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A Saturday Night Special is a cheap handgun. When asked on a radio interview, Gary Rossington said that this song was inspired by a poker game that resulted in the shooting of one of the players. (thanks, Brendan - Milwaukee, WI)
An acoustic version sung by Johnny Van Zant is featured on Lynyrd Skynyrd's 1994 album Endangered Species. (thanks, Aaron - Twin Cities, MN)
"Saturday Night Special" isn't just a song to Lynryrd Skynyrd; they really did believe in their gun-play! So much so that bass player Leon Wilkeson actually took to wearing a holster and a real gun onstage - luckily the gun was only loaded with blanks. During their earlier tours when they were still an opening act, they were opening for Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island. Black Sabbath fans apparently found this Southern band a little too mellow for their taste, and rushed the stage with taunts. When one fan got too close, Wilkeson drew his pistol and fired a blank over the heads of the crowd. Everybody immediately backed off and the show completed without further incident.
This song has also made appearances in the film The Longest Yard, the TV show Supernatural, and the video game Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned.
For this song, drummer Bob Burns had to take a break from touring and Artimus Pyle was brought in to replace him. Pyle was given just a couple of days to rehearse the song in a rented Atlanta club before they hit the road again. Producer Al Kooper was rehearsing them, and became confused when the band began playing on the second beat of the second bar. When asked why, guitarist Ed King explained that it all worked out perfectly when they get to the guitar solo. So Kooper grew even more concerned, thinking that one of the subsequent bars had to be a beat short. The band eventually convinced Kooper that there was no need to conserve beats! This was a case of by-the-book Kooper vs. raw-talent Lynyrd Skynyrd - from which Kooper backed down.
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