Lynyrd Skynyrd

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About Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd didn’t invent Southern rock, but they defined it with the five albums they released in the ’70s. Combining bluesy riffs, a touch of country twang, and a three-guitar rock ’n’ roll onslaught, they perfected the template. Singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, and drummer Bob Burns started playing together around their hometown of Jacksonville, FL, in 1964. Bassist Leon Wilkeson and keyboardist Billy Powell were aboard when producer/musician Al Kooper discovered Skynyrd in 1972. Kooper produced their 1973 debut album, adding Ed King to the band’s signature “guitar army.” While Skynyrd lived up to their bluesy, boozy swagger, there were deeper levels to be discovered, like the reflective balladry of “Tuesday’s Gone,” and “Gimme Three Steps,” in which the narrator does his damnedest to talk his way out of a bar brawl. Skynyrd found swift success, but 1974’s Second Helping really made them rock stars via “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird,” the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful” of Southern rock. The epic, 10-minute-plus, jam-frenzied live version of "Free Bird" released in 1976 became one of the most ubiquitous anthems in the classic-rock canon. The band seemed to be peaking on 1977’s Street Survivors, but fate had other ideas. Days after its release, Skynyrd’s plane crashed in Baton Rouge, killing Van Zant, new guitarist Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s sister), and several others, and severely wounding the rest of the band. In 1987, most of the surviving members reunited to tour, with Van Zant’s little brother Johnny as the singer. Johnny’s vocal and visual resemblance to his brother helped revitalize the band, which released a new album in ’91. Skynyrd Mk. II continued to record and tour for decades.

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