Watch Slayer Play Skynyrd's "Free Bird" at Soundcheck

(Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As most of you know, pretty much every band—at one time or another—has played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird." It's very difficult to escape it. It's actually been requested at bar gigs so often that, today, it often is requested as a joke—because people love to hear themselves scream, "play 'Free Bird'!"

Anyway, even heavy metal titans Slayer have played the classic 1973 tune, as evidenced by the video below, which was shot—vertically—a couple years back during Slayer's soundcheck at The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.

We're not sure why anyone would shoot a video vertically, but it's too late to change that now. Please remember, however, that horizontal videos are almost always more enjoyable to watch.

In the clip below, the lengthy guitar solos—which are played by Gary Holt and Testament's Alex Skolnick (there's no sign of Kerry King)—kick off around 2:23; after fading into the background for a minute or so, they reappear at 3:30.

“‘Free Bird’ was actually one of the first songs we ever wrote,” Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington told Guitar World several years ago. “Allen [Collins] had the chords for the pretty part in the beginning, two full years, but Ronnie [Van Zant] kept saying that because there were too many chords so he couldn’t find a melody for it. We were just beginning to write and he thought that he had to change with every chord change.

“Then one day we were at rehearsal and Allen started playing those chords, and Ronnie said, ‘Those are pretty. Play them again.’ Allen played it again, and Ronnie said, ‘Okay, I got it.’ And he wrote the lyrics in three or four minutes—the whole damned thing! He came up with a lot of stuff that way, and he never wrote anything down. His motto was, ‘If you can’t remember it, it’s not worth remembering.’

“So we started playing it in clubs, but it was just the slow part. [A demo of this version of the song appears on the Lynyrd Skynyrd box set (MCA, 1991)—GW Ed.] Then Ronnie said, ‘Why don’t you do something at the end of that so I can take a break for a few minutes?’ So I came up with those three chords at the end and Allen played over them, then I soloed and then he soloed…it all evolved out of a jam one night. So, we started playing it that way, but Ronnie kept saying, ‘It’s not long enough. Make it longer.’ Because we were playing three or four sets a night, and he was looking to fill it up. Then one of our roadies told us we should check out this piano part that another roadie, Billy Powell, had come up with as an intro for the song. We did—and he went from being a roadie to a member right then.”

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.