Lone Star Skynyrd is a tribute band focusing on the discography of Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1973-1977. (Courtesy | Lone Star Skynyrd)

In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Steven Naylor, lead singer of Lone Star Skynyrd, a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band, talks about the Metroplex’s music scene and winning the Josie Music Award for best tribute band with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

https://fortworthreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/AFMW-Steven-Naylor_mixdown.mp3

Naylor: My name is Steven Naylor with the band Lone Star Skynyrd, and I am the lead singer. 

Fornoff: As people might guess from the name of your band, you all are a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Can you talk about how the band formed and why you wanted to perform that catalog of music? 

Naylor: The band formed in 2017. My buddy Dave Anderson, the (former) bass player, left maybe six months ago. (He) had knee surgery and needed to retire. He was running an ad looking for guitar players and I was running an ad looking for a new band.

I saw his ad. It wanted three guitar players, and I knew it had to be either a Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet set. Well, I knew I do Ronnie Van Zant vocals fairly good, so I decided to call him. We decided to settle for nothing but perfection and exactness in the music. We started looking for guitar players, a drummer, piano player, and we found the cream of the crop. We took it slowly but surely, interviewing people, making sure they could replicate the music note for note. 

Meet the band

Steven Naylor – Lead Vocals
Craig Zerba – Guitar
Mike Ceccarelli – Guitar
Larry Ashby – Piano
Ross Young – Drums
Larry Bomgardner – Bass
Dave Anderson – emeritus
Joshua Vaughn – emeritus 

Along the way, (we) made a really good friend. She came up and introduced herself, and she’s the mother in law of Johnny Van Zant, the singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. She offered to help us any way she could. She got us pictures of Johnny in our T-shirt, which is priceless if you’re doing a tribute … she passed away last year, a very good friend. 

Fornoff: Why did you want to take over playing their repertoire rather than creating new music? What drove that decision? 

Naylor: The tribute scene in Dallas is hot. If you’re an independent artist, you’re not signed to a label or making this your job, a tribute band is, in my opinion, the best you can do on an independent level.

The (tribute) bands do so much better. And I hate to say it because there’s a lot of original bands, they don’t like the tribute scene because you’re doing somebody else’s stuff and not really being creative is the argument, you know? But I’m 53 years old. I’m way past thinking I’m going to make it, and I’m just having fun making decent part-time job money at this. The tribute band thing is the best route to go for musicians that aren’t signed. The pay is better. The shows are better, and like it or not, it’s just the truth. 

Fornoff: Talk to me about your fandom of Lynyrd Skynyrd before joining this band.

Naylor: I’ve been a lifelong Skynyrd fan since I was probably, I don’t know, about 8 years old. I just always loved that stuff. I always liked Ronnie Van Zant. He played it cool, always, and I’m a lifelong fan. Guys in the band, some of them were hardcore Skynyrd fans. Some of them were never fans of the band before they joined, but everybody gained respect for the music after joining.

It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds. “Sweet Home Alabama” sounds simple until you realize that the main part is three guitars and not just one making everything come together. Every musician in the band nailed it exactly like the record. And everybody has said this is a lot more complicated than I thought it would be because you have to stay on top of this music.

If we go two weeks without playing, which is pretty rare now, it shows. I feel kind of guilty because everybody got together and had to learn their parts, and I’ve known mine since about 1979. I’ve known all the words, so I was prepared a long time ago. I’ve seen Skynyrd a bunch of times. I’m not quite old enough to see the Ronnie Van Zant version, but I did see Skynyrd the first chance I got, which was the tribute tour for the 10 year anniversary of the crash in ’87. I saw that in Dallas, and I’ve seen them numerous times since then. Now that Gary Rossington’s out, there’s not one original member in Lynyrd Skynyrd, so they’re basically a tribute band themselves. 

Fornoff: Can you talk about what you do to try to channel Johnny Van Zant as you’re performing and as you’re playing? 

Naylor: I tried to channel his brother, Ronnie Van Zant. Ronnie Van Zant was the lead singer and the heart and soul of the band, and he died with the plane crash in ’77. The period of Skynyrd we do is nothing but 1973 to 1977, and so, yes, I do try to channel that. I only wear the stuff he wore on stage, his shirts. I got me a real deal hat like he wore. The only thing I don’t do is play barefoot like he did because I got ugly toenails and feet (laughs).

If you go

Time: 8 p.m.
Date: Jan. 13
Location: Arlington Music Hall
224 N. Center St.
Arlington, TX 76011-7535
Tickets: $22-54

Fornoff: Can you talk about what you do to try to channel Johnny Van Zant as you’re performing and as you’re playing? 

Naylor: I tried to channel his brother, Ronnie Van Zant. Ronnie Van Zant was the lead singer and the heart and soul of the band, and he died with the plane crash in ’77. So the period of Skynyrd we do is nothing but 1973 to 1977. And so yes, I do try to channel that. I only wear the stuff he wore on stage, his shirts. I got me a real deal high roller hat like he wore. The only thing I don’t do is play barefoot like he did because I got ugly toenails.

Fornoff: Is the decision to kind of stick to the years ’73 to ’77 based on the time when Ronnie was in the band, before he passed away?

Naylor: Yes. That is when all their hits came. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a hit after he died. But yeah, that’s the catalog we stick to. All of the classic hits are ‘73 to ‘77. And to make such an impact on music, they were only a band for four years, you know, which is kind of weird to think about.

Fornoff: You’ve mentioned the scene in Dallas, but I’m wondering if you might be able to talk about the scene in Fort Worth and North Texas as a whole?

Naylor: The Metroplex as a whole, Fort Worth, Dallas, all of it has an awesome music scene. Fort Worth has a killer blues scene. Dallas has a killer tribute scene, probably the best in the United States, if not one of the two.

Honestly, lately, our business model is out of town. It’s super competitive here, and the money’s better out of town. It’s an adventure. We play the Metroplex area about once every two months. But DFW, I can’t say enough about the music. Like I said, it was awesome.

Fornoff: Will you talk about the Josie Music Awards and winning for Best Tribute Band? 

Naylor: I became aware of the Josie Music Awards, I don’t know, about four years back. And we were still honing the band and getting everything perfected, so I didn’t want to jump the gun and enter too soon. We waited till the time was right, and we entered and got nominated in April or May of this year. The award ceremonies were at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, which was just completely awesome.

So, uh, we went out there and I’ll be damned if we didn’t win it. I live in Fort Worth, so I brought that trophy back. It’s actually a worldwide competition and to be able to win tribute band of the year, was just awesome. A Dallas band has won that thing the past three years. We plan on keeping it in Texas. 

Fornoff: Did you get to go up on the stage at the Opry to accept the award?

Naylor: We did. We didn’t get to play, but we did go on stage and stand up and give a speech and look out. Outside of my kids being born, it was one of the highlights of my life. 

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, by following our guidelines.

Marcheta FornoffArts & Culture Editor

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...