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Lynyrd Skynyrd Biography

Home > Music > L > Lynyrd Skynyrd > Biography

Birth Place: Jacksonville, Florida, USA
Years Active: 1964–1977, 1987–present
Genres: Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Boogie Rock, Blues-rock, Country Rock

Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band, formed in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964. The band became prominent in the Southern United States in 1973, and rose to worldwide recognition before three members and one road crew member died in an airplane crash in 1977. The band reformed in 1987 for a reunion tour with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother Johnny as the frontman. Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to tour and record. Of its original members, only Gary Rossington remains with the band as of 2010. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Their 1973 debut “Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd)” featured such hits as “I Ain't the One,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” “Tuesday's Gone” and “Free Bird.” “Free Bird,” received national airplay and eventually reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It would later be certified 3× platinum by the RIAA.

Their next album, 1974's “Second Helping” featured another of their most popular songs “Sweet Home Alabama.” The 2× platinum album reached #12 Billboard 200 Albums chart in 1974, eventually going multi-platinum, and the single peaked at #8.

1975’s “Nuthin’ Fancy” was their first to reach the Top 10, peaking at #9 on the Billboard 200. It featured the popular single, “Saturday Night Special” and was certified platinum.

The 1976 album “Gimme Back My Bullets” peaked at #20 on the Billboard 200. It included the hits “Gimme Back My Bullets,” “Double Trouble” and “Cry for the Bad Man.”

The “Street Survivors” LP was the last Skynyrd album recorded by original members Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins, and is the sole Skynyrd studio recording by guitarist Steve Gaines. Three days after the album's release, on October 20, 1977, the band's chartered airplane crashed en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing the pilot, co-pilot, the group's assistant road-manager and three band members, Van Zant, Gaines and Steve's older sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines, and severely injuring most who survived the crash. Following the crash and the ensuing press, “Street Survivors” reached #5 on the Billboard 200. The single “What's Your Name” reached #13 on the single airplay charts in January 1978. “That Smell” was also released as a single.

Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded after the tragedy, reuniting just once to perform an instrumental version of “Free Bird” at Charlie Daniels' Volunteer Jam V in January 1979. Collins, Rossington, Powell and Pyle performed the song with Charlie Daniels and members of his band. Leon Wilkeson, who was still undergoing physical therapy for his badly broken left arm, was in attendance, along with Judy Van Zant, Teresa Gaines, JoJo Billingsley and Leslie Hawkins.

In 1987, Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited for a full-scale tour with five major members of the pre-crash band: crash survivors Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Artimus Pyle, along with guitarist Ed King, who had left the band two years before the crash. Ronnie Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer and primary songwriter. The reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd has gone through a large number of lineup changes and continues to record and tour today. One by one, the members of the pre-crash band have left, been forced out, or have died.

“Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991,” the first album with the new members of the band, was released in 1991. It eventually was certified gold by the RIAA. A second post-crash album, “The Last Rebel” was released in 1993. A mostly acoustic album, featuring takes on the band’s classic hits alongside new songs, “Endangered Species” was released in 1994.

Their next album, “Twenty” whose title referenced twenty years since the devastating plane crash that took the lives of members of the band, was released in 1997. The track “Travelin' Man” is the first studio recording of a song from the original band's 1976 live album “One More From The Road.” Making use of modern technology, the band was able to use original singer Ronnie Van Zant's vocal tracks on parts of the song, in order to create a duet between brothers Johnny and Ronnie.

Their ninth studio album “Edge of Forever” was released in 1999. “Vicious Cycle” followed in 2003. It was the first album by the band following the death of original bassist Leon Wilkeson, with the song “Mad Hatter” being a tribute to him. He died during recording, but appeared on two songs, “The Way” and “Lucky Man.” The album reached #30 on the Billboard 200 and the single, “Red White and Blue (Love it or Leave),” reached #27 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

“God & Guns,” released in 2009, was the last Lynyrd Skynyrd to feature the band's longtime keyboardist Billy Powell, who died in January 2009. “Still Unbroken” was written after the death of original bassist Leon Wilkeson in 2001.