- J. Michael Butler
Rock band. It emblematized the 1970s Southern rock movement with its hard-driving three lead guitar lineup, lyrics that reflected a working-class white southern worldview, and an embrace of immense regional pride. In 1964, Ronnie Van Zant started the group in Jacksonville, Florida, with schoolmates Gary Rossington and Allen Collins. The trio added members and performed under several monikers before they chose their name as a sarcastic homage to Leonard Skinner, a hated high school gym teacher. Van Zant wanted Skynyrd to be the American answer to the Rolling Stones, and combined elements from country music, the blues, and British rock groups to form his band’s unique style and sound. Skynyrd became a seasoned bar band throughout the region, and signed a recording contract with Sound of the South, an MCA affiliate, in 1972.
Then 1973 proved a monumental year for Skynyrd. They released their debut album, (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), and opened for the Who on their “Quadrophenia” tour to rave reviews. The highlight of their raucous live show was the performance of “Free Bird,” a single from ...