Lynyrd Skynyrd Biography
Southern-Rock mainstays Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida USA, by high school friends lead singer Ronnie VanZant, guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, bass player Leon Wilkeson and drummer Bob Burns.
They began to perform in the South of the U.S. under various names releasing a single in the late '60s, the quintet finally christened the band Lynyrd Skynyrd and recorded a demo-album plus the debut single, "I've Been Your Fool".
In 1973 the group issued their debut full-length LP, "Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd", enlisting a new line-up that included the third guitarist, Ed King and Billy Powell on piano + keyboards. The album featured the single "Free Bird", with its superb three-guitar finale became a national radio hit but entered the top 20 of the U.S. Pop Singles chart two years later.
In late 1973 Pete Townshend invited the group to open for The
Who on their Quadrophenia tour, soon after Lynyrd Skynyrd returned
to the studio and recorded their biggest hit "Sweet Home Alabama"
which peaked at #8 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart in 1974; it fast became
a quintessential Southern-Rock anthem and helped push their sophomore
effort, "Second Helping", into the top 20 of the Pop Albums
chart subsequently turning into a multi-platinum seller.
Before the year's end new drummer Artimus Pyle replaced Burns and King left the group shortly afterward.
"Nuthin' Fancy" came out in 1975 and debuted at #9 on the Pop
Albums chart earning the band another gold disc, its single "Saturday
Night Special" peaked at #27 on the national chart. The Honkettes,
a trio of female backup singers which comprised of Leslie Hawkins, JoJo
Billingsley and Cassie Gaines, became a part of the band that toured the
U.K. for the first time in support of the Dutch Rock sensation Golden
1976's "Gimme Back My Bullets" failed to enter the top 10
in the States and the single "Double Trouble" reached a modest
#80 on the Pop chart. That September, Gary Rossington was injured in a
car accident in Jacksonville, a fact that inspired the single "That
Smell". Guitarist Steve Gaines joined Lynyrd Skynyrd which headed
out on tour with The Rolling Stones.
In Atlanta they recorded the double-live set "One More From The Road" which climbed into the top 10 of The Pop Albums chart, selling one million copies.
In October of 1977 Lynyrd Skynyrd released their fifth studio album,
"Street Survivors" and then tragedy struck. In Gillsburg, Mississippi,
a plane crash took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, his sister
Cassie and road manager Dean Kilpatrick; Rossington, Collins, Powell,
Wilkeson and Leslie Hawkins, were all seriously injured but survived the
Out of courtesy and good judgement MCA Records withdrawed the sleeve of the just released album "Street Survivors", which pictured the band surrounded by flames.
The album hit #5 on the U.S. Pop chart and the extracted "What's Your Name" peaked at #13 on the Pop Sigles chart, while another single, "You Got That Right", followed suit by also charting. The third single off the record was the aforementioned "That Smell".
The next year saw the release of "Skynyrd's First And...Last" which contained previously unreleased recordings from 1970-1972; it reached the #15 position on The Pop Albums chart and went platinum.
After the crash the band broke up, in 1980 Rossington and Collins formed
a new band which featured other ex-Skynyrd members but two years later
they decided to go their separate ways.
In 1986, Allen Collins, was involved in a car accident which killed his girlfriend and left him paralyzed.
One year later the name Lynyrd Skynyrd was revived for a tour featuring
Rossington, Powell, Pyle, Wilkeson and King, with Ronnie's brother Johnny
Van Zant on vocals and Randell Hall on guitar.
"Legend", a compilation which included previous B-sides, as well as unreleased and uncompleted songs by by the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, was issued in October 1987; the set reached #41 on The Billboard 200 and its main single, "Truck Drivin' Man", peaked at #12 on The Mainstream Rock chart.
In January of 1990, Allen Collins died of respiratory failure caused by pneumonia, a complication of his paralysis.
The next year the re-assembled Lynyrd Skynyrd began recording new material
and that June the group issued "Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991", it reached
the #64 position on The Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and spawned "Keeping
The Faith" and "Smokestack Lightning", which peaked at
#10 and #2, respectively, on The Mainstream Rock Tracks.
Artimus Pyle departed shortly afterward, citing personal differences; drummer Kurt Custer joined the band to fill the vacant spot.
Nearly one year later, in February 1993, the single "Good Lovin's
Hard To Find" broke into the top 10 of The Active Rock radio chart,
it was taken from the album "The Last Rebel" which equaled the
peak position of its immediate predecessor on The Billboard 200. The album
also featured the Mainstream Rock top 40 hit "Born To Run".
Ed King became ill with congestive heart failure while on tour in 1995 which required him to retire from active touring with the group.
In 1996 Lynyrd Skynyrd signed a multi-album agreement with CMC International
Records. Rickey Medlocke, who played drums from 1971 until late 1972 with
the Skynyrd, rejoined the group, this time as guitarist; Hughie Thomasson
was also added as guitarist.
April 1997 saw the release of "Twenty", the album landed in the upper half of The Billboard 200 and yielded two Mainstream Rock top 40 hits in "Travelin' Man" and "Bring It On".
The following year Johnny Van Zant teamed up with brother Donnie Van Zant of .38 Special for Van Zant's "Brother To Brother", a long awaited collaboration of these two surviving members of one of American Rock's royal families.
In August 1999, after undergoing another change in the band's line-up
that saw the addition of new drummer Michale Cartellone, Lynyrd Skynyrd
returned with its ninth album of all-new-material, "Edge Of Forever",
the 12-song set was a further modestly-placed chart record as it reached
#97 on The Billboard Top 200 although it spawned "Workin'" which
grabbed a #13 spot on The Mainstream Rock Tracks and "Preacher Man",
another Active Rock top 30 hit.
The band ended the 20th century on a national tour with ZZ Top.
In 2001 Lynyrd Skynyrd hits the road again on a North American tour
with Deep Purple and Ted
Another tragedy struck when the founder member Leon Wilkeson was found dead on July 27, 2001 in a hotel room in Florida. Donald 'Ean' Evans, a long time friend of the band, joined as the new bass player.
That same year the RIAA has certified that Lynyrd Skynyrd has scanned an impressive 23 million records.
The now legendary Southern-Rock group celebrated their 30th anniversary by releasing "Vicious Cycle"' on May 6, 2003; their first studio album in three years peaked at #30 on The Billboard 200 and the single "Red, White And Blue" rocketed to #27 on The Mainstream Rock chart.
On January 28, 2009, keyboardist Billy Powell passed away at his home
in Florida at the age of 56. Only few months later, on May 6, Ean Evans
died, after a long battle with cancer; he was 48.
In September 2009, Lynyrd Skynyrd released its next album "God & Guns" via Loud & Proud/Roadrunner Records. The band considers the album to be “a tribute to the past and to the future of this band, too”, according to frontman Johnny Van Zant. It debuted at #18 on The Billboard Top 200 chart and yielded two modestly-placed album-Rock radio chart singles: "Still Unbroken" and "Simple Life".
The veteran Southern rockers returned in August 2012 with their fourteenth studio album, "Last Of A Dyin' Breed", which managed to snag #14 on The Billboard 200.