The Day Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blue Oyster Cult’s Crews Duked It Out at a Concert
Though Lynyrd Skynyrd was in the middle of a meteoric rise in 1974, they nevertheless found themselves second billed behind Blue Oyster Cult for a Sept. 30 show in Louisville. Worse, they were forced to use the headliner's sound system, a situation that reportedly created enough friction to spark a fight between crew members. One of Lynyrd Skynyrd's roadies apparently claimed that the sound was deliberately tampered with during their set. Another crew member accused frontman Ronnie Van Zant of drunkenly disconnecting his own power.
And all of this was said to have happened during Lynyrd Skynyrd's nightly rendition of "Free Bird" at the Commonwealth Convention Center.
It was all a just big misunderstanding, according to Sam Judd, then a member of the crew for opening act Hydra. "During the latter part of the show – it may have indeed been 'Free Bird' – [Van Zant] began slinging the mic around on its cord and, being as drunk as he was, eventually hit it against something and it then went intermittent," Judd said.
Jay "Dunt" Sloatman, who Judd says handled Blue Oyster Cult's Tycobrahe sound system, went to the stage from the house mixing board in an effort to fix the problem and was "met at the top of the stairs by a Skynyrd roadie who tried to stop him from coming onstage. Dunt laid him out with one punch, then got jumped on by all the Skynyrd roadies – while he was trying to get another mic going for Ronnie."
Dunt held his own against the crowd, according to Judd, then "turned off most of the power amps for the PA and went back to the front-of-house board" while an infuriated Lynyrd Skynyrd finished their set. They then exited the stage with the intent "to whip everybody's ass in the building." The cops were called but the situation was quickly defused when Judd says Skynyrd's "management whisked them into a limo."
Sloatman famously appeared on the cover of Frank Zappa's 1973 album Over-Nite Sensation; they were brothers-in-law. Sam Judd later worked as a crew member for Blue Oyster Cult in 1975 and again between 1978-91.