Lynyrd Skynyrd were, simply put, legendary. Few rock acts had the power to rile up a crowd like the “Magnificent Seven” of Southern rock, and their off-stage shenanigans certainly reflected their rock star personae. The group’s former tour manager, Ron Eckerman, tells us about almost everything—from meeting to the band to the infamous 1977 plane crash—in his autobiography, Turn It Up!.
Turn It Up! begins with Eckerman meeting the boys of Skynyrd—he was initially unimpressed with the up-and-comers, but as you’ll learn, Eckerman warmed up to Skynyrd and felt more at home on tour than at his house.
Eckerman gives us rare insight into his “brotherhood” with Ronnie. It’s obvious early on that the two became great friends—late-night discussions between Eckerman and Van Zant are a staple of most chapters. They discussed God, family and Ronnie’s difficulties with the band. It’s heartwarming to read about Van Zant’s then newborn daughter—and heartbreaking to read him saying he’d be dead before 30, as if he knew all along.
Along with Eckerman’s friendship with Ronnie, Turn It Up! focuses largely on the plane crash that killed Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines. The quick jumps between the wild parties before and after concerts and the horror and hopelessness of the plane’s descent are at times jarring, serving as a grim reminder of what’s to come.
The chapter introductions, which count down to the crash and aftermath, make the book occasionally difficult to read. Knowing how Turn It Up! will end is strange and haunting: Just when you’re riding high on a previous chapter’s enthusiasm, that sucker punch comes, bringing you right back down. It can make even some of the happiest moments faintly depressing, something Eckerman no doubt felt for years.
Eckerman’s writing, while not exceptional, comes across as very sincere. It’s obvious to readers how much he enjoyed working with Skynyrd, and how devastated he was when he lost friends and colleagues. Learning about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s peak touring years is fascinating, as is hearing Eckerman’s take on the 1977 crash. Turn It Up! probably won’t appeal to anyone besides Skynyrd fans or rock historians, but anyone in those two groups will no doubt have a deep appreciation for it.