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The band was named after Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher/coach for some of the members in high school. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the most critically acclaimed Southern Rock groups (although the term did not exist at the time they formed) of the 1970s and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of March 13, 2006. Their distinctive triple-lead guitar sound made their songs "Free Bird", and "Sweet Home Alabama" American anthems and staples of FM radio. Members inducted include: singer Ronnie VanZant, guitarists Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Ed King, and Steve Gaines, bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboard player Billy Powell, and drummers Bob Burns and Artimus Pyle.
The band, originally called The My Backyard Band, was formed in Jacksonville, Florida in the summer of 1964 by teenage friends Ronnie VanZant (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 music.
During the 1960s, the band changed names several times (most notable among their names was "The Noble Five" and "The 1% Band") while playing local dances, bars, and clubs in Jacksonville, Florida. 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 recorded an extremely early version of "Free Bird" there, but it was never discovered until 2000, and was released on the "Collectybles" compilation. The band soon won the opening slot on several Southeast shows for California-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock. This is how Ed King joined the band.
Early years (1970–1972)EditIn 1970, the band began rehearsing at the "Hell House", an isolated farm in Green Cove Springs, a small city in Clay County, Florida, on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Roadie Billy Powell joined as keyboardist around this time, and Blackfoot members Greg T. Walker (Bass Guitar) and Rickey Medlocke (Drum & Mandolin) were also in the band back then. The original name of the band was to be "The 1% Band", because only 1% of the U.S.A., at this time, were bikers, like themselves. The band became "Lynyrd Skynyrd" as a mocking tribute to Rossington's and Burns' gym coach, Leonard Skinner, at Robert E. Lee High School. Leonard 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. Despite their high school acrimony, the band developed a friendlier relationship with Leonard in later years; they invited Leonard to introduce them at a concert at the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.
The band continued to perform throughout the South in the early 1970's, further developing their hard-driving, blues-rock sound and image. In 1972, Leon Wilkeson replaced Larry Junstrom on bass. But Wilkeson surprised his bandmates and left just before they were to record the first album. (Wilkeson was to rejoin the band shortly thereafter at Van Zant's invitation.) Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King was asked to fill in as bass player. After the album was completed, Van Zant informed King that he was "the worst bass player he'd ever played with". He suggested King move to guitar so they could reproduce the studio album's three-guitar mix. VanZant married his girlfriend Judy Seymour in 1972.
Peak years (1973–1977)Edit
In 1973, they changed the spelling of the band name from Lynard Skynard to Lynyrd Skynyrd as a tribute to the Byrds. Musician, songwriter, and producer Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat, and Tears 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 debut album, 1973's (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd), which featured the song "Free Bird". "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 cliché, 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), a tongue in cheek answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man". Today, Young claims that he and VanZant were not rivals, that they were actually fans of each other's music and good friends, and that they had talked of collaborations together. Neil Young was going to give his song "Powderfinger" to Lynyrd Skynyrd to perform, a fact which Young has never denied. Unfortunately, the Skynyrd plane crash happened just months after that song was penned, leading Neil Young to perform the song himself on his 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps. Young has occasionally included the chorus from "Sweet Home Alabama" as a tribute to Skynyrd at his own live concerts, including at Young's first live performance following VanZant's death. Finally, one of the last photos of Ronnie Van Zant prior to his passing features the frontman wearing a Neil Young t-shirt.
2nd Helpin' reached #12 in 1974, eventually going multi-platinum. In July 1974. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the headline acts at The Ozark Music Festival, at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia Missouri. Some estimates have put the crowd count at 350,000 people which would make this one of the largest music events in history. The band also toured the UK in 1975 with Golden Earring and in 1976 with The Rolling Stones.
In 1975, Burns left the band and was replaced by North Carolina drummer 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). Guitarist Ed King left the band midway throughout the Nuthin' Fancy tour. The band decided to continue on as a 6-piece, with only two guitarists.
Gimme Back My Bullets followed that same year, but didn't reach the same success as the previous two albums.
In December 1975, backup singers Leslie Hawkins, Cassie Gaines and JoJo Billingsley (collectively known as the Honkettes) were added to the band. Guitarist Steve Gaines, brother of backup singer Cassie Gaines, replaced Ed King in 1976, just in time to record the double-LP live album One More from the Road, the band's second Top Ten hit. At its peak, the band's unique triple guitar style included one slide and a rocking Gibson Firebird. Adding to the wall of sound was the melodic bass playing, the wild yet rhythmic percussion section, Van Zant's strong vocals, and the furious keyboard/piano playing of Powell.
Lynyrd Skynyrd's sixth album, Street Survivors, was released in October of 1977. It would be the final album released by the "classic" line-up.
1977 Plane Crash Edit
Main article: 1977 Plane Crash
Gary Rossington and Allen Collins formed The Rossington-Collins Band between 1978 and 1982, releasing two albums. Artimus Pyle formed The Artimus Pyle Band in 1982. Allen formed The Allen Collins Band in 1983. Tragedy struck the band again in 1986 when Allen crashed his car while driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville, killing his girlfriend and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.
Reunion years (1987–present)Edit
In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle and former guitarist Ed King. Ronnie VanZant's younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter. Due to Allen's paralysis, he was only able to participate as the musical director, choosing Randall Hall, his former bandmate in his band as well as an early Lynyrd Skynyrd lineup, as his stand-in. Allen was stricken with pneumonia in 1989 and died on January 23, 1991.
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/The 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 reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd has gone through several lineup changes and continues to record and tour today. Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd's bass guitarist since 1972, was found dead in his hotel room due to liver & lung disease on July 27, 2001. The remaining members released a double album called Thyrty which had songs from the original line up to the present. Lynyrd Skynyrd also released a live DVD of their Vicious Cycle Tour and on June 22, 2004 Lynyrd Skynyrd released the album Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour. On December 10, 2004 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a show for CMT, Crossroads, a concert featuring country duo Montgomery Gentry and others genres of music.
In the beginning of 2005, Hughie Thomasson left the band to pursue other musical opportunites, mainly to reform his own band, The Outlaws. On February 5, 2005 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a Super Bowl party with special guests 3 Doors Down, Jo Dee Messina, Charlie Daniels and Ronnie and Johnny VanZant's brother Donnie VanZant of The .38 Special (band). On February 13 of that year Lynyrd Skynyrd did a tribute to Southern Rock on the Grammy Awards with Gretchen Wilson, Tim McGraw & Keith Urban. On May 10, 2005 Johnny and Donnie Van Zant released a country album called Get Right With The Man which featured the hit single "Help Somebody". In the summer of 2005, lead singer Johnny VanZant had to have surgery on his vocal chord to have a polyp removed. He was told not to sing for 3 months. On September 10, 2005 Lynyrd Skynyrd performed without Johnny Van Zant at the Music Relief Concert for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, with Kid Rock standing in for Johnny. In December of 2005, Johnny Van Zant returned to sing for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
On November 28, 2005, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that Lynyrd Skynyrd would be inducted alongside Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis, and the Sex Pistols. They were inducted in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan on March 13, 2006. Lynyrd Skynyrd had been nominated 7 times.
In the spring of 2006 Johnny had to have his appendix taken out and was unable to attend the ACM Awards that May. In May 2006 Lynyrd Skynyrd added Mark Matejka who was from The Charlie Daniels Band to take the place of Hughie Thomasson. In July of 2006 Lynyrd Skynyrd did a special called Toyota Presents CMT Live At Summerfest and they also performed What's Your Name on CMA Music Festival.
In April/May of 2007, Lynyrd Skynyrd went on a 36 date tour with Hank Williams Jr. and special guest The .38 Special (band). During Hank Jr.'s act, Kid Rock showed up to do several of his songs. On some dates they have performed with Blue Oyster Cult. Their last album was 2010's God & Guns, but right now, there's a brand new album coming out on the 21st of August 2012 that will be called The Last Of A Dyin' Breed. Bass guitarist Robert Keans left the band to work with someone he had a crush on: Sheryl Crow. Taking his place today is Johnny Colt from The Black Crowes
Today Ronnie VanZant's widow, Judy VanZant Jenness, operates a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute web-site (http://www.lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com/index.html) as well as the Freebird Cafe, a block off the beach in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, not far from the grave of her former husband; she opened the Cafe in 1999 and serves, among others, numerous Lynyrd Skynyrd fans.
Freebird... The MovieEdit
In 1996, Freebird... The Movie was released , consisting of backstage and home footage of the band, live concert performances of the original line-up, including their performances at the Knebworth Festival 1976, Asbury Park 1977, San Fransisco 1976, and Peter Frampton's "A Day On The Green" concert 1977. The movie also includes interviews from the deseased members of the orifginal band, the surviving members of the original band, and some of the band's closest friends. The movie ALSO includes some never before seen footage of the original band and the inside of their airplane as it takes off and in the air.
- 1972 - Skynyrd' 1st "The Complete Muscle Shoals Album" (Muscle Shoals)
- 1973 - (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) (MCA)
- 1974 - Second Helping (MCA)
- 1975 - Nuthin' Fancy (MCA)
- 1976 - Gimme Back My Bullets (MCA)
- 1977 - Street Survivors (MCA)
- 1991 - Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 (Atlantic)
- 1993 - The Last Rebel (Atlantic)
- 1994 - Endangered Species (Capricorn)
- 1997 - Twenty (CMC)
- 1999 - Edge Of Forever (CMC)
- 2000 - Christmas Time Again (CMC)
- 2003 - Vicious Cycle (Sanctuary)
- 2010 - God & Guns (Road Runner)
- 2012 - The Last Of A Dyin' Breed (Road Runner/Loud & Proud)
- 1978 - Skynyrd's First And... Last - collection of 1971-1972 demos (MCA)
- 1980 - Gold & Platinum - best of (MCA)
- 1982 - The Best of the Rest - collection of unreleased demos, B-sides (MCA)
- 1987 - Legend - collection of unreleased demos, B-sides (MCA)
- 1989 - Skynyrd's Innyrds - best of (MCA)
- 1991 - Lynyrd Skynyrd - 3-CD box set compilation (MCA)
- 1997 - Old Time Greats - 2-CD best of (Repertoire , reworked in 2005 by Universal)
- 1998 - The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd - 2-CD compilation (reissued 2006 as Gold) (MCA)
- 1998 - Skynyrd's First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album - compilation of 1971-1972 demos previously scattered across 3 albums  (MCA)
- 2000 - All Time Greatest Hits - best of (MCA)
- 2000 - Collectybles]] - (MCA)
- 2000 - Then and Now - live & studio album (CMC)
- 2003 - Thyrty: The 30th Anniversary Collection - compilation
- 2005 - Then And Now, Vol. 2 (Sanctuary)
- 2005 - Greatest Hits - 2-CD best of (Universal , rework of the 1997 by Repertoire)
- 2006 - Gold - 2-CD compilation (reissue of the 1998 Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Lives and videosEdit
- 1976 - One More from the Road - live album (MCA)
- 1988 - Southern By The Grace Of God (Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour 1987) - live album (MCA)
- 1988 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour - tour video (Cabin Fever)
- 1996 - Freebird... The Movie - video of live concert footage (Cabin Fever)
- 1996 - Freebird... The Movie - video soundtrack (MCA)
- 1996 - Southern Knights - live album (SPV)
- 1998 - Lyve From Steel Town - live album (CMC)
- 1998 - Lyve From Steel Town - tour video (CMC)
- 2003 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour - tour video (Sanctuary)
- 2004 - Lynyrd Skynyrd Lyve: The Vicious Cycle Tour - live album (Sanctuary)
Shade Tree RecordsEdit
- 1968 - "Michelle / Need All My Friends" (101/102) (reissued in 1978 by MCA around the release of the "First and Last" album)
Sounds of The South/ MCA RecordsEdit
- November 1973 - "Gimme Three Steps / Mr. Banker (demo)" (MCA 40158)
- April 1974 - "Don't Ask Me No Questions (remix) / Take Your Time (demo)" (MCA 40231)
- August 1974 - "Sweet Home Alabama / Take Your Time (demo)" (MCA 40258) #8 US
- November 1974 - "Free Bird" (edit of 1973 album version) / Down South Jukin' (demo)" (MCA 40328) #19 US
- 1975 - "Saturday Night Special / Made In The Shade" (MCA 40416) #27 US
- 1976 - "Double Trouble / Roll Gypsy Roll" (MCA 40532) #80 US
- 1976 - "Gimme Back My Bullets / All I Can Do Is Write About It" (MCA 40565)
- 1976 - "Gimme Three Steps (live) / Travellin' Man (live)" (MCA 40647)
- 1976 - "Freebird (live) / Searchin' (live)" (MCA 40665) #38 US
- 1977 - "What's Your Name? / I Know A Little" (MCA 40819) #13 US
- 1978 - "You Got That Right / Ain't No Good Life" (MCA 40888)
- 1978 - "Down South Jukin' / Wino" (MCA 40957)
- 2006 - "Sweet Home Alabama" #61 UK
- Official Lynyrd Skynyrd site
- Official Lynyrd Skynyrd History site
- Official Steve Gaines site
- Official Artimus Pyle site
- Official Ed King site
- Official Ed King Forum
- Official Freebird Live site
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - The Legacy Continues
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - Verboo Article
- Detailed list of Lynyrd Skynyrd studio sessions and tracks recording dates
- Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young: Friends or Foes?
- Wall Street Journal: Rock's Oldest Joke: Yelling "Free Bird!" In a Crowded Theater
- ""Induct Skynyrd!" - A Legendary Hall Of Fame Injustice" by Ross Warner
- NTSB report of crash