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.