Crawdad | Legacy of Steve Gaines

Uncategorized May 13, 2024

Crawdad | Legacy of Steve Gaines

In the rich tapestry of Gary W. Neel’s life, the threads of friendship and creativity are intricately woven with the profound influence of a musical luminary, Steve Gaines.


Born in Miami, Oklahoma, Gaines embarked on a musical journey that left an indelible mark on the landscape of rock and roll. Inspired by witnessing the Beatles’ transformative performance in Kansas City at the age of 15, Gaines persuaded his father to procure his first guitar, igniting a passion that would shape his destiny. From recording with Manalive at the iconic Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, to the vibrant studios of Macon, Georgia, Gaines honed his craft with bands like Ilmo Smokehouse and Detroit. However, it was with Crawdad, a band he nurtured from its inception in 1974, that Gaines’ musical vision truly blossomed. Together, they recorded songs at Capricorn Studios, culminating in the posthumously released album ‘One in the Sun’ in 1988. Gaines’ ascent to fame reached new heights when he joined the legendary Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, propelled by the recommendation of his sister, Cassie. In a twist of fate, Gaines’ unparalleled talent and infectious energy captivated audiences worldwide, earning him a revered place in rock history. As we embark on Gary W. Neel’s journey, we are reminded of the enduring legacy of Steve Gaines and the transcendent power of music to unite hearts and souls across generations.

Bob Gaines, Ron Brooks, John Seaberg, Terry Taylor, Fred Phillips, Brad Mullins, Terry Emery, Steve Gaines, Pepper King and John Moss (1975) | Photo by Gary W. Neel

Where and when did you grow up? What music was a big part of your family life? Did the local music scene influence or inspire you to play music?”

Gary W Neel: I was born in 1950 and grew up in Miami, Oklahoma, a small town influenced by farming and a local B.F. Goodrich Tire plant that employed a huge portion of the city’s population. The surrounding area was heavily mined for lead, zinc, and ore during World War I and World War II.

460 Circle Drive, Miami Oklahoma where Steve & Cassie Gaines grew up

Steve Gaines’ family home was at 460 Circle Drive in Miami, Oklahoma, just several houses down the street from my own. My father’s sister, Virginia Neel, married into the Gaines family, so we were all very close growing up. We played in the streets and went to school together. Cassie was the oldest of the Gaines siblings, followed by Steve and then Bob. Bob and I were the same age and in the same grade in school. We spent a lot of time at the Gaines home, which is still standing today, though no family lives there anymore.

When I was about 13 years old, my mother gave me a snare drum and a high hat cymbal for Christmas. She got my older brother a guitar, but neither of us took it up. I knew early on that I had a love for music, but I also had a natural, God-given talent and interest in drawing from a very young age. I loved drawing right from the start.

The local music scene always revolved around Steve, Cassie, and Bob Gaines. Steve was always jamming, and Bob always had his drum set up in his bedroom. It was rare to see Steve without his guitar even back then. They were all very talented, and the Gaines home was a magical place full of music and excitement. Cassie was a big influence on my choice of music, as well as Steve. When Cassie worked as a lifeguard at the local city swimming pool, she was always playing and singing Motown tunes. Motown was alive and kicking when we were in our teens. Steve was always an amazing guitar player and vocalist, as well as a great songwriter.

Crawdad (1975) | Photo by Gary W. Neel
Crawdad | Photo by Gary W. Neel
Crawdad | John Moss, Ron Brooks, Terry Emery, John Seaberg, Steve Gaines Photo by Gary W. Neel

When did your interest in music and art begin?

I may have answered that question already. I’ve always been interested in art for as long as I can remember. It just came naturally to me, and I’ve always enjoyed it. Music was also a huge interest, but art just came more easily to me.

What kind of records, singles, and fanzines would one have found in your room?”

In my teens, you would have found records and singles by artists such as Fats Domino, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Grass Roots, the Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Eric Burdon & the Animals, the Dave Clark Five, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Freddie King, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, and more. The list just keeps going from that foundation.

We used to watch Freddie King play in Tulsa at a very small venue in the early days. He was amazing.

How did I first meet Steve Gaines?

Steve’s mother, Larue, took us to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, when I was 15 to see Van Morrison. His parents also took Steve to see the Beatles in Kansas City. They were such cool parents. We all grew up together in the same neighborhood and played as kids, but we were also related by marriage. My father’s sister, Virginia Neel, married Elmer Gaines, so early in my life, we attended different family events together.

What about other members of Crawdad?

The members of Crawdad were Steve Gaines (guitar/vocals), John “Moose” Moss (guitar/vocals), John Seaberg (bass player), Terry Emery (keyboard), and Ron Brooks (drums).

John “Moose” Moss is from Joplin, MO, living in Miami, OK. John Seaberg is living in Arkansas. Terry Emery (deceased) and Ron Brooks, from Miami, OK (deceased).

Ron Brooks grew up in Miami, Oklahoma, in the same neighborhood. Ron was playing drums from his early childhood. He, myself, and Bob Gaines were always in the same grade in school growing up and were the closest of friends. He was an incredible drummer. When he wasn’t playing drums, he could be found with a guitar in his hands, sharpening his skills.

What was Steve’s first band?

To my knowledge, it was The Ravens with Johnny Burrows on guitar/vocals.

The Ravens| Steve Gaines, Archie Osborn, Jerry Sanders & Johnnie Burrows

Steve’s father, Bud Gaines, leased the top floor of a downtown building in Miami, Oklahoma, and called it The Upstairs so Steve’s band could play there on Friday nights.

The Ravens | Steve Gaines, Archie Osborn, Jerry Sanders, Johnnie Burrows

How did you first get into artwork?

As far back as I can recall, I’ve been interested in drawing. I remember as early as third grade, people would comment on my drawings and encourage me to keep it up.

Illustration by Gary W. Neel

Later in life, one of the biggest influences on my artistry was Arthur Rackham. Rackham is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the “Golden Age” of British book illustration, which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War.

You mentioned that you also started to work on possible Lynyrd Skynyrd artwork?

After Steve left Crawdad and joined Lynyrd Skynyrd, he always encouraged me to continue my artwork, hoping that we could collaborate again, whether with Lynyrd Skynyrd or in the future. Unfortunately, his short career closed that door of opportunity.

“In the 1970s, I sketched a cartoon of two guys assembling a Crawdad billboard that seemed to appear out of nowhere.”

1977 must have been a very difficult year for you and all Lynyrd Skynyrd fans.

It was most certainly a difficult year for all those close to this family, and it still is. The Gaines family was like family to me and others who knew them. There are no words to explain the pain and loss for all those who loved Steve and Cassie and were involved in their lives. It was not just the loss of Steve and Cassie, but also the pain that their parents, Bud and Larue, and brother Bob endured, as well as Steve’s wife, Teresa, and daughter, Corrina. It was a life-changing event for so many who loved them, especially their immediate families. This whole family touched a lot of lives in so many ways. I was blessed to have had the experience of being a part of their lives; they were outstanding people. Steve has forever changed the lives of so many.

Did Crawdad release anything? Any singles, perhaps privately? Are there a lot of unreleased materials available?

Steve had a band called “Manalive” back in high school, and they recorded a 45rpm single called ‘One In The Sun’ at the famous Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

Manalive at Pittsburg State University Student Union after a gig  in 1969 or 1970 |  Gary Clark (holding bass), Marc Marcano; John Moss (holding the drum), Steve Gaines on the far right.

Sun Studio, opened by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis on January 3, 1950, was originally called the Memphis Recording Service, sharing the same building with the Sun Records label business. Sun Studio is perhaps most famous for its role in the early years of Elvis Presley’s career.

Source: Discogs

John Ryan, the producer, later produced the ‘One in the Sun’ album.

‘One in the Sun’ is credited as the only solo album by Steve Gaines, best known as a guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was recorded with Crawdad bandmates at Leon Russell’s Church Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and at Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia, in 1975. The album was released in 1988 by MCA Records, 11 years after Steve’s death in the 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. Note: there are still unreleased recordings out there, and you can find some of them on YouTube, etc.

Terry Emery had a very rich musical career as well.

I don’t know too much about Terry’s musical career.

Terry Emery | Photo by Gary W. Neel
John “Moose” Moss and Ron Brooks
Ron Brooks | Photo by Gary W. Neel
John “Moose” Moss and Steve Gaines | Photo by Gary W. Neel

What currently occupies your life?

My career for doing album covers never got started. Steve was my entrance to this field, and the door closed at his death. I went on to become a Design Engineer for very high-end luxury RV diesel buses, such as Newell Coach and another company called Foretravel Motorhomes. I am still in this field as a salesman some 37 years later. I’m also still creating Crawdad drawings for people who enjoy them, among other things.

Ron Brooks and John “Moose” Moss

This original drawing was done after Steve’s daughter Corrina was born. It depicts Steve, Teresa holding newborn Corrina, and three Crawdads. The drawing was given to Steve & Teresa as a New Year’s card.

Illustration by Gary W. Neel

This drawing was later reproduced on a T-shirt for the Dobson Museum in Miami, Oklahoma, during the opening of their display of Steve Gaines memorabilia and his induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame on 09/08/2018.

Illustration by Gary W. Neel
Illustration by Gary W. Neel

Thank you for taking your time. The last word is yours.

Steve Gaines has forever changed people’s lives.

Klemen Breznikar


Headline photo: Ron Brooks and Steve Gaines | Photo by Gary W. Neel

Crawdad Facebook

2 Comments
  1. Gary W. Neel says:

    Great job Klemen Breznikar, thank you for taking the time to find me and visit about Steve Gaines. There is so much more. Sorry that John Moss never got back to you with all of his stories, there are so many out there that have not been told to the public. Thank you Steve Gaines/Cassie Gaines and their families for touching all our lives.

  2. Robert Garrett says:

    Gary W. Neel what an honor to be able to share with us a little bit about you growing up with Steve Gaines Friends and Bandmates. Thank You For Sharing!

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