Flashback To The Time Mountain’s Leslie West Nearly Joined Lynyrd Skynyrd

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An Act That Would Have Changed Southern Rock Forever?

For a brief moment in time, it looked like “Mississippi Queen” was about to change her address to “Sweet Home Alabama” when in 1976, Lynyrd Skynyrd auditioned Mountain’s leading man Leslie West to fill in after Ed King’s departure just a few months prior.

A towering man with a playing style that leaned more toward the Southern rock side of things, West was respected amongst his peers for being a fiercely gifted guitar player as evidenced on Mountain classics like “Mississippi Queen” and “Nantucket Sleighride”. So, it’s only natural that Lynyrd Skynyrd would have gravitated towards a musician of his caliber to round out their patented three guitar attack.

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Things fell through, however, when West announced that he wanted Lynyrd Skynyrd to change their billing from just Lynyrd Skynyrd, to “Lynyrd Skynyrd featuring Leslie West”.

It all worked out for the best, though; Lynyrd Skynyrd Honkette Cassie Gaines recommended her younger brother, Steve Gaines, who after impressing the hell out of his future bandmates, was brought into the fold in early 1976 where he remained until his death the following year. Though brief, his time with Lynyrd Skynyrd was enough to solidify his spot in rock history as one of the genre’s premiere musicians, a triple threat that sang and wrote as well as he played guitar.

UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: Photo of Cassie GAINES and Billy POWELL and Allen COLLINS and Ronnie VAN ZANT and Leon WILKESON and Artimus PYLE and Leslie HAWKINS and Gary ROSSINGTON and Steve GAINES and Jo BILLINGSLEY and LYNYRD SKYNYRD; Back Row L-R: Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle, Allen Collins, Leslie Hawkins, Gary Rossington (behind), Ronnie Van Zant (hat), Steve Gaines (behind), Jo Billingsley. Front L-R: Billy Powell, Cassie Gaines – posed, group shot (Photo by Gems/Redferns)

West went on to juggle a glowing solo career that saw him amass quite a few album credits as both a songwriter and guitarist during guest spots with the likes of Ian Gillan, Bo Diddley, Joe Bonamassa and Ozzy Osbourne before life took him back to Mountain for a few stints until the band’s final show in 2010.

Though complications from diabetes cost West his leg in 2011, there’s no stopping this dude – if anything, he’s rocking even harder these days!