Southern rockers keep the legacy alive

Lynyrd Skynyrd will bring at least two things to Fort Dodge Friday: a legacy of more than four decades of southern rock music and a chance for Shellabration Inc. to break its events attendance record.

Online ticket sales for the band that made southern rock cool in the 1970s have already surpassed Shellabration’s previous record, set in 2011 when REO Speedwagon were headliners, said Shellabration President Jim Reed.

“To date, we are on a record pace right now,” Reed said, with nearly 800 tickets presold online. The previous record was 636 online tickets, sold for REO, which brought 5,500 people to the Fort Dodge concert.

In addition, Reed said, early sales have come from a record 12 states outside Iowa.

Shellabration’s goal is attendance of 6,000 – which Reed said is achievable, providing local ticket sales keep pace with online sales.

“People from outside the area buy earlier,” he said, since locals know they can purchase tickets at retail locations the day of the concert and at the gate.

Total cost for this year’s show is about $225,000, and hitting their sales goal will mean “we can take the next step up the ladder,” Reed said, allowing the local nonprofit organization to book bands at a higher financial level.

This year’s headliner tours continually, not for the money, according to Johnny Van Zant, but to continue the legacy that started in Jacksonville, Fla.

“People may say, ‘They need the money,'” Van Zant has been quoted as saying. “Well, I don’t think any of us need the money. It’s just that we love the music. It’s bigger than the money … it’s about the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what it stands for, what the fans are all about.”

In 1977, three members of the band died in a plane crash. In 1987, the band regrouped with Johnny Van Zant taking over on lead vocals, replacing brother Ronnie Van Zant, who was among those killed. Van Zant is currently joined on stage by core band members Gary Rossington and Rickey Medlock. The band’s most recent studio album is “Last of a Dying Breed.”

Before the headliner hits the stage, performers include a local band with a strong area following and an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who was named one of Billboard’s Top 10 Country Artists to Watch.

Fort-Dodge-based Planet Rock covers classic rock from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s and features former Cave Band members Jeremy Pearson, on bass guitar, and drummer Nick Rosendahl. Both also share vocal duties. Mike Wuilff, who played guitar and sang with Front Page News, rounds out the band, along with lead vocalist Terrilee Bowden and Tony Halsrud on keyboard and vocals.

Drake White was recently signed to Dot Records, a label that was revived earlier this year under the Big Machine Label Group umbrella.

A native of Alabama, when White performed at the CMA Music Festival, Rolling Stone Country labeled him “an electric performer with a gospel howl.” His sound has been described as “rock-infused, organic country,” and he as someone “whose performances not only depict who he is, but how he lives his life.”

At Milwaukee’s Summerfest last year, where he performed with his band, The Big Fire, White introduced his song, “The Simple Life,” saying that where he’s from, they enjoy the simple life, and “I know how to grow a damned good tomato, I’ll tell you that.”

White has toured with, among others, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith and Kid Rock.

Although Shellabration began as a means to fund improvements to the Oleson Park Bandshell, this year’s concert is being held at Harlan and Hazel Rogers Sports Complex, which has been an alternate site in the past when the bandshell was being renovated.

There are two primary reasons for relocating the concert this year, Reed said. One, he said, was for public safety. Last year’s Shellabration concert drew about 5,600 people to the bandshell, which was almost as many people as could be safely accommodated at the in-town site.

Secondly, Reed said, is that there is a finite amount of space behind the Oleson Park Bandshell.

Shellabration organizers were concerned that between the amount of “infrastructure” that Lynyrd Skynyrd brings on the road and the three production semis that Shellabration employs, there simply wouldn’t be enough physical space to produce the show.