“You boys ain’t never gonna amount to nothin’” - Leonard Skinner
With influences ranging from the “British Invasion” through to Country & Western and (most importantly) Southern blues, Lynyrd Skynyrd were formed in 1964. Based in Jacksonville, Florida and consisting of Ronnie Van Zant (vocalist), Allen Collins (guitarist), Gary Rossington (guitarist), Larry Junstrom (bassist), and Bob Burns (drummer) the group played across the area juggling with a number of group names.
Their first success came when they won a local Battle of the Bands contest, in 1968, and resulted in them entering the recording studio for the first time recording “Need All My Friends” and “Michelle”. The band’s live performances also gained them further audiences as they supported Strawberry Alarm Clock at a number of shows.
It was the early 70s however when the group started to motor to the top. With constant rehearsals in 1970 and the addition of keyboards the playing got tighter and the group finally settled, after several alternate spellings, on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd (in “tribute” to the gym coach Leonard Skinner who ran a tight ship at Robert E. Lee High). This was followed by a period of constant gigging at which they refined their music and style. The final piece of the classic jigsaw fell into place when personnel changes resulted in the group performing with three guitarists – the sound and image for which they would become famous had been born.
Signed to MCA in 1972 the group released their first album the following year “Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd”. The key track on the album was the classic “Free Bird” that hit the national charts and announced the group’s intentions. Their status was confirmed when they opened for The Who on the US leg of their Quadrophenia tour, support for the group was such that at one memorable concert in California The Who wouldn’t take to the stage because the audience were calling for Lynyrd Skynyrd to play more.
Their second album “Second Helping” was released in 1974 and contained another classic “Sweet Home Alabama”. This was their break onto the world stage, the single reached number 8 on the charts, the album eventually went multi platinum and the group became hot property. The following years were to see them play in the UK alongside Golden Earring and the Rolling Stones.
Their third studio release didn’t fair as well as the previous two but live they were still packing in the audiences and in 1976 their triple guitar founded performance could be heard by everyone on their hit live album “One More From The Road”.
Their following release, in 1977, “Street Survivors” was overshadowed by the tragedy that followed three days after its release. Flying between shows the band’s plane crashed killing, amongst others, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines (guitar) and Cassie Gaines (vocals), while many of the others received serious injuries. The band disbanded after the crash before being resurrected, in tribute, ten years later with Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant taking on the role of lead vocals.