Artimus Pyle is on the road. It’s 2003, and the former Skynyrd drummer is driving through the mountains of North Carolina headed to Atlanta. He ‘s tired, having driven from New York after playing two nights in the city.
In the course of our cellphone interview, Artimus reveals that his musical tastes are eclectic, ranging from the big band sounds of the 40s all the way to Black Sabbath. In between, he was touched by the music of Benny Goodman, Elvis and Bill Hailey.
“To tell you the truth, I love every type of music there is”, he says. “When you talk about British music, my favourite was Cream. I met Ginger Baker in London through the promoter Harvey Goldsmith. I also loved Led Zeppelin.
“I love classical music. I love Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. Benny Goodman, a lot of the big bands. The music from WW2 that was played to British and American troops. Motown, a lot of the great sounds that were coming out of Detroit, the great drum sounds, the big fat drum sounds.
“And then of course fifties rock and roll: Elvis, Bill Hailey and the Comets. Then I get into the rock era, Black Sabbath especially. I’m a big Metallica fan; I love the thundering drums, their percussive guitar riffs. One of my favourite bands just now is Weather Report.”
In October 1975, Artimus made his first visit to Europe with Skynyrd and as he recalls, coming to the UK was a hugely enjoyable experience:
”Without any hesitation, when I came to the UK and we headquartered in London, and went to Scotland and the different places, it was the most exciting time. I met Paul McCartney at Knebworth in August, 1976 and hung out with him and his wife Linda that day. I loved travelling to different countries, picking up on different cultures.
“I loved Scotland when we played over there, in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I did feel a definite draw toward Scotland and especially Glasgow. We played the Apollo Theatre on a number of occasions, I just loved Scotland. The beautiful hills, the stone wall fences. It almost makes me cry. Nothing would make me happier than to bring Lynyrd Skynyrd music to the smaller venues in Scotland.
Above: Gregg Allman and Artimus meet on The Rock Legends Cruise
In 1976, after Skynyrd’s show at the Hammersmith Odeon, Ronnie Van Zant presented Peter Haycock, lead singer with Climax Blues Band, with a gold guitar. A sign of friendship between the bands. Artimus remembers the occasion: “It was that very small, baby guitar. It was three quarter miniature Les Paul. It was gold and they put a picture of it on the front of their LP. The Climax Blues Band, man. I loved those guys. We were great friends.”
Artimus had fond memories of the big stadium shows Skynyrd played in 1977 such as The Day on the Green promoted by Bill Graham. The line-up included Skynyrd, Peter Frampton, Santana and The Outlaws.
“We also played on the east coast with Peter Frampton and the J Geils Band for 100,000 in Philadelphia. Back in the day, before Peter got all the awards, he opened for us in places we were popular and we would open up for him in places he was more popular. Peter was great.
“Carlos Santana used to jam with us many times. He came up for ‘Call Me The Breeze’, he would play congas on ‘Gimme Three Steps’. During the 1987/88 Tribute Tour, on the west coast dates, he came out and jammed with us about four times. He would play a solo like you have never heard. It used to blow my mind to be playing Lynyrd Skynyrd music and look up and see Carlos Santana. It did go through my mind that I was doing something that was very special.”
Visit the official Artimus Pyle Band website here.