1977: The Skynyrd's Live
In our universe, members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd died in a plane crash on October 20, 1977, causing the band to break up. But what if things happened differently ...
Point of Divergence: the Convair CV-300 that the band flew in was properly fueled before the flight.
Halfway in, the magneto of the right engine caught fire, yet pilots Walter McCreary and William Gray were able to keep the plane in the air long enough to crash land on an abandoned service road near Summit, Mississippi. No casualties were reported. The band members were transported by car to Baton Rouge, Louisiana (their original destination). Ronnie Van Zant would never fly again.
On August 3, 1978, Lynyrd Skynyrd released their sixth studio album, a satire called Custer's Mustard, mainly written by Allen Collins. It scored a hit with the title track, standing at #2 on the Billboard's Hot 100 charts for five weeks.
On April Fool's Day 1979, the group kick started their Custer's Mustard World Tour, finally culminating with a performance in Sapporo, Japan on March 29, 1980, where a Protestant ex-clergyman, Hayato Kawaguchi, fired a SIG P220 pistol at Ronnie Van Zant four times, missing him due to bad aim (caused by the swaying of the crowd). He was later beaten and trampled to death by said crowd.
On April 4, 1980, Van Zant released a public fan-directed letter praising the crowd's 'unorthodox, albeit effective' method of saving his life at the hands of the gunman. 'I wouldn't have survived without [my fans]' he said.
On September 19, 1981, their seventh studio album, Spick 'n' Span, was released, becoming a fan favourite despite not being overly successful on the charts. It only spawned one single, Workers' Compensation, which only came up at #24 on the Billboard. On October 1, they also released a concert film, Live In Gibraltar 7/4/80, an account of their performance at the Rock of Gibraltar the year previously.
At this point, the band went through a five-year hiatus due to Gary Rossington's abuse of alcohol and drugs. In May 1983, Ronnie Van Zant briefly joined his brother Donnie's band .38 Special for the live album .38 Special Live At Montreux. The album also featured special guests Gregg Allman, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour and Bonnie Tyler. Allen Collins, meanwhile, began work on his autobiography, entitled Kickin' It Old School: The Prozac Diaries.