By Jordan Runtagh
October 07, 2019 at 06:18 PM EDT
Rich Gabrielson/WireImage

Larry Junstrom, a founding member of Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and longtime bassist for the band .38 Special, has died at the age of 70.

The news was announced on Sunday via statement shared on .38 Special’s Facebook page. Junstrom had played with the group from 1977 until his retirement in 2014.

“The Big Man on the Big Bass has left us,” the tribute message began. “He rocked arenas all over the world and succeeded in living his dream. He was truly one of a kind, a congenial traveling companion and a great friend to all with a humorous slant on life that always kept our spirits high – a kind man with a big heart for everyone who crossed his path. There will never be another like him. We are sending our devoted love, strength and comfort to his wife Thania and Larry’s family. We will miss our friend and partner.”

Junstrom began his musical career in the mid-’60s playing in early versions of Lynyrd Skynyrd — alternately known as My Backyard, the Noble Five and the One Percent — alongside Ronnie Van Zant, Garry Rossington, Bob Burns and Allen Collins. They eventually chose their more familiar name as a sarcastic homage to their Jacksonville high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, who was famous for patrolling the length of boys’ hair.

He departed the group before they recorded their debut album, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, in 1973. Leon Wilkeson ultimately handled the bass duties through the height of the band’s fame.

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In 1977, Donnie Van Zandt — younger brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer, Ronnie — invited Junstrom to join his band, .38 Special, to replace bassist Ken Lyons. He held the gig for nearly four decades, playing on hits including “Hold on Loosely,” “Caught Up in You,” and “Rockin’ into the Night.”

His performance career was eventually sidelined due to a hand injury that required surgery.

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