The famous saying “never meet your heroes” seems to be generally sound advice, however one man from Gullane has found the opposite to be true.
Iain Monk, a Lynyrd Skynyrd superfan who lives in the East Lothian village, is so devoted that he has even been asked to contribute the foreword to a new book about the Dixie rock legends.
Mr Monk has travelled across the world to attend 31 shows and in the process became friends with the band and their road manager, Paul Abraham.
The manager has released an autobiography titled The Gospel According to Abraham, which is brimming with stories from his time spent working with the band for ten years.
Monk said: “I feel honoured. To ask a fan of the band to write a foreword is humbling really.”
Monk first heard the American supergroup in 1977, the same year that several founding members died in a tragic aeroplane accident. The group, best known for Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama, decided to reform for an American tour ten years later.
Monk, who works for the Scottish government in communications, recalls the turn of events that led him to meet the band and kick-started his “touring odyssey”.
“I flew to New York to see them. I’d written to their management company to say ‘I’m a fan coming from Scotland, can you help me with tickets?’ I was chancing my arm a bit,” he admits.
His heroes were so touched by Monk’s loyalty that he was given free tickets and invited to meet the band. He describes first meeting bassist Leon Wilkeson as “quite emotional actually. He was really quite taken by the fact that I was so dedicated”.
Since then, Monk has formed friendships with several band members, which he says is all thanks to Abraham. He spent a week with guitarist Randall Hall’s family and had a song dedicated to him at a concert in Atlanta.
Monk explains: “The band members were incredibly kind people, they were very down to earth, they had no airs or graces. They were rock stars but they weren’t pretentious in any way whatsoever.
“Over the many years I followed Skynyrd on tour, I was treated like royalty by the band. That was all down to Paul so I was delighted to contribute to his fascinating book.
It seems that Monk has contributed more than just the foreword for the book. In 2016, he interviewed Abraham for his Lynyrd Skynyrd-themed music blog, The Ballad of Curtis Loew.
Abraham recalls: “He e-mailed [me] the article for his blog and it was entitled The Gospel According to Abraham. I immediately told him I was stealing the title for my book, which by that time, I was deep into writing.
“He is truly a gem of a man and I hope one day I’ll be able to visit him on his home soil. I thank him for all he has done for me and the Skynyrd family. We all love Iain very much.”