Wikipedia: Lynyrd Skynyrd — Jacksonville’s Lynyrd Skynyrd releases album, ‘God & Guns’ — You Tube Videos: God And Guns — Simple Man — Free Bird — Sweet Home Alabama (1977)
Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced /ˌlɛnərd ˈskɪnərd/ LEN-ərd-SKIN-ərd) is an American rock band, formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. The band became prominent in the Southern United States in 1973, and rose to worldwide recognition before several members died in an airplane crash in 1977, including lead vocalist and primary songwriter Ronnie Van Zant. The band reformed in 1987 for a reunion tour with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant as the frontman and continues to record music today. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006.
Band confronts some hot-button issues with its latest album.
Lynyrd Skynyrd gets right to it with the title track of their new album:
“God & guns keep us strong
it’s what our country was founded on
we might as well give up and run
if we let them take our God & guns.”
“God & Guns,” the band’s first studio album of new material since 2003’s “Vicious Cycle,” comes out Tuesday. And there’s no escaping the two hot-button issues there in the title. Whether you see it as standing up for something red, white and true or obvious pandering to the most reactionary conservative fans probably just depends on where you’re coming from.
For lead singer Johnny Van Zant, it’s just the way things are.
“That’s what this country was founded on,” he said by phone on tour in California. “We wouldn’t have a country without God and guns. We’re not promoting guns. If you’re a criminal, you shouldn’t have one. If you’re a knucklehead, you shouldn’t have one.
“When we’re on the road, we watch a lot of CNN. And they were talking about putting [out] a superintendent for letting kids pray. I mean, is this America?”
But does he really think anybody’s out to take either one?
“Well, if you do this, it leads to that,” he said. “I just don’t think America was built that way. Not everybody will agree with us, some will call us radicals. But you know what they say about opinions.”
Van Zant said it’s not as far from the sentiments of his brother Ronnie’s song “Saturday Night Special,” with the lyrics “Hand guns are made for killin’/Aint no good for nothin else … So why don’t we dump ’em people/To the bottom of the sea.”
“Handguns are made for killing,” he said. “I don’t have any, but I’ve got a lot of shotguns. I’m kind of a collector. If someone breaks into my house, I don’t want to miss.”…]
LuckyBogey Comment: I currently do not own any shotguns, however I don’t usually miss! Must run in the family using those Whitworth rifles during the American Civil War although I suspect these marksman skills most likely were inherited from my Irish ancestors fighting Cromwell in Kilkenny.
Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.
Take your time… Don’t live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you’ll find love,
And don’t forget son,
There is someone up above.
Gary Rossington – Ronnie VanZant
In the summer of 1964, teenage friends Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington, formed the band “The Noble Five”, which then changed in 1965 to “My Backyard”, when Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns joined in Jacksonville, Florida. Their early influences included British Invasion bands such as Free, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles, as well as Southern blues and country & western music. In 1968, the group won a local Battle of the Bands contest and the opening slot on several Southeast shows for the California-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.
In 1970, roadie Billy Powell became the keyboardist for the band, and Van Zant sought a new name. “One Percent” and “The Noble Five” were each considered before the group settled on Leonard Skinnerd, a mocking tribute to a physical-education teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for strictly enforcing the school’s policy against boys having long hair. The more distinctive spelling was adopted before they released their first album. Despite their high school acrimony, the band developed a more friendly relationship with Skinner in later years, and invited him to introduce them at a concert in the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.
The band 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 Larry Junstrom on bass, but left just before the band was to record its first album (Wilkeson rejoined the band shortly thereafter at Van Zant’s invitation). Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King filled in as bass player, later switching to guitar after the album’s release, allowing the band to replicate the three-guitar mix used in the studio.
In 1970, the band auditioned for Alan Walden, who would later become their manager on the newly formed Hustler’s Inc. Walden worked with the band until 1974, when management was turned over to Pete Rudge.
If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelling on, now,
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can’t change.
Allen Collins – Ronnie VanZant
Peak years (1973–1977)
In 1972 the band was discovered by musician, songwriter, and producer Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, who had attended one of their shows at a club in Atlanta. They changed the spelling of their name to “Lynyrd Skynyrd”, (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd) and Kooper signed them to MCA Records, producing their first album “Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd“. Released January 1st, 1973, the album featured the hit song “Free Bird“, which received national airplay, eventually reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and is still considered a rock and roll anthem today.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fan base continued to grow rapidly throughout 1973, largely due to their opening slot on The Who‘s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their 1974 follow-up, Second Helping, was the band’s breakthrough hit, and featured their most popular single, “Sweet Home Alabama” (#8 on the charts in August 1974), a response to Neil Young‘s “Alabama” and “Southern Man.” (Young and Van Zant were not rivals, but fans of each other’s music and good friends; Young even wrote the song “Powderfinger” for the band, but they never recorded it. Van Zant, meanwhile, can be seen on the cover of Street Survivors wearing a Neil Young t-shirt.) The album reached #12 in 1974, eventually going multi-platinum. In July of that year, Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the headline acts at The Ozark Music Festival at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Missouri.
In 1974, Burns left the band and was replaced by Kentucky native Artimus Pyle on drums. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third album, Nuthin’ Fancy, was released the same year, though guitarist Ed King left midway through the tour. The album has the lowest sales and Kooper was eventually fired. In January 1976, backup singers Leslie Hawkins, Cassie Gaines and JoJo Billingsley (collectively known as The Honkettes) were added to the band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fourth album Gimme Back My Bullets was released in the new year, but did not achieve the same success as the previous two albums. Van Zant and Collins both felt that the band was seriously missing the three-guitar attack that had been one of its early hallmarks. Although Skynyrd auditioned several guitarists, including such high-profile names as Leslie West, the solution was closer than they realized.
Soon after joining Skynyrd, Cassie Gaines began touting the guitar and songwriting prowess of her younger brother, Steve. The junior Gaines, who led his own band, Crawdad (which occasionally would perform Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special” in their set), was invited to audition onstage with Skynyrd at a concert in Kansas City on May 11, 1976. Liking what they heard, the group also jammed informally with the Oklahoma native several times, then invited him into the group in June. With Gaines on board, the newly-reconstituted band recorded the double-live album One More From the Road in Atlanta, Georgia, and performed at the Knebworth festival, which also featured The Rolling Stones.
Both Collins and Rossington had serious car accidents over Labor Day weekend in 1976 which slowed the recording of the follow-up album and forced the band to cancel some concert dates. Rossington’s accident inspired the ominous “That Smell” – a cautionary tale about drug abuse that was clearly aimed towards him and at least one other band member. Rossington has admitted repeatedly that he’s the “Prince Charming” of the song who crashed his car into an oak tree while drunk and stoned on Quaaludes. Van Zant, at least, was making a serious attempt to clean up his act and curtail the cycle of boozed-up brawling that was part of Skynyrd’s reputation.
1977’s Street Survivors turned out to be a showcase for guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, who had joined the band just a year earlier and was making his studio debut with them. Publicly and privately, Ronnie Van Zant marveled at the multiple talents of Skynyrd’s newest member, claiming that the band would “all be in his shadow one day.” Gaines’ contributions included his co-lead vocal with Van Zant on the co-written “You Got That Right” and the rousing guitar boogie “I Know A Little” which he had written before he joined Skynyrd. So confident was Skynyrd’s leader of Gaines’ abilities that the album (and some concerts) featured Gaines delivering his self-penned bluesy “Ain’t No Good Life” – the only song in the pre-crash Skynyrd catalog to feature a lead vocalist other than Ronnie Van Zant. The album also included the hit singles “What’s Your Name” and “That Smell”. The band was poised for their biggest tour yet, including fulfilling Van Zant’s lifelong dream of headlining New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the Southland
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think its a sin, yes
Well I heard mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Ed King – Ronnie VanZant – Gary Rossington
Plane crash (1977)
On Thursday, October 20, 1977, just three days after the release of Street Survivors, and five shows into their most successful headlining tour to date, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered Convair 240 ran out of fuel near the end of their flight from Greenville, South Carolina, where they had just performed at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, to LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Though the pilots attempted an emergency landing on a small airstrip, the plane crashed in a forest in Gillsburg, Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray were all killed on impact; the other bandmembers suffered serious injuries.
Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the tragedy, reuniting just once to perform an instrumental version of “Free Bird” at Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam in January 1979. Collins, Rossington, Powell and Pyle performed the song with Charlie Daniels and members of his band. Leon Wilkeson, who was still undergoing physical therapy for his badly broken left arm, was in attendance, along with Judy Van Zant, Teresa Gaines, JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins.
Rossington, Collins, Wilkeson and Powell formed The Rossington-Collins Band, which released two albums between 1980 and 1982. Deliberately avoiding comparisons with Ronnie Van Zant as well as suggestions that this band was Lynyrd Skynyrd reborn, Rossington and Collins chose a woman, Dale Krantz, as lead vocalist. However, as an acknowledgment of their past, the band’s concert encore would always be an instrumental version of “Free Bird.” Rossington and Collins eventually had a falling out over the affections of Dale Krantz, whom Rossington married and with whom he formed the Rossington Band, which released two albums in the late 1980s and opened for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987-1988.
The other former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd continued to make music during the hiatus era. Billy Powell played keyboards in a Christian Rock band named Vision, touring with established Christian rocker Mylon LeFevre (who, like Skynyrd, had once opened for The Who). During Vision concerts, Powell’s trademark keyboard talent was often spotlighted and he spoke about his conversion to Christianity after the near-fatal plane crash. Pyle formed The Artimus Pyle Band in 1982, which occasionally featured former Honkettes JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins.
In 1980 Allen Collins’ wife Kathy died of a massive hemorrhage while miscarrying their third child. He formed the Allen Collins Band in 1983 from the remnants of the Rossington-Collins Band, releasing one tepidly-received album, but many around him believed that the guitarist’s heart just wasn’t in it anymore. Most point to his wife’s death as the moment that Collins’ life began to spin out of control; he spent several years bingeing on drugs and alcohol. In 1986 Collins crashed his car while driving drunk near his home in Jacksonville, killing his girlfriend and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the chest down. Collins eventually pled no contest to DUI manslaughter, but was not given a prison sentence since his injuries made it obvious that he would never drive or be a danger to society again.
|1973||(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)||2x platinum (USA)|
|1974||Second Helping||2x platinum (USA)|
|1975||Nuthin’ Fancy||Platinum (USA)|
|1976||Gimme Back My Bullets||Gold (USA)|
|1977||Street Survivors||2x platinum (USA)|
|1991||Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991||—|
|1993||The Last Rebel||—|
|1999||Edge of Forever||—|
|2000||Christmas Time Again||—|
|2009||God & Guns||—|
- “Band Name Origins“. Digital Dream Door. http://digitaldreamdoor.com/pages/music0_name.html. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Brant, Marley (2002). Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story. Billboard Books. p. 256. ISBN 0-8230-8321-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=mQO9RghlcZoC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Freebirds:+The+Lynyrd+Skynyrd+Story#PPA11,M1. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- Check-Six (2007-05). “The ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’ Crash“. http://www.check-six.com/Crash_Sites/LynyrdSkynyrd-N55VM.htm. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
- Cox, Billy (2006-06-02). “Skynyrd Namesake in Brevard“. Florida Today. http://lynyrdskynyrddixie.com/2006/06/02/skynyrd-namesake-in-brevard/. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
- Davis, Stephen (1997). Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. HarperCollins. p. 304. ISBN 0-380-97594-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=k3xeHAAACAAJ&dq=Walk+This+Way:+The+Autobiography+of+Aerosmith. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- “Freebird Live – Premier Live Concert Venue – Jacksonville Beach, FL – Home Page“. http://www.freebirdlive.com. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
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- Kirkland, Kay. (2008-06-08). “111,000 jam at Bama Jam with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Jr.“. Southeast Sun. http://www.zwire.com/news/newsstory.cfm?newsid=19755979&title=111%2C000%20jam%20at%20Bama%20Jam%20with%20Lynryd%20Skynyrd%2C%20Hank%20Jr.&BRD=1145&PAG=461&CATNAME=Top%20Stories&CATEGORYID=410. Retrieved 2008-07-07.
- “Robert E. Lee High School History“. http://www.dreamsbeginhere.org/lee/history.html.
- Odom, Gene, with Frank Dorman. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock. Broadway Books. ISBN 0767910265.
- Simmons, Sylvie. Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass. Canongate Books. p. 240. ISBN 1841953172. http://books.google.com/books?id=uEOM7-oX-K0C&pg=PA114&lpg=PA135&dq=Neil+Young:+Reflections+in+Broken+Glass+%2B135&source=bl&ots=_34hzNrriF&sig=I8Z-3gXCnGSCSyG4sEQuG90J290&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPA135,M1. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- “Skynyrd History Lessons – Name Changes and Ten Dollar Gigs“. The Official Lynyrd Skynyrd History Website. http://www.lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com/less2.html. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- “The Immortals: The First Fifty“. Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/5939214/the_immortals_the_first_fifty. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- “The Original Lynyrd Skynyrd Band“. Lynyrd Skynyrd History. Judy VanZant Jenness. http://www.lynyrdskynyrdhistory.com/index.html. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- “U.S. Certifications“. Recording Industry Association of America. http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?table=SEARCH_RESULTS. Retrieved 2008-10-18.
- U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (1978-06-19). “Aircraft Accident Report – L & J Company, Convair 240, N55VM, Gillsburg, Mississippi, October 20, 1977” (PDF). National Technical Information Service. pp. 23. http://amelia.db.erau.edu/reports/ntsb/aar/AAR78-06.pdf. Retrieved 2008-07-05.
Wiki Related Links:
- Official Lynyrd Skynyrd website
- Official Lynyrd Skynyrd History site
- Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young: Friends or Foes?
- Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash
- Wall Street Journal: Rock’s Oldest Joke: Yelling “Free Bird!” In a Crowded Theater
- Lost Demos And Rehearsals (1970-1976) audio file. Running time 36:29. Sugarmegs collection, The Internet Archive, public domain.
- Works by or about Lynyrd Skynyrd in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Internet Movie Database