Lynyrd Skynyrd Trybute's interview
by Dominique Turgot - July 2002

When and how did Lynyrd Skynyrd Trybute start ?

We must go back to when I was 14 (1980), I was just been playing acousting guitar for two years ; a cousin of me gave me "One more from the road" as a Christmas present and played me in his room; from the very first riff of "Workin' for MCA" I knew I had discovered the band of my life. Four months later came the electric guitar, 1 year later the first band "Saturday Night Special", already dedicated to Lynyrd Skynyrd, with my lifetime-friend Roberto Tenore on the other guitar; Antonio Rotta, the drummer was the third of today's line-up to reach the band - then called "Tomahawk" - back in 1982 (I remember that we also played the Italian hymn together when Italy won the football world championship). More or less three years later the band split off and everybody went his way, Antonio was the only one to become a professional musician (he had started playing drums when he was 8).
In 1993 I made a trip to the States, alone : NY (where I bought my first Gibson guitar), Louisiana (I turned on the tv in the motel and there comes a live show of Lynyrd Skynyrd from Nashville) , Alabama (I'm crossing the border and the radio played "Sweet Home Alabama"), Jacksonville, FLA. When I visited the cemetery and the garden where Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines rest in peace I decided I had to "re-start" the band again. Just a matter of two telephone calls and Antonio and Roberto were "ready to go" (like RVZ says referring to his "boys" in "Whiskey Rock-A-Roller")

Tell us about the band members ?
The singer - Ruben Minuto - is our strenght, a very powerful and really southern vocalist; he can sing 2 and half hours and his voice never goes away; Ruben is also a very good bass player and a blue-grass style guitarist and mandolin player;
The piano player - Mirco Maffina - believe me, sometimes makes you feel like you're listening to Chuck Leavell (one of his beloved influences), he's graduated at "conservatorio" and he is fond of classical music as of Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters and Frank Zappa.
Gianni, the bass player is with us since the very first of the new start - 1995 - and he is a very skilled one, but you must understand of music to notice him, because he's always hidden somewhere beside the drum kit, even maybe he is the "only good looking one" of us, not intended necessary for "Southern Boys", isn't it?
Giuseppe Fugazza is the new entry, from Southern Confort, another Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band from Pavia, he's a very nice and kind person and he plays so good . let me call him our Steve Gaines
I want to remember two guys that played with us and sometimes still do as "special guests": Alan Minora, the first singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd Trybute, a very beautiful voice, but more Tim Buckley than RVZ, and Michael Kostka - "Koss", who, one night, played with . Chuck Berry
Are all members professional or do you have regular jobs ?
Antonio, Mirco, Gianni and Ruben are also professional (with cover band), the three guitarists are just "passionates"

You're mainly a cover band but do you have some original songs ?
That's a really hard point; I have almost 200 half-songs, but I am never able to put a complete and finished song together, maybe now, with a little help from Giuseppe . Influences? Greg Allman, Taj Mahal (the ethnical side of him), my inner self.

As a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, which line-up do you prefer ? and why ?
So difficult, because I love so much both Steve Gaines (I love even the person, for what I can guess of him) and Ed King (those fills, and the "touch" with his fender guitar); in fact my favourite records of Skynyrd are "One more from the road" and "Second Helping" ; then I like Artimus Pyle drumming a lot. So, at the end, the line-up of "Nuthin' Fancy", with Artimus and Ed King, even though it's the worse record, the only one maybe below 9,5.

What do you think of their latest releases ?
There are some good songs (expecially on "Twenty") and the guitar parts are always very interesting (expecially with Hughie Thomasson or Ed King in "Last Rebel"), but I think that special magic of the '70s sound is somehow lost for some modernity I don't appreciate too much; I understand they try not to be just a Southern Band. My favourite '90s songs are "Born To Run" and "Mean Streets"
But Lynyrd Skynyrd for me was Ronnie Van Zant. I think Ronnie Van Zant now would be like Willie Nelson, or Neil Young or Lou Reed, a real monster, a man capable of just masterpieces, and the lyrics, and that country-influenced-but-scaring-at-the-same-time voice. Have you heard "All I Can Do Is Write About It" ? the version of the box set, and the rediscovered songs of "Collectybles" ? I love them all and I love his spirit. And Allen Collins, too. Together they were the blood and soul of Lynyrd Skynyrd. "My" guitar is the "Firebird"; it was my dream since my first-ever look at "One more from the road" cover, now I have a '63 original one and "she" sounds real good.

What is your major memory as a band ?
Really, every "Freebird" we perform, if there is the right audience : the guys are happy and really grateful to us.
Then the night we opened for Byther Smith, one of Muddy Waters guitar palyers; he is 65 but joyful as a child and a smart person, very kind to us.

As a southern rock band, what is your biggest dream ?
Drive by Truckers (I don't have their record anyway) stole the idea with "Southern Rock Opera", one side of songs describing the life of a young Lynyrd Skynrd fan, one side of a successful Skynyrd-like Band ; anyway if I make my music it can be quite different from Southern Rock. I also like Tim Buckley and Nick Drake, Pearl Jam and Lou Reed, Norah Jones and Ryan Adams.
I have just a simple dream (for a simple man) : playing Lynyrd Skynyrd till I am 65 (or more), just like Byther Smith.

How is the Milano rock scene ? Is it hard to find gigs ?
I think there are some very good rock-blues performers (age 30 to 40) ; really there is a bunch of musicians that are less in number than the bands they play in, like our Ruben and Antonio. It's not so hard to find a gig, but the prices in town are not decent ones, compared to the quality of the music, that is quite good and well performed. So if you want to live by this you must play the top 40 in discos, better if outside Milano; too bad.

Tell us about your projects.
Not more than playing Lynyrd Skynyrd music to the people that love it and to newcomers, that hear you and the next day go and buy the Skynyrd cds; that's how I can get satisfaction; it's enough for me. then to put on cd at least 20 of the 200 half-songs, with the help of Ruben and Giuseppe, for instance (do you hear me?).

What are your relations with the other southern rock bands in Italy?
I play with Southern Confort, the band of Giuseppe, and I've been playing with Southern Steel, while I was living in Turin and I'm still in contact with Leon (the one with Leon Wilkeson thunderbird bass) now with Voodoo Lake.Then there are other bands and southern guitarists, which I knew through my web site ( by the way), most of them are real nice and kind persons and enthusiastic to the music and the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Allman Brothers Band.

When and how did you start playing guitar ? Who were your main influences back then ?
The first bending I learned on the guitar was Gary Rossington intro of Searchin'. My favourite 3 guitar players? Duane Allman, Duane Allman, Duane Allman

How did you start playing slide guitar ?
Same as previous question : when I decided that I had to learn the whole Fillmore East (age 19). Really back then "Statesboro blues" was enough; it took me 10 years maybe to succeed learning the whole double album, note by note ; but now, unlucky me, I've forgotten the most of it.

As a guitar player, who would you like to play with ?
Saying Lynyrd Skynyrd would be too much; my actual guitar hero is undoubtedly Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule, who looks a little bit more comfortable and friendly; but listen, I don't know if I am a guitar player or just a Allen Collins-Gary Rossington-Ed King-Steve Gaines-Hughie Thomasson-Duane Allman-and-Warren Haynes guitar passionate. By the way I asked HT (Hughie Thomasson), when they came to Italy, if he gave guitar lessons and he answered me : "tonight we'll give guitar lessons, at the show". And that night he was really scaring.
You know, maybe I'd like to play with Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues or with .Van Morrison, not to talk about Norah Jones, because I have a wonderful wife (and a little child too).

I've read you're also a member of the "One way out" band, an Allman Brothers Tribute band. Tell us more about this band.
It was me, Ruben, Antonio and Mirco. We met Ruben while making a couple of auditions for the singer who had to replace Alan; the other members of the Skynyrd tribute band chose another singer than Ruben, which I disagreeded completely, so I put the Allman tribute band together just to show that they were wrong and Ruben was the best of all. It lasted just a few months 'till Ruben was "incorporated" in Lynyrd Skynyrd Trybute and then we had to concentrate just on one project. But like many short things it was beautiful, those beautiful songs like "Don't want you no more", "It's not my cross to bear", "Ain't wastin' time no more" (we always started with those three), "One Way Out", hey you make me feel like startin' again!

Imagine you have the opportunity of starting the band of your dreams. Who would be part of that super band ?
Ok, I'm just the producer and Warren (Haynes) makes the arrangements with me:
Drums : Jim Keltner
Bass : Leon Wilkeson
Keyboards : Mirco Maffina (wow!)
Piano : Norah Jones
First guitar : Duane Allman
Second guitar : Steve Gaines
Acoustic guitar : Willie Nelson
Horns : Blood, Sweat and Tears
Vocals : Van Morrison and Ronnie Van Zant (who writes all the new songs, apart from the covers chosen by Van Morrison)
Then when "Fast train" (the last Van Morrison song) and "Midnight rider" are ended, Duane gives his Fender guitar (the Muscle Shoals one) and the bottleneck to me and we play "The Weight".

Last question. If you had to live the rest of your life on a desert island, which albums would you bring with you?
Rest of my life, with no ship ever passing by? So let me take more than double of the classic 5 with me , ok?
1. One More From The Road - LYNYRD SKYNYRD (even if I know that album better than everything else)
2. Fillmore East - ALLMAN BROTHERS
3. An Anthology Vol.1 - DUANE ALLMAN
4. Kind Of Blue - MILES DAVIS
5. Second Helpin' - LYNYRD SKYNYRD
6. Camp del Barça - LLUIS LLACH (a live album of the great storyteller from Catalunya, Spain)
7. New York - LOU REED
8. The Chess Box Anthology - HOWLIN' WOLF
9. One More Try - GREG ALLMAN (a quite rare anthology)
10. Gris Gris - DR. JOHN


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