Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Southern Rock legends surprised everyone with their second studio album, Second Helping, which featured the group’s hit “Sweet Home Alabama,” peaking at No. 8 on the Hot 100.
While the group was on the road in support of their album, they wrote a new song that became the lead single on their third studio album, Nuthin’ Fancy: “Saturday Night Special.”
Ronnie Van Zant penned the lyrics; surprisingly, the song strongly advocates gun control:
“It was a strong message that Ronnie was conveying,” Gary Rossington said in a 2015 interview. “Those cheap handguns were no good for hunting or anything else – they were just made to kill people. And those guns were easy to find. We came from a rough part of town, the west side of Jacksonville. There were a lot of bad people there, and every week you’d hear that somebody got shot or killed.”
The track was released as a single on May 19, 1975, and it did well on its chart run, peaking at No. 27 on the Hot 100 for the week of August 2, 1975. The song was also used in the opening car chase of Burt Reynolds movie, The Longest Yard, released in August 1974. “Saturday Night Special,” was also used on the remake of the film starring Chris Rock and Adam Sandler.
“It’s a song that we all love, and I think it’s more relevant now than when Ronnie wrote it,” Johnny Van Zant said in 2015. “When I was just a kid, growing up, we always had guns around our house. My family, we were hunters. But handguns scare me because I know there’s only one thing they’re gonna be used for. Every time I sing ‘Saturday Night Special,’ I feel the power in those words that Ronnie wrote. There are too many guns in America. My brother knew what he was talking about.”