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Lynyrd Skynyrd

(1964-)
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Ronnie Van Zant (vocals) 1966-1977
Gary Rossington (guitar)
Allen Collins (guitar) 1966-1977
Bob Burns (drums) 1966-1975
Leon Wilkeson (bass) 1966-2001
Artimus Pyle (drums) 1975-1992
Steve Gaines (guitar) 1975-1977
Ed King (guitar) 1973-1975, 1987-1995
Johnny Van Zant (vocals) 1987-
Dale Krantz-Rossington (backup vocals) 1991-
Randall Hall (guitar) 1987 - 1995
Billy Powell (keyboards) 1970-2009
Ean Evans (bass) 2001-
Michael Cartellone (drums) 1998-
Rickey Medlocke (guitar) 1971-1971, 1996-
Hughie Thomasson (guitar) 1996-2005

Artistfacts®:  You can leave comments about the artist/band at the bottom of the page.

The members of the band all went to school together in Jacksonville, Florida. They had a teacher called Leonard Skinner who demanded that they get their hair cut before returning to school. This was the catalyst for them to not only leave school permanently and form a band but also to name the band after Skinner (with a few letters changed so he wouldn't sue them).
Skinner died on September 21, 2010 at age 77. Gary Rossington released a statement saying: "Coach Skinner had such a profound impact on our youth that ultimately led us to naming the band, which you know as Lynyrd Skynyrd, after him. Looking back, I cannot imagine it any other way. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time." (thanks, John Oakley - Tauranga, New Zealand)
On October 20, 1977, Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines died in a plane crash in Mississippi. Gaines' sister, Cassie, who was a backup singer with the group, also died. Walter Wiley McCreary (pilot) William John Gray (co-pliot), Dean Kilpatrick (manager) were also killed in the accident. We have the full aircraft accident report, which explains the probable cause of the crash, available for download here. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Johnny Van Zant took over vocals when his brother died. Their other brother, Donnie is lead singer of .38 Special.
Allen Collins survived the 1977 plane crash, but became paralyzed from the waist down in a 1986 car crash (a girl he was with died in the accident). He died January 23, 1990 from pneumonia as a result of decreased lung capacity from paralyzation. (thanks, Junius - Lake Charles, LA)
Wilkeson died in his sleep in 2001 at age 49. The band continued their tour as a tribute to him.
King and his replacement, Steve Gaines, were both born on the same day, September 14, 1949.
Ronnie Van Zant, Collins, and Rossington all played together in high school in several different bands. Names included: Sons of Satan, Conqueror Worm, and One Per Cent.
After the plane crash, the remaining members said that Lynyrd Skynyrd was finished, with Collins stating, "Some people are telling us we should keep the name because it obviously has value since people recognize it. To hell with them. In 1980, Rossington, Collins, Powell, and Wilkeson formed the Rossington-Collins Band, but they later decided to revive Lynyrd Skynyd with the addition of Johnny Van Zant.
Van Zant's marble slab from his gravesite was stolen in 1982. Police found it two weeks later in a dried up river bed.
They played schools, parties, and bars for years before they hit it big. The band was first discovered in a rock club called Funnochio's, on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1972. They were found by the famous (or perhaps infamous) Al Kooper, who had just landed an executive position at MCA Records and was itching to find some new talent for MCA's "Sounds of the South" label. Kooper was on tour supporting Badfinger at the time.

Other acts Kooper signed included Mose Jones and Blues Project, but Skynyrd was the only band to sell well, and MCA dropped Sounds Of The South while keeping Skynyrd.
Al Kooper told Rolling Stone magazine, April 15, 2004: "Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't mean to demean the roles the others played in the group's success, but it never would have happened without him. His lyrics were a big part of it - like Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard before him, Ronnie knew how to cut to the chase. And Ronnie ran that band with an iron hand. I have never seen such internal discipline in a band. One example: These guys composed all of their guitar solos. Most bands improvised solos each time they performed or recorded. Not them. Ronnie's dream was that they would sound exactly the same every time they took the stage." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)
Rossington, Burns and Ronnie Van Zant met at a Little League game. Van Zant hit a line drive off Burns' head, but after the game they got together and formed a band.
They pride themselves on writing songs that are easy to understand.
On many of their songs, all 3 guitarists play at once.
Ronnie Van Zant wrote most of their lyrics, but usually didn't write them down. He would come to the studio with them in his head.
The band formed in 1964 and settled upon the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1966. Their very first band name was "My Backyard." The band at this time consisted of Ronnie Van Zant, Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Larry Junstrum. (thanks, Jayson - Atlanta, GA)
Lynyrd Skynyrd put the "Y"s in their name in reference to The Byrds. (thanks, Harrison - Saint John, Canada)
Lynyrd Skynyrd are in the Guiness Book of World Records for a Rock band which is still going while having the most original members to die. The plane crash that killed so many also killed one of their managers. The total dead is five. (thanks, Matthew - Nr London, England)
In one of the oddest pairings since Jimi Hendrix played with The Monkees, they played 4 shows in Germany with Queen in 1971. The groups did not get along.
The initial recordings for their first album began in 1972 at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but the original album did not receive much attention and the band continued to play concerts around the South and add tracks to the album. By the time it was released, 20 tracks had been recorded for the debut. Some of these tracks were refined later and selected for other albums. Skynyrd's First... The Complete Muscle Shoals Album captures all of these recordings in one album.
Ronnie Van Zant didn't wear shoes when performing live. (thanks, Aaron - Twin Cities, MN, for above 2)
The bodies of Ronnie Van Zant and another Skynyrd band member were illegally removed from their graves by vandals, apparently to confirm the rumor that Ronnie is wearing a T-shirt featuring rival Neil Young. Their bodies have been moved to an undisclosed location. (thanks, Conor - San Luis Obispo, CA)
It took them 7 tries to get into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In 2005, they were finally voted in. At the ceremonies in 2006, Kid Rock was their presenter.
Billy Powell, who was one of the survivors of the 1977 plane crash, died on January 28, 2009 after a history of heart trouble. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
None of the band members were wearing shoes at the time of their 1977 planecrash. (thanks, joseph - Angier, ND)
On their very first national tour, they opened for the Who. And got encores.

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Comments:

I have nothing against Johnny Van Zant. I think he's a terrific vocalist. It's just that the true Skynyrd fans know that the spirit of Skynyrd died with Ronnie. Even Skynyrd see themselves as a tribute act to Ronnie these days. As for "Sweet Home Alabama", they wrote that as a joke. There was NEVER a rivalry between Young and Skynyrd. If you listen carefully to "Sweet Home Alabama", where they make references to George Wallace, there's a "boo-hoo-hoo" line that makes clear that not all white Southerners approved of George Wallace's views.
- Dana, Woodbury, MN, MN
To the young one above UCSB I was there.
Jefferson Starship, LYNARD SKYNRD, Heart
Unbelievable! I had these guys at every party I went to.
Then they came in person to SANTA BARBARA on a
Saturday, 12 noon October 2 1976. YAAA-HOO
This concert has burned images into my brain. It will
always be one of the best I have gone to. I was 18 and
Graduating high school that year. I hitched hiked there met friends
Hitch hiked home and out ran the cops trying to pick me up.
I think for hitch hiking on the Freeway. Didn’t hang around to find
out. Only to mention I ended up in the Navy and was in the Indian Ocean
Thanks to Dip Sh. Carter screwing things up. I was totally blown away
To learn of there plane crash. My memories will Live! What an Awesome
Concert it was No guns or knives but everything else was a go….. OMG
- jeff, santa barbara, CA
Saw Lynyrd Skynyrd and opening act, Charlie Daniels band at the LeRoy Theater in Pawtucket, RI in 1975 or 76-- I forget?!
My ex wife and and I managed to get back stage passes as we literally almost ran into their bus on route to the concert. I spoke with the bus driver on CD Radio and got them to the concert hall and avoided the back roads. They were happy and gave us back stage passes then, 2nd row seats to see Skynyrd. I will never forge them as being the tightest act I had ever seen. Charlie Daniels also ruled!
- Rich, Providence, RI
Anybody got their sales stats?
- diane, Tuscaloosa, AL
my favorite of lynyrd skynyrd is definatly alan collins! he was the best guitar player i have ever heard and its absolutly crazy how he got through a 9 minute solo everytime they played freebird!!1
- Shannon, Kalkaka, MI
They spelled LYNYRD SKYNYRD this way b/c they thought it would be funny to name the band after their gym teacher Leonard Skinner! I read this in The Defenitive Lynyrd Skynyrd Collection box set! It is green and has a history book inside! Came out in 1991! It has a disc with demo's, a disc with digital remastered song's and a disc with live songs! If you do not have it,get it!
- Jeremy, V-town, GA
I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd in Knoxville,Tn in 1976 and AC/DC opened up for Skynyrd and what a show with Bon Scott and Ronnie Van Zant on the same stage
- jimmy, Knox, TN
What a 3 guitar line up! No other band in history has ever had such hard core explosive energy and talent to draw from like these guys!
And with Ronnie doing vocals,it can't get any better. The original Lynyrd Skynyrds were the world's best rock & roll band to ever exsist!

Early Wynn Salter
- Early, Nashville, TN
i think this band is very inspiring that they have that much rebellion to a teacher. i LOVE it!
- lorelei, ellsworth, ME
These guys rock like no one else. The feeling at their concerts is pure freedom, and pride in the fact that you are an American. Other groups have great shows, but I've never gotten that same feeling of freedom and pride at any other show. Johnny had big shoes to fill and he has never been anything but respectful for his older brother and the legacy he and the rest of the band are carrying on for the members who have passed on. When they play Freebyrd at a concert
the whole place just erupts, and it is an awesome experience to be a part of it.
Vickie, Elkton, VA
- Vickie, Elkton, VA
this is how you spell lynard skynard.
- anthony, nashville, VT
If Ronnie Van Zant, would have never been born, there never would have been "Lynyrd Skynyrd" . He was the greatest writer/singer that ever lived! He will always be remembered. THANK YOU RONNIE 4 YOUR GREAT TALENT!!
- Mike, Jacksonville, FL
What there a backup singer by the name of Debbie or Debra? If so, when was she with Skynyrd? Th
- Becky, Grenada, MS
nick get your head out of your a**.

have you ever even heard johnny sing? i agree he is not as good as ronnie, but he isn't trying to replace him. all he is doing is keeping it alive, besides johnny definitely can sing
- Matt, Cherry Hill, NJ
I Can Tell All Your Skynyrd Fans, That
The Song "Ballad Of Curtis Loew, Is About
Rickey Medlocke's Fahther "Shorty"
You Know The Verse "old Curt was a black man with white curly hair "
I Think It Was Gary Or Johnny Who Said That In A
Interview in 1996 Live From Steeltown, "They Just Colored The Song Up A Bit" Was Their Words! When They Was Teens, Did They Visit "Shorty" And He Played And Sing For Them.
- Roy Steinar, Bergen, Norway
You don't mention Steve Gaines' sister Cassie as a member of the band. She was a back up singer and the whole reason Steve ever joined, she was singing with them and brought him in to audition. Please list her as member she was there from the beginning and died in the plane crash in 1977
- Amy, Oklahoma City, OK
The first time I saw Skynyrd was in the late 60's. They played at my Jr. high dance. I was in the 8th grade attending Jeb Stewart Jr. High School in Jacksonville. Ronnie singing Beatles and Stones songs with Allen and Gary kicking a**.
- Kirk, Jacksonville, United States
What can I say, they were the best!!I watch my Free Bird the movie at least once a week.

Carl,Russellville,Ky.
- Carl, Russellville, KY
Billy Powell was originally a roadie for skynyrd but was discoved to be a trained classical pianist by skynyrd after a gig at a local high school in jacksonville where there was a piano on the stage. after finding out that billy could play,ronnie invited powell to join the band as a key boardest. To this day billy remains a key boardest with the band and is one of the only two original members of Lynyrd Skynyrd!
- kyle, st.louis, MO
I had someone told me several months ago that Lynyrd Skynyrd's keybordist had died, which I am going to assume that it was Billy Powell. Can someone confirm this for me? I can still remember that day when I had heard about the plane crash that claimed the lives of those band members in 1977... it is hard to believe that it was over 29 years ago! I have seen 'Skynyrd in concert twice... Once with Peter Frampton and .38 Special opening the show...how appropriate, and the other time was with Paul Rodgers opening up...that was an odd combination!
- Randy, Colerain Twp., OH
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. (check it out: Ronnie is wearing a Neil Young shirt on the cover of their last album... he frequently wore one while performing, and neil young frequently wore skynyrd shirts) Some fans believe this rumor was the reason the gravesites of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines were broken into on June 29, 2000, in Orange Park, Florida. Others believe that this desecration was motivated by the 1986 Dead Kennedys track ''A Commercial' which mockingly refered to exhuming the bodies of Lynyrd Skynyrd. 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.
The feud with Neil Young is a huge hoax. Honestly.
- keight, York, PA
I saw Skynyrd circa '75-'76 in Santa Barbara, CA (Harder Stadium, @ UCSB), and cannot remember the actual date/year of this show. does anyone out there have this information? it would be greatly appreciated. I was very young, there with my Mom (she worked in the industry, so we had backstage passes), sister (and her loadie friends--she passed out in the bathroom for a bit!)and we had apparently had a recent downpour b/c the football field was full of mucky mud. I have vivid memories of this show (they played with Heart and Jefferson Starship) and would be stoked to put a date on it. I know I was in grammar school, and my sister was in junior high. HELP! ;-)
thanks, Julie
- Julie, Boise, ID
Van Zant and Gaines new graves are in another cemetary in Jacksonville. To dig up these graves, you need a tractor that can lift about 20 tons. Van Zant is in a massive underground vault, which intertwines with Gaines's. Security patrols the area, so nothing happens.

The whole digging up the graves situation is stupid, in my opinion. Do you really think Van Zant's mom or relatives would let Ronnie be buried in a T-Shirt?
- Chris, Mechanicsburg, PA
Ricky Medlocke was drummer for Skynyrd in the very early days when Bob Burns was absent and is featured on the complete muscle shoals album. He also sings two songs; White Dove and Seasons on that CD. I don't really care for these two songs but thought it was a neat fact. Skynyrd rules in my opinion and I hate that Ronnie and Steve and Cassie are no longer with us. We can only imagine what they could have done with the talent of Steve Gaines on deck. Fly High Freebirds!
- Jeanette, McGrady, NC
Yeah The whole Rock n Roll Hall of fame thing is awsome
- Celeste, Northridge, CA
Leonard Skinner made the trip to the R&R Hall of Fame to see the remaining members inducted (his only surviving student was Gary Rossington).
- Kyle, Orlando, FL
I love this band, old and recent, however I do think that after Ronnie and Steve died, they should have changed their name. Ronnie wrote most of the lyrics to the music, so without him, how are they still Lynyrd Skynyrd?? Incredible band none the less.
- Kayla, London
Skynyrd is my favorite band. I like the Allman Brothers but i still like Skynyrd more. I wouldn't call them a tribute band. They are original and their recorded songs are amazing. I dont' know too much about their concerts but i would go to one if they were performing along. Too bad Ronnie and Steve died. They were awesome. SKYNYRD ROCKS!
- Kartik, Peace River, Canada
Just wanted to say that Lynyrd Skynyrd is an awesome band. I grew up near Jacksonville before moving several years ago and listen to the band all the time. I think it's cool that Donnie and Johnny have formed a new band and have taken time off from Skynyrd and .38 Special. Keep the music playing forever.
- Jennifer, Tallahassee, FL
Lynyrd Skynyrd is one those bands that are so good its hard to describe.
"The Allman Bros on the other hand (THE quintessential southern blues rock band who Skynyrd always looked to for inspiration) was unbelievable. They keep reinventing themselves. Their guitarists (Derek Trucks - nephew of orig drummer Butch Trucks - and Warren Haynes - Gov't Mule) simply blew away everything that the Skynyrd tribute band could muster. I mean it was so lopsided talent-wise that it wasn't even funny."

THe allmann brothers have been lopsided before one time my dada went to see them in 1972 and gregg allmann so stoned he slurred his words so bad the crowd BOOED HIM!
- John, Mobile, AL
Actually Matt, from Houston, Lynyrd Skynyrd did feud with Neil Young. Young's song "Southern Man" outraged the bandmembers because of its negative depictation of white southerners. Although they made up soon after their was definite tension. Fool.
- Frank, Atlanta, GA
You have got to be kidding me.. I have seen Skynyrd 4 times and they ROCK !!!! age isn't an issue... It all about heart and dedication to family and fans...Even after all these years and everything the members of Skynyrd have been through they still come out and put on a great show and leave people pumped... But I guess only a true SKYNYRD fan will feel this way....
Fly on Ronnie!!!!
- Heidi, St. Joe, MN
Remember guys. There never was any feud with Neil Young. Get over it. I saw them recently in Houston with The Allman Bros Band. Skynyrd has some great, great songs - no doubt. But unless they're paired up with a good band I'll never go see this tribute band again. The improv's were pretty lame and mostly just the same ole licks off the album cuts. Very stale. No long jams. A real disservice to what WAS a great band at one time.

The Allman Bros on the other hand (THE quintessential southern blues rock band who Skynyrd always looked to for inspiration) was unbelievable. They keep reinventing themselves. Their guitarists (Derek Trucks - nephew of orig drummer Butch Trucks - and Warren Haynes - Gov't Mule) simply blew away everything that the Skynyrd tribute band could muster. I mean it was so lopsided talent-wise that it wasn't even funny. Awesome jams that went on and on. NOT the same old stuff of fthe albums - heck I can ALWAYS play the album if that's what I want to here!
- Matt, Houston, TX
Johnny > Ronnie.
- Jeff, Seaville, NJ
Lynyrd Skynyrd showed us that the rebs can be good rockers.
- John, Philadelphia, PA
Just wanted to add; the original bass player for Skynyrd was Larry Junstrom, he now plays bass with 38special. Ricky Medlocke a member of "Blackfoot" who when, their gigs dried up joined "SKYNYRD" during the 1971 Muscle Shoals recording. The complete muscle shoals album has, in my opinion, the most beautiful version of "Freebird" ever recorded. It was the original demo. If you are truly a "SKYNYRD" fan you must have a copy of this unbelievable album.
- Don, Pittsburgh, PA
My father-in-law had Leonard Skinner for gym class back in Panama City before the guy moved on to Jacksonville school district. That's about as close to being cool as he's gotten, though...
:)
- Karen, Longview, TX
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