well, this is my tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd...the best band of all times...
Southern by the Grace of God
In the Summer of 1964, a group of young teenage boys were playing
baseball together. From this sprang one of the most legendary, influential
bands in rock history. One day, a group of boys were playing baseball. A
young Ronnie Van Zant was dreaming of a pro-ball career as a
center-fielder. He made it as far as the American Legion team, the next
step would have been AA, or minor league ball!! Gary Rossington, the
chubby little second baseman was also looking forward to a career in
pro-ball. He dreamt of being a New York Yankee. Allen Collins, however,
always dreamed of being a rock star. He began his amazing guitar skills
with his step-mother who taught him a few chords, but otherwise, he was
self-taught. In my opinion, he was the best guitarist of all times,
especially with the guitar solo in Freebird. Gary Rossington was also an
extremely good guitarist (which can also be proven by listening to
Ronnieís singing career began as a young child when he and his
brothers sang in the bathtub. He also learned to play the piano and
guitar. Gary learned his guitar skills by watching bands play on
television. His first attempt at this was by watching The Rolling Stones on
television. He, just like Allen, was also self-taught.
The band was originally called My Backyard. It was then changed
to The Noble Five. Ronnie also stated that they were more influenced by
the British Invasion, not Southern Rock bands (which was an image made
up by the record companies, but they kept it anyhow.) Skynyrd had never
originally intended to become Southern Rock icons.
The original Skynyrd line-up consisted of Ronnie Van Zant, Gary
Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns (drummer), and Larry Junstrom.
They practiced at whomeverís mother would let them, usually Bobís. Their
first gig was at Ronnieís brother-in-lawís part-storeís Christmas party.
They were paid ten dollars, but each paid a quarter for gas. This left them
with a grand total of $1.75 per person!! This, however, happened in
December of 1964, not long after they began playing together.
After this performance, they began to get more and more gigs. They
played everywhere from teen parties, to church socials!! Their name also
changed many times, most usually lasting only a day or two. The longest
one before Lynyrd Skynyrd was One Percent. They got this name from
watching a movie about the Hellís Angels, and their motto was "One
percent of the world is bikers."
During these early years, the boys met people who would be very
important later in the careers of Lynyrd Skynyrd such as Billy Powell, and
Ronnieís future wife, Judy.
Judy remembers meeting Ronnie in 1969 through Gary when the
band was still known as One Percent. The couple were married two years
While the boys were in high school, they went through alot of trouble
trying to be like their British role-models. They grew their hair out long,
which then was only about to their eyebrows. Allen hated his father for
years because his father took him to get a haircut one day after a
complaint from the school. The other boys went to a different school from
Allen. Gary was consistently plagued by one certain coach Leonard
Skinner, whom gave him numerous detentions for his hair being long.
After so many of these problems, Gary simply dropped out of school. One
night soon after, Ronnie jokingly said they were changing the name of the
band from One Percent to Leonard Skinner, and asked for audience
approval. Since many of them went to school with them, they all cheered,
so the name was changed. They later changed it to Lynard Skynard so
they could not get in trouble, and later settled on Lynyrd Skynyrd. My
little FYI, I think I may be related to Coach Skinner because my uncle (by
marriage) is from Florida, and his last name is Skinner. I tried to get to
him to ask him, but him and my aunt live in Montana, and I never get to
talk to them, but Iím going to write him a letter, so Iíll let you know when
I find out.
Now that we have a little background on the band as a whole, letís
look at the most important (in my opinion) founding father, Ronnie Van
Ronnie was born to Lacy and Marion Van Zant on January 15,
1948. He grew up in a tough home, on a tough street, in a tough part of
Jacksonville, Florida. He, however, held his own and was very often the
boy on the baseball or football field that was beating on everyone else.
Ronnie also loved to fish. He always came back from his tours, then went
fishing after Skynyrd became famous.
Even though Ronnie came across as rough, he was a very kind,
compassionate man. He would always run out to greet Allen Collinsí
mother with a hug and a kiss on the cheek when she would come home
after her job, during which she let the boys practice in her living room.
Ronnie and Judy Seymour were married on November 18, 1972 in
Georgia. Not only had Ronnie gotten married, but so had many of the
other members. They knew they had to make it big soon, or give up their
dream so they could support their families. Their dream finally became a
reality in 1973 when they were found by Al Kooper, a well-known
record-scout. They produced the album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd
which contained many of their most famous hits, "Gimme Three Steps",
"Simple Man", and the rock anthem for their generation, this generation,
and many generations to come, the most extraordinary example of guitar
handling, the ever-popular, "Freebird."
In 1976, after a few years of fame, Ronnie began to re-evaluate his
priorities as his health worsened because of the grueling touring and his
daughter, Melody, was born. He also wrote some very good songs, and
these were released on the album "Street Survivors."
On October 20, 1977, all of the hopes and dreams of Lynyrd Skynyrd
were shattered in one brief moment. The small twin engine plane the band
was taking to their next show had been having engine problems. The
majority of the band didnít want to board, but Ronnie said: "If itís your
time to go, youíre gonna go." and boarded the plane. The rest of the band
followed their fearless leader while their families anxiously watched and
The ride was going fairly smoothly, and the guys had settled into
their normal in-flight routine, playing poker. All of the sudden, one of the
engines went out. The pilot panicked and tried to change the remaining
fuel to the remaining engine. In his panic, however, he ended up dumping
the fuel. Moments later silence was heard. The rush of the wind was
outside. They were going to crash.
The pilot tried a belly landing in a swamp in Mississippi, but it was
to no avail. As the plane hit the ground, it was broken into three pieces:
the wing, fuselage, and pilotís cabin. The passengers were violently
thrown from their seats. Killed on impact were: the pilot and co-pilot,
guitarist Steve Gaines, manager Dean Kilpatrick, and Ronnie Van Zant.
Artemis Pyle, drummer, was hurt badly, his ribs were sticking out of his
skin, but he ran to get help through two miles of swamp muck and
returned back to be with his friends. As it grew darker, the time grew
shorter. Artemis and pianist, Billy Powell, held Cassie Gaines, Steveís older
sister, in their arms while she pleaded with them "Please donít let me die.
I donít want to die." Finally, her time ran out, as she gurgled blood from
a slit in her throat, the back-up singer died in the arms of her friends.
The remaining members had long stays in the hospital. Billy was a
sort of hospital reporter, giving updates on his friends as he sat in the
hospital with stitches in his face. Leon Wilkenson, bassist, received
immediate amnesia after the wreck, which he still cannot remember. Allen
Collins had a cracked neck, and Gary Rossington had many internal
injuries as well as many broken bones.
The nation mourned the death of the Southern rock icon who will live
on forever in the hearts of Skynyrd fans everywhere. Ronnie, however,
would not have been surprised by his death. He frequently commented to
his friends and family that he would not live to see thirty. To Artemis Pyle
while on tour in Tokyo: "I know I wonít live to see thirty, and Iím going
out with my boots on." (which means on the road.) His horrifying
prophecy came true that fateful day, and put a great halt on the huge
rock-phenomenon which was reaching amazing heights.
The fate of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band was dangling precariously in
the air. In 1979, however, they decided to try it again, and played a
tribute to their fallen bandmates. Although some of them were still
stiff-fingered from the crash, making it hard to play, they performed an
instrumental version of "Freebird." In the middle of the stage, where
Ronnie used to sing, there was an empty microphone in his honor. At one
point during the performance, one of the lighting technicians placed an
empty spotlight on it. The entire audience was in tears.
After this performance, the band realized they still had the support of
their loyal fans. They decided to try it again, but who would be their
leader? They knew that anyone who was chosen would be unfairly
compared to their fallen friend, but they had to look no farther than the
house where it all began.
Johnny Van Zant, only sixteen when the older brother he idolized
was killed, not only resembled big brother Ronnie, but also sounded like
him! He became the new singer in the band his older brother helped to
create and nourish.
Tragedy struck the band once again when another founding member
was taken from them. Allen Collins had become very depressed after his
wife died in 1980 from complications during the birth of their third child.
He never fully recovered. One day, in 1986, he was driving drunk and fast
with his girlfriend, and got in an accident. His girlfriend was killed, and
he was paralyzed. Allen had always had a problem with drinking and
driving (which was the basis of the song "That Smell".) When the newly
re-incarnated Lynyrd Skynyrd, complete with Johnny as the front man,
took the stage without him, Allen was devastated because he was not out
there with them. He took the stage in his wheelchair, wishing his former
bandmates well, and warned the audience about his drunken driving by
introducing "That Smell."
In 1989 Allen developed pneumonia due to lung problems caused by
his being paralyzed. On January 23, 1990, he died, taking another
founding father away from the fans.
The new Skynyrd has made progress in these painful years. They
have released new music, new albums, and have a new image, clean from
the vices that used to plague them. Johnny even got to do something he
had never been able to do. With digital re-masterization, Johnny sang
along with Ronnie to "Traveliní Man" on the album Twenty which
commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the plane crash.
Skynyrd is still going strong. They were inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame. The documentary Freebird: The Movie debuted there.
It shows Skynyrd performances at their finest and also gives glimpses into
the band by the band members. Ronnie asked the question : "If I leave here
tomorrow, will you still remember me?" and the world answered him with
a resounding YES!!! Lynyrd Skynyrd was, is, and always will be one of
the most remembered, well-loved bands of all times.
My Skynyrd Links
here is a really kewl Skynyrd site....
this one is Skynyrd and Zeppelin