“If I leave here tomorrow Would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now” – Lynyrd Skynyrd, Free Bird
Musicians Steve and Cassie Gaines' lives were brief, but they and their music are unforgettable, a testament to their extraordinary musical talent. The siblings grew up here in their hometown of Miami before becoming members of the famous legendary southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
In one of Rock's greatest tragedies, both Steve and Cassie's lives were ended nearly 40 years ago on Oct. 20, 1977, in a Gillsburg, Mississippi plane crash while traveling to their next performance. Steve was only 28, and Cassie just 29 when they died. They were laid to rest in Orange Park, Florida.
Though they gained national and international fame and acclaim with Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Gaineses are remembered in their hometown for so much more than their music. Now they will be memorialized and honored by Miami in a series of events taking place on Sept. 8 during Miami’s FestiFall.
The day of events is being organized by a committee of locals including Dobson Museum Director Jordan Boyd, Debbie East, Bobby Poole and Sammy Ketcher and other fans and friends.
“Jordan and I began this journey over five years ago with the late Larry Roberts,” East said. “The tribute for the Gaineses was born when I talked to Bob Gaines at my husband’s class reunion...It has been a humbling experience realizing the talent our small hometown has produced, but one we are all thankful and grateful for.”
Honoring the Gaineses
A small exhibit of Gaines memorabilia and photos will be available to view from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Dobson Museum located at 110 A Street SW in Miami. The display will become part of a larger exhibit including several local musicians; the Gaineses, Louis W. Ballard, David Osborne, Keith Anderson, Keifer Thompson, and Joe Don Rooney in an Ottawa County Musicians Tribute at the Dobson next year.
“We have the gold framed commemorative 'Street Survivors' record, we've got photos, some of Steve's cassettes, handwritten postcards and letters, an old amp, a Crawdad case, artwork and other things that haven't arrived yet but are being brought or shipped,” Boyd said.
The Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘Street Survivors’ album gold record presentation award and many of the other items were discovered tucked away in a cousin's, Ellen Jurgensmeyer's, closet after the Gaineses were honored by a City of Miami proclamation. Jurgensmeyer’s son-in-law serves on the Miami City Council and told Boyd and East of the items his mother-in-law had stored.
“We'd been looking for the gold record forever,” East said. “It’s so amazing this was found and Ellen generously allowed us to display these items.”
“Some of our wildest dreams came true with finding the gold record,” Boyd said.
Boyd and East have also been working to restore old cassette tapes of early recordings of music Steve Gaines made for his grandfather to be shared during the exhibit, and are hoping to discover even more hidden treasures.
A special ribbon cutting ceremony and street sign unveiling co-naming Circle Drive in Miami as “Gaines Drive” are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The Gaineses grew up at 460 Circle Drive and played in nearby Rotary Park as children. Cassie was a lifeguard at the pool there.
“The family will be involved in all of that and they're getting new street signs,” Boyd said.
The day is topped off with Steve and Cassie Gaines' posthumous induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame at 4:30 p.m. at the Coleman Theatre. The evening will include a video by NSU Professor and Hall of Fame Associate Hugh Foley and taped interviews of Steve and Cassie during their time with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The doors will open at 4 p.m.
Executive Director of the Oklahoma Music Hall of fame Jermaine Mondaine will be awarding the honor and a trophy to members of the Gaines family.
“Steve Gaines' daughter Corrina is coming from Florida with her two kids, and Steve and Cassie's brother Bob and his family will be here,” East said. “We do have lots of other family members coming from around this area as well, and maybe some surprise guests.”
Many of Steve and Cassie’s friends are making plans to attend as well.
“Steve and Cassie have been nominated for some time,” Mondaine said. “We’ve been waiting to put together a presentation and this was an opportune time to present the induction honor. A picture and bio will be unveiled at the ceremony and added to the Hall of Fame. We honor, preserve and promote Oklahoma music. Oklahoma music is so prolific and impacts so many different genres. The impact of Oklahoma music and musicians is beyond compare to any other state, and we just don’t get to scream that loud enough.”
The abundance of Oklahoma musical talent is historically rich and currently exciting with more new and upcoming artists, according to Mondaine.
“In a lot of these cases, we wait too late and have lost a lot of these great musicians that we want to honor. The fun part is when you start doing the research and uncover new stories,” he said.
A friend to Mondaine coincidentally sent a 1977 performance video of Lynyrd Skynyrd while he was preparing for the induction ceremony.
“For me as many times as I heard ‘Free Bird’ I was thinking it was one guitar player using an echo effect, and come to find out that when it went to double time and it sounds like it’s echoing – that’s Steve jumping in, and this had to be the best version of ‘Free Bird’ ever. Steve just absolutely kills a guitar solo in the video,” he said.
Mondaine said the lineage of yesterday’s music can be heard in today’s music, and the Gaines’ musical artistry and contributions still influence modern musicians and will for generations to come.
Steve and Cassie Gaines were raised with their brother Bob in Miami by their parents Bud and LaRue Gaines. Cassie graduated from Miami High School in 1966 and Steve in 1967.
Steve honed his amazing guitar playing talent here in Miami in bands including the Pink Peach Mob, Man Alive, Rio Smokehouse, Detroit and Crawdad.
Cassie was invited by Lynyrd Skynyrd's backup singer JoJo Billingsley and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant to join the band as a backup singer in December of 1975 as part of the Honkettes. Steve joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1976 replacing guitarist Ed King. King died recently on Aug. 24 at the age of 68.
The Gaineses performed with Lynyrd Skynyrd and took the nation and the world by storm in the late '70s with their distinctive, hard-hitting, three-guitar sound and powerful vocals. Steve added both vocals and legendary guitar, and Cassie sang back up, and recorded albums as part of the group including; 'One More From The Road,' and 'Street Survivors.' The siblings were part of iconic songs such as 'Gimme Three Steps,' 'Free Bird,' and 'Sweet Home Alabama.'
Boyd and East got involved with the effort to honor the Gaineses due to their love of history and passion to see the Gaineses venerated and honored here in Miami.
“This project was just a labor of love,” Boyd said. “I’m excited to see those ‘Gaines Drive’ signs go up.”
Boyd and East are looking for more items to display for the Gaineses and the other local musicians for the Ottawa County Musicians Exhibit, which can be loaned, copied or donated to the Dobson Museum. To contact Boyd or East call the Dobson Museum at 918-542-5388.
Editor’s note: Watch the Miami News-Record next week for interviews with one of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash survivors and others who knew the Gaines.