Members: Johnny Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Ean Evans, Rickey Medlocke, Michael Cartellone, Dale Krantz Rossington, Carol Chase,
Active: 1964 - present
CLASSIC LINE-UP: Ronnie Van Zant, lead vocals & primary songwriter (from 1964 until death in 1977), Allen Collins, guitar (from 1964 to 1977), Gary Rossington, guitar (from 1964 to present), Bob Burns, drums (from 1964 until 1974), Larry Junstrom, bass (from 1964 to 1972)
Leon Wilkeson, bass (from 1972 until death in 2001), Ed King, guitar (from 1973 to 1975)
Steve Gaines, guitar (from 1976 until death in 1977), Billy Powell, keyboard (from 1973 to present), Artimus Pyle, drums (from 1975-1992), Cassie Gaines, JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins
PRESENT LINE UP: Johnny Van Zant, lead vocals
Gary Rossington, guitars, Billy Powell, keyboard
Ean Evans, bass, Rickey Medlocke, guitar (also played drums briefly in 1971)
Michael Cartellone, drums, Dale Krantz Rossington and Carol Chase, background vocals
THE FORMATIVE YEARS, 1964-1969
The band, first called My Backyard, was formed in Jacksonville, Florida in the summer of 1964 by teenage friends Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums). Their early influences included British Invasion bands such as Free, The Yardbirds, and The Beatles, as well as Southern blues and country & western.
During the 1960s, the band changed names several times (most notably The Noble Five and One Percent) while playing local dances and clubs in Jacksonville. In 1968 they won a local Battle of the Bands contest, using the prize money to record the songs "Need All My Friends" and "Michelle", the former released as their debut single on Jacksonville-based Shade Tree Records. They also won the opening slot on several Southeast shows for California-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.
THE CLASSIC YEARS 1970-1977
In 1970, the band began constant rehearsals at "Hell House", an isolated farm in Green Cove Springs, a small city in Clay County on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Roadie Billy Powell joined as keyboardist around this time. The final band name also came about, inspired as a mocking tribute to Rossington's and Burns' gym coach at Robert E. Lee High, Leonard Skinner. Skinner would strictly enforce the school's dress code, which did not allow boys to have long hair touching the collar or sideburns below the ears. After being punished several times, the bandmates played a show, still as One Percent, but Van Zant jokingly announced from the stage that they were now called Leonard Skinner. The name stuck, soon becoming Lynard Skynard, and finally Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Lynyrd Skynyrd continued to perform throughout the South in the early 1970s, further developing their hard-driving, blues-rock sound and image. In 1972, Leon Wilkeson replaced Junstrom on bass. Wilkeson left just before recording their first alblum. Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King was called in to fill the role as bass player. After the album was completed, Van Zant informed King that he was the worst bass player Van Zant had ever heard. He suggested King move to guitar so they could reproduce the studio album's three-guitar sound. Soon the band's triple-guitar attack became a signature sound. Van Zant married girlfriend Judy Seymour in 1972.
Producer Al Kooper was impressed with the band during a performance at an Atlanta club called Funocchio's in 1972, and signed them to MCA Records. He produced their first album, 1973's Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, which featured the song "Free Bird", a tribute to recently deceased Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. "Free Bird" began to receive national airplay, eventually reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song has also become the subject of a Rock and Roll clich?, which is the shouting of a request to hear the song at almost any live concert, regardless of the performer. This practice has become so commonplace at live concerts it has largely evolved into a parody of itself.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's fan base continued to grow rapidly during 1973, due in large part to their opening slot on The Who's Quadrophenia tour in the U.S.. Their second album, 1974's Second Helping, was the band's breakthrough hit. It featured their most popular single "Sweet Home Alabama" (#8 on the charts in August 1974), an answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man". The belief that Van Zant and Young were rivals is incorrect; they were actually fans of each other's music and talked of collaborations together. Young has covered Lynyrd Skynyrd songs at his own live concerts as a tribute to Van Zant. Second Helping reached #12, eventually going multi-platinum. The band also toured the U.K. in 1975 with Golden Earring and in 1976 with The Rolling Stones.
In 1975, King and Burns left the band, and Burns was replaced by Artimus Pyle. The new lineup's first album, Nuthin' Fancy, was released, becoming their first Top Ten album. It features the hit song "Saturday Night Special" (#27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart). Gimme Back My Bullets followed in 1976, but didn't reach the same success as the previous two albums. Guitarist Steve Gaines, brother of backup singer Cassie Gaines, replaced King in 1976, just in time to record the double-live album One More From the Road, the band's second Top Ten hit.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's sixth album, Street Survivors, was released in October of 1977. It would be the final album released by the original line-up.
THE TRAGIC PLANE CRASH, 1977
Lynyrd Skynyrd's legend is grounded in a tragic plane crash that occurred on October 20, 1977, three days after the release of Street Survivors. A rental plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was low on fuel and crashed in a swamp in Gillsburg, Mississippi. The crash killed singer/songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The other band members were seriously injured. Allen Collins suffered cracked vetebrae in his neck, both Collins and Leon Wilkeson nearly had arms amputated as a result of crash injuries, and Gary Rossington broke both of his arms and both of his legs in the crash. The original pressing of the cover of Street Survivors was a photograph of the band engulfed in flames. In an eerie coincidence, the band members whom the flames appeared to be touching lost their lives in the crash. MCA Records, out of courtesy and good judgment, withdrew the sleeve and replaced it with a cover of the band striking a similar pose against a plain black background.
Street Survivors became the band's second platinum album, and was the #5 top selling album on the U.S. album chart. The single "What's Your Name" reached #13 on the single airplay charts in January of 1978. Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the airplane tragedy.
Rossington and Collins formed The Rossington-Collins Band between 1980 and 1982, releasing two albums. Pyle formed The Artimus Pyle Band in 1982. Collins formed The Allen Collins Band in 1983. Tragedy struck the band again in 1986 when Collins crashed his car while driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville, killing his girlfriend and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
THE REUNION YEARS, 1987-PRESENT
The reunion years, 1987-present
Rossington, Powell, King, and Wilkeson reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987 with Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, taking over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter. Due to Collins' condition, he was only able to participate as the musical director. He became stricken with pneumonia in 1989 and died on January 23, 1990.
The reunited band was meant to be a one-time tribute to the original lineup, captured on the double-live album Southern By The Grace Of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour - 1987, but because of an overwhelmingly positive reaction by fans, the band decided to stay together and record new material. The reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd has gone through several lineup changes and continue to record and tour today. Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd's bassist since 1972, died of lung and liver failure on July 27, 2001. Ronnie Van Zant's widow, Judy Van Zant, currently owns and operates Freebird Live, one of Jacksonville's premier live music venues, located just 1 block from the ocean in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
Fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd have been increasingly vocal about the band being overlooked for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some fans attribute this to their controversial Southern image, which includes use of the Confederate flag, perceived to be racist by some. However it should be noted that this was also used by other contemporary Southern artists, including Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. Another speculated reason is the fact that only two original members still remain in the band, leading to criticisms that the current band is merely a shadow of the original band. Interestingly enough, the song "Free Bird" does make The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list. Country singer Charlie Daniels posted an online letter and petition directed to the Hall of Fame in February 2005, encouraging fans to sign it in support.
Since his death in 1977, rumors have existed that Ronnie Van Zant was buried in a Neil Young T-shirt as a supposed curse against him, although truthfully there was no feud between the two (see above, band history). Some fans believe this rumor was the reason the gravesites of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines were broken into on June 29, 2000, in Orange Park, Florida. Others believe that this desecration was motivated by the 1986 Dead Kennedys track A Commercial  which mockingly refered to exhuming the bodies of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Van Zant's casket was dragged onto the grounds, but was not opened. Gaines' cremated remains, which were in a plastic bag in an urn, were scattered on the ground near his site. 99% of his ashes were recovered. The families decided to move their remains to an undisclosed location, leaving the mausoleums as memorials for fans to visit.
1973 - Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
1974 - Second Helping
1975 - Nuthin' Fancy
1976 - Gimme Back My Bullets
1977 - Street Survivors
1978 - Skynyrd's First And... Last
1980 - Gold & Platinum
1982 - Best Of The Rest
1987 - Legend
1989 - Skynyrd's Innyrds
1991 - Box Set collection
1998 - The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd
2000 - Lynyrd Skynyrd's Greatest Hits
2003 - Thyrty : 30th Anniversary Collection
LIVE AND VIDEOS:
1988 - Southern By The Grace Of God/Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour - 1987
1988 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour - 1988 tour video
1998 - Lyve From Steel Town - 1998 live album
1998 - Lyve From Steel Town - 1998 tour video
2004 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve : The Vicious Cycle Tour - 2004 live album
2004 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve : The Vicious Cycle Tour - 2004 tour video
Shade Tree Records
1968 - Need All My Friends
1971 - I've Been Your Fool
1973 - Free Bird
1973 - Gimme Three Steps
1975 - Don't Ask Me No Questions
1974 - Sweet Home Alabama
1975 - Free Bird
1975 - Saturday Night Special
1976 - Double Trouble
1976 - Gimme Back My Bullets
1977 - Free Bird (Live)
1977 - What's Your Name
1977 - You Got That Right
1978 - That Smell
1978 - Down South Jukin
1978 - When You Got Good Friends
Submitted by OptimusPrime at Mon 22 May, 2006 7:39 am
Last updated by OptimusPrime at Mon 22 May, 2006 7:39 am