrey, who helped organize the Lynyrd Skynyrd party. “These are just great throwback bands and I think everybody enjoys them.”
Throwbacks, maybe, but that does not mean they are uncontroversial: Charlie Daniels recently angered some Arab-Americans with a song that included the lyrics “This ain’t no rag, it’s a flag, and we don’t wear it on our heads.” And Lynyrd Skynyrd is known for waving a giant Confederate flag during their rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
It is not all going to be Nascar rock, of course. Otis Day and the Knights, the rhythm and blues band of “Animal House” fame, will be sharing the bill with Charlie Daniels.
And coming on stage after Dickey Betts will be a band called Super Diamond, which according to its Web site, is “the alternative Neil Diamond Experience.”
Alternative, yes: Mr. Diamond himself performed at a June fundraiser — for John Kerry.