With only six albums Lynyrd Skynyrd became the most successful southern rock band of all time. They have an unmistakable sound, with some of the most loyal fans there legacy will never be forgotten . The current lineup consist of only two original members Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, and Ronnie VanZants Brother Johnny VanZant. But here is how it all happened.
It all started in 1964 Jacksonville, Florida the leader of the soon to be group was Ronnie Van Zant who was born January 15, 1948. Ronnies first love was baseball he played center field and he had the highest batting average on his semi pro team. But he always had a passion for music influenced by many but his favorite of all-time was Merle Haggard. At the age of 16 he joined a band called Us, but it wasn't to his liking so he started his own band called My Backyard. The band consisted of Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns, And Larry Junstrom. Gary Rossington born December 4, 1951 was on guitar, Allen Collins born July 19,1952 was also on guitar, Bob Burns birth unknown played drums, Larry Junstrom birth unknown played bass. They later changed the name to Noble Five they were getting small gigs at night clubs and dance for little if any money. While performing under the name Noble Five the often got into fights with bar managers and people that wasn't into there music and would be banned from many of the clubs. So that they could still get gigs they would change name almost every night, and one night they called there self Leonard Skinner after there strict gym coach who would suspend them for having long hair. Which they soon grew tired of and they all followed Ronnie VanZant out of the school and dropped out.
They were unemployed and penniless, but they were practicing more than ever, which lead to the offer of opening for Strawberry Alarm Clock. Under there new manager Alan Walden they recorded a demo in Muscle Shoals Alabama. They still having trouble getting a record deal then producer Jimmy Johnson heard the tapes and agreed to produce there album, but it did not work out as they hoped. Still not having there big break they went back on the road to bars and fairs. They started to make changes in the the band. In 1972 they were asked to perform at Bolles school prom, while setting up the gear there long time roadie Billy Powell played his version of Freebird for Ronnie Van Zant. Then Ronnie told the band we need a keyboard play they agreed and ask Billy Powell who was born June 3,1952 Corpus Christi Texas and he agreed. They replaced Larry Junstrom with a young bass player named Leon Wilkeson . Leon was born April 2, 1954 in Jacksonville Florida was only 14 when he was asked by ronnies sister to join his then band, but due to school problems he had to quit. Then in the early 70s he heard that Lynyrd Skynyrd was without a bass player and he soon got the job.
Then soon after they caught the eye of Al Kooper and got singed to a MCA subsidiary Sounds of the South. Which all of the members were exited except bassist Leon Wilkeson , and he decided that hey was to young for life on the road. The Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King born September 14, 1949 in Glendal, California, he was signed on to play bass and recorded the bass for there first album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd. Shortly after the album was completed Leon Wilkeson was having second thoughts, and asked Ronnie if he could return and play bass he gladly agreed. Ed King was then asked to play a third guitar along with Gary and Allen.
The pronounced was released in 1973 Gimme Three Steps Simple Man Tuesdays Gone are some of the notable songs of that album. Lets not forget the anthem to the 70s Free Bird the guitar hero song is one of there most known song, and it reached 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. They were asked to open for The Who during there American Quadrophenia tour, which made there fan base much bigger.
There next album Second Helping was released 1974, some notable songs on that record the Ballad Of Curtis Lowe Workin' For MCA and there most notable and there most controversial song Sweet Home Alabama. It was the answer to Neil Young's Southern Man in the song Ronnie sings Well, I hope Neil Young will remember a southern man don't need him around anyhow. Most think they hated one another, but on hearing the song Neil set Ronnie a message praising the song. The song reached 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album reached 12 on the Billboard Album charts and soon went multi-platinum.
In the late 74'Al Kooper sold Skynyrd contract to MCA , soon after they finished there European tour MCA pressured them to start on there third album. Unlike there previous gold selling album Second Helping they had no songs written except Saturday Night Special which was use for the Soundtrack of the Longest Yard. When it came time to record the album Bob Burns was replaced with Artimus Pyle born July 15, 1948 in Louisville, Kentucky.The rest of the album had to be written in the studio, and they had to stay in the studio all most 24/7. They eventually finished there third album Nuthin' Fancy, some of the notable songs are Saturday Night Special I'm I Losin' On The Hunt. Am I Losin was inspired by a visit to Elvis's Graceland Elvis sent them a dozen roses , and they went to thank him he was playing Vegas. But Gary played guitar with Elvis's uncle and played the chords then wrote it at the studio. Made In The Shade was a tribute to Shorty Medlocke who once told Ronnie don't ever quit and you'll have it made in the shade. The album mostly known for it back cover when Billy Powell fliped off the camera. It peaked at 9 on the Billboard Album charts.
During the Torture Tour 75 Ed King could not continue so he quit in the middle. Gimme Back My Bullets was released 1976 which was originally going to be called Ain't No Dowd About It in tribute to there producer Tom Dowd. Some of the notable song were Gimme Back My Bullets Double Trouble and Cry For The Bad Man. It was there only studio album not to go platinum. To make some changes Ronnie decided they needed a backup singers so they hired The Honkettes.
Skynyrd was looking for a third guitarist when Cassie Gaines member of there backup group The Honkettes she convinced them to let her brother try out. They finally agreed thinking nothing would come of it she told her brother to meet them in Kansas City so he could join them on stage for one song. Gary told the crew if he sounded bad just unplug him he came on stage and played T Is For Texas it turns out he didn't sound bad and they soon hired him. Steve Gaines was born September 14, 1949 in Miami, Oklahoma.
A month later they recorded One More For The Road there live album many people say that it was the best live album ever. While preparing for there tour both founding guitarist had some auto accidents. Allen Collins hit a parked car sending it across the parking lot. Gary Rossington past-out in his car while driving then knocked down a telephone pole, hit a oak tree, and wrecked into a house causing $7,000 in damage. Causing Ronnie to make the strict no drugs rule, and he stopped drinking because he said I've got a baby girl and I plan to stick around and watch her grow up.
In 1977 the final Skynyrd album Street Survivors was released some of the notable songs on this album are "What's Your Name, "You Got That Right" and "That Smell". "That Smell" was a morbid take on the string of car wrecks he felt things were going wrong for them. The song mainly written about Gary the lyrics go Whiskey bottles, brand new cars oak tree your in my way.
Just three days after Street Survivors was released on October 20, 1977 there airplane crashed into the swamps of Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and Dean Kilpatrick there road manager were all killed. In most peoples mind it was the worst day in music history. The rest of the band who was critically injured agreed to disband Lynyrd Skynyrd. The surviving members later started The Rossington-Collins Band. In 1987 they had a reunion with Ronnie's Brother Johnny Van Zant.
Nothing will ever compare to the classic line up but Skynyrd is still touring, and rocking and they will forever.
R.I.P : Ronnie Van Zant Steve Gaines Cassie Gaines Allen Collins Leon Wilkeson they will never be forgotten.