Ron Eckerman, tour manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1974-1977, recently wrote a book about his experience. "Turn It Up" tells the story of "Love, Life, and Death, Southern Style." He includes it all: the triumphs, the failures, the glory, the heartaches, and the magic of those heady days in the mid-70s. Metro Jacksonville's Gloria DeVall recently had the opportunity to ask Ron some questions about his book and his days with the band.
Ron Eckerman, tour manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1974-1977, recently wrote a book about his experience. "Turn It Up" tells the story of "Love, Life, and Death, Southern Style." He includes it all: the triumphs, the failures, the glory, the heartaches, and the magic of those heady days in the mid-70s.
GD: Ron, you were brought on board to manage Lynyrd Skynyrd because the band had “broken” the previous manager. Why were they more challenging than the other bands you had managed, Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac?
RE: They caused a lot of trouble on the road, mostly pulling pranks on each other, most of the pranks got out of hand.
GD: It seems to me you had the best and the worst of both worlds. While everyone could envy the parties, the concerts, the celebrities, the world you lived with the band in the mid 70s – no one could want the responsibility for getting them to the concerts on time and in good condition. How were you able to marshal the group (and remain unbroken?)
RE: I became best friends with Ronnie Van Zant, the leader and singer of the band, almost immediately. The band, which he ruled, knew that if they got into trouble with me they'd get in trouble with him. I also had an assistant and security man to assist - they actually did most of the corralling.
GD: If you could relive any day from the early Skynyrd days, which one would it be, and why?
RE:That would be the Knebworth Festival, where the band appeared right before the Rolling Stones. There were over 300,000 in attendance, and Skynyrd rocked the house, kind of blew the Stones off the stage.
GD: You have written an important book which details the daily events, thoughts, triumphs and concerns of the band. Had you kept a daily log that you referenced? How did you remember with such great detail?
RE: I kept all of my tour itineraries, which had daily notes.
GD: Why after all of this time did you decide to write this book and share your experience?
RE: A lot of people had been urging me to write it, it was a matter of blocking the time. Plus, as I saw different survivors of the crash pass away I realized I didn't know when my time would be up.
GD: Have you received any sort of response from the band(s) or the southern rock family?
RE: Very little, they all know about it, some of them have copies. Johnny Van Zant is the only one that has said a word. His word? Thanks a lot for the book.
GD: Reflections from the plane crash proceed each chapter. Why did you decide to arrange the book in this manner?
RE: It seemed the only way to both engross people in the story from the start, and to treat the actual crash with a bit of dignity.
GD: Are you working on another book If so, can you tell us something about it?
RE: I'm working on The Taste, a story of a young man that unwittingly got involved in one of the biggest heroin busts in the '70s. The kid had no idea what he was involved in - DEA agents posing as mob, mexican mafia - quite a suspense novel - based on a true story
GD: Where is the best place to purchase “Turn it up?”
RE: Amazon or any other online retailer in the world - also at the website www.turnitupbook.com
Interview by Gloria DeVall. All images courtesy of Neal Preston.