Burt Reynolds’ death two weeks after Ed King’s gets me raving about “Saturday Night Special”


By Steve Newton

I never thought Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third album, 1975’s Nuthin’ Fancy, was anywhere near as fine as its first two albums, but holy fvck did I love the opening track, “Saturday Night Special”.

It boasted a killer main riff by guitarist Ed King, and some seriously kick-ass, southern-fried solos by Gary Rossington. And I loved the lyrics by Ronnie Van Zant, which spoke plainly of the dangers of the titular weapon, used far too often to settle scores. The anti-handgun message was good to hear, but not what you’d expect from a gang of rowdy, good ‘ol boys from Florida.

I love this clip where King explains the origin of the song, and Van Zant’s response to it, especially the part about Ronnie heading off to the fishing hole when it’s done:

While best known for cowriting and playing the catchy riff on “Sweet Home Alabama”, King also cowrote such deathless Skynyrd classics as “Poison Whiskey”, “Workin’ for MCA”, and “Swamp Music”. I was sad to hear that he’d passed away on August 22, at the age of 68, after being hospitalized for lung cancer.

Then just about two weeks after King’s death came the news that Burt Reynolds had died of cardiac arrest at 82. That got me remembering that scene early in The Longest Yard where Reynolds’ macho, ex-pro footballer Paul “Wrecking” Crewe evades the cops in a 1972 Citroën SM.

Now, The Longest Yard was released on August 30, 1974–nearly seven months before Nuthin’ Fancy hit record stores on March 24, 1975–yet somehow the filmmakers managed to score “Saturday Night Special” and have it playing on the radio right when the cocktail-wielding Crewe starts the car. I like to think that his little grin at the 11-second mark is provoked by Rossington’s tasty guitar licks, but I guess it’s supposed to be in response to the growl of the Maserati engine.

I also like the part at the end where Ronnie sings “Why don’t we dump ’em people, to the bottom of the sea,” just before Crewe sends the battered vehicle to its own watery grave, Van Zant’s vocals sputtering as the radio shorts out.

R.I.P. Burt and Ed.

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