Steven Earl Gaines (September 14, 1949 – October 20, 1977) was an American musician. He is most well known as a guitarist and songwriter forsouthern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and is the younger brother of Cassie Gaines, who was also a member of the band.
Steve Gaines was born in Seneca, Missouri, and raised in Miami, Oklahoma. When Steve was 15 years old, he saw The Beatles live in Kansas City. After being driven home from the concert, he pestered his father enough to buy him his first guitar. His first band, The Ravens (a local High School rock band that Steve's friends formed), made its first recording at the famous Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve later played with bands RIO Smokehouse, The Detroit Wheels, Mitch Ryder, Cactus, Rusty Day, Detroit and Crawdad in the 1970s. In 1975, he recorded several songs with Crawdad bandmates at Capricorn studios in Macon Georgia which were released in 1987 as One in the Sun (when the present day Lynyrd Skynyrd band began touring) by MCA Records and is listed as his only official solo album. Steve has 2 other albums, which are known to be bootleg albums from different record companies: I Know A Little (A Collection Of Live Recordings With The Crawdads) and Okie Special (A Collection Of Live Recordings With Rusty Day As Well As The Crawdads)
In December 1975, Steve Gaines' older sister, Cassie, became a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd's female backup singers, The Honkettes. During this time, the band was in the midst of searching for a guitarist to replace Ed King, who left the band in mid-1975. Cassie recommended her brother, and after initial reluctance, the band allowed Steve to join them onstage for a show in Kansas City on May 11, 1976. Although the band themselves couldn't hear Steve's playing onstage, soundman Kevin Elson was listening through headphones and told the band that Steve was an outstanding player. They jammed with him informally a couple of times more, then invited him into the band just in time for the recording of Skynyrd's live albumOne More From The Road. The first of three shows recorded for the album was Gaines' third gig with the band. Interestingly, Ed King and Steve Gaines were both born on September 14, 1949.
Steve's guitar-picking and songwriting skills were a major revelation to the band, as proven on his one studio album, 1977's Street Survivors. Publicly and privately, Ronnie Van Zant marvelled at the vocal and instrumental skill of Skynyrd's newest member, claiming that the band would "all be in his shadow one day." Steve's contributions included his co-lead vocal with Van Zant on the co-written "You Got That Right" (a solid hit single released after the plane crash) and the rousing guitar boogie "I Know A Little" which he had written before he joined Skynyrd. So confident was Skynyrd's leader of Steve's abilities that the album (and some concerts) featured Steve delivering his self-penned bluesy "Ain't No Good Life" – one of the few songs in the pre-crash Skynyrd catalog to feature a lead vocalist other than Ronnie Van Zant.
On October 20, 1977, three days after the album, "Street Survivors" was released (and five dates into the band's most successful tour yet), a plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashed outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. The plane landed in a swampy area and crashed into trees. Gaines died from blunt-force trauma to the head; he was 28 years old and likely was killed on impact. The crash also killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve's sister Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray.
Steve Gaines was cremated and buried in Orange Park, Florida in 1977, but was relocated to an undisclosed location after vandals broke into his and bandmate Ronnie Van Zant's tombs on June 29, 2000. Their mausoleums remain as memorials for fans to visit.
Less than two years after the plane crash, the Gaines' mother, Cassie LaRue Gaines, was killed in an automobile accident near the cemetery where Steve and Cassie were buried. She was buried near her children.