Lynyrd Skynyrd

Missing image
Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1973

Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American Southern rock band, described by All Music Guide's Stephen Thomas Erlewine as "the definitive Southern rock band, fusing the overdriven power of blues-rock with a rebellious, Southern image and a hard rock swagger." [1] ( The band reached prominence during the 1970's, under the leadership of vocalist and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, until his death in 1977.



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 1960's, 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

Missing image
Lynyrd Skynyrd on stage in 1976

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 1970's, further developing their hard-driving, blues-rock sound and image. In 1972, Leon Wilkeson replaced Junstrom on bass. Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King was also added, and 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 cliche, 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 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.

Missing image
Original cover for Street Survivors, 1977
Missing image
Updated cover after plane crash, 1977

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 plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashed outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. The crash killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, as well as pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. The other band members were injured. The original pressing of the cover of Street Survivors was a photograph of the band standing in flames; the flames were removed after the crash in honor of the deceased.

Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the airplane tragedy. Street Survivors became a huge hit soon after, and the single "What's Your Name" reached #13 on the charts in January of 1978.

Hiatus, 1977 - 1986

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

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 1965, died of lung and liver failure on July 27, 2001. Ronnie Van Zant's widow, Judy Van Zant, currently owns and operates The Freebird Cafe, a live music venue and restaurant 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. Another speculated reason, among others, 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. Country singer Charlie Daniels posted an on line letter and petition [2] ( directed to the Hall of Fame in February 2005, encouraging fans to sign 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 that the gravesites of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines were broken into on June 29, 2000 in Orange Park, Florida. 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.

Band Members

Classic Lineup

Present Lineup


Classic Lineup

Studio albums

  1. Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd - 1973
  2. Second Helping - 1974
  3. Nuthin' Fancy - 1975
  4. Gimme Back My Bullets - 1976
  5. Street Survivors - 1977


Lives and Videos

Reunited Lineup

Studio albums

  1. Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 - 1991
  2. The Last Rebel - 1993
  3. Endangered Species - 1994
  4. Twenty - 1997
  5. Edge Of Forever - 1999
  6. Christmas Time Again - 2000
  7. Vicious Cycle - 2003


Lives and Videos


Shade Tree Records

  • 1968 "Need All My Friends"
  • 1971 "I've Been Your Fool"

MCA Records

  • 1973 "Free Bird"
  • 1973 "Gimme Three Steps"
  • 1974 "Don't Ask Me No Questions"
  • 1974 "Sweet Home Alabama" #8 US
  • 1975 "Free Bird" reissue, #19 US
  • 1975 "Saturday Night Special" #27 US
  • 1976 "Double Trouble" #80 US
  • 1976 "Gimme Back My Bullets"
  • 1977 "Free Bird (Live)" #38 US
  • 1977 "What's Your Name" #13 US
  • 1977 "You Got That Right"
  • 1978 "That Smell"
  • 1978 "Down South Jukin'"
  • 1978 "When You Got Good Friends"

See also

External links

he:לינרד סקינרד


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools