Formed in 1964, Lynyrd Skynyrd started with members Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns. Named after gym teacher Leonard Skinner, their legacy in Southern Rock endures. Today, Gary Rossington is the only original member still in the band.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd’s original band formation included Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns, laying the foundation for the band’s unique sound.
- The current lineup includes lone original member Gary Rossington, along with Johnny Van Zant, Rickey Medlocke, and others, keeping the band’s legendary music alive.
- Intriguing trivia includes the origin of the band’s name and the fact that the band has seen numerous changes in its member lineup.
- Rossington’s perseverance in remaining with the band and carrying on the Lynyrd Skynyrd legacy showcases the band’s commitment to their music and its ever-evolving transformation through different members.
Despite facing adversities, including the tragic loss of key members, the band has continued to evolve and thrive. Their music, laden with historical significance and soulful melodies, resonates with both old fans and new, testifying to the band’s enduring appeal and indomitable spirit.
Exploring Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Formation and Initial Members
Founded in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1964, Lynyrd Skynyrd emerged as one of the most influential bands in the Southern Rock genre. Initially performing under the moniker ‘My Backyard’, the band underwent a few name evolutions before settling on ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd’.
This iconic name was a playful nod to Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher known for his strict stance on students with long hair.
Here’s a closer look at the linchpins of Lynyrd Skynyrd during its formative years:
- Ronnie Van Zant: Born in 1948, Ronnie, with his distinctive voice, served as the lead vocalist and a pivotal founding member until his tragic demise in 1977.
- Gary Rossington: Born in 1951, Gary stands as the band’s enduring link to its roots, having played lead and rhythm guitar continuously since the beginning.
- Allen Collins: Allen, born in 1952, was an integral founding member, showcasing his guitar prowess alongside Rossington. He parted ways with the band in 1975.
- Larry Junstrom: Born in 1949, Larry provided the bass foundation from 1964, before leaving the ensemble in 1971.
- Bob Burns: Serving as the band’s inaugural drummer, Bob, born in 1950, was a key component of the band until his exit in 1974.
Collectively, these foundational members molded Lynyrd Skynyrd’s distinctive Southern Rock sound—a legacy that resonates deeply with fans even as we approach 60 years since their inception.
The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash
One of the most tragic events in the annals of rock history is the plane crash that decimated the classic lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd. On October 20, 1977, a chartered Convair CV-240 aircraft carrying members of the band ran out of fuel and crashed near Gillsburg, Mississippi.
The tragic event took the lives of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines, who was Steve’s sister, the assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and the two pilots, Walter McCreary and William Gray. Other band members, including Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson, and Billy Powell, were seriously injured but survived.
The band was en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, having just performed in Greenville, South Carolina. Before the crash, the aircraft had been experiencing mechanical problems, and the band had even discussed the need to replace it.
After the tragedy, Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded for a time. The loss of key members was deeply felt, both within the band and among fans worldwide. The event dramatically shifted the trajectory of the band’s history, marking the end of its classic era.
Despite the immense grief and challenges, the surviving members eventually regrouped in 1987, with Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny Van Zant, taking on the role of lead vocalist. The band’s resilience and ability to persevere serve as a tribute to those who were lost, ensuring that the legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd continues to this day.
Current Lynyrd Skynyrd Band Members
Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band with a history stretching over several decades, has experienced numerous lineup changes over the years, particularly following the tragic 1977 plane crash.
Founding member and lead guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Gary Rossington was the last living original member until his recent passing. After the tragic 1977 plane crash that took several band members, Rossington was instrumental in reuniting Lynyrd Skynyrd. Despite facing health and substance issues in the ’80s, his commitment to the band and its signature Southern Rock sound never wavered.
Johnny Van Zant
Stepping up as the lead vocalist after the untimely death of his older brother, Ronnie, Johnny Van Zant brought a fresh dynamism to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Under his leadership, the band not only paid homage to its classic hits but also ventured into new musical territories, ensuring its continued relevance in the world of rock.
Rickey Medlocke’s journey with Lynyrd Skynyrd is unique. He first joined the band as a drummer but left after a short stint. When he returned in the 1990s, he was a guitarist. Medlocke’s dual-role experience has contributed to the band’s evolving sound over the years.
Since the late ’90s, Michael Cartellone has been the heartbeat of Lynyrd Skynyrd, providing the steady drum rhythms that back their iconic songs. With his dedication and musical prowess, Cartellone has ensured that the band’s music remains as vibrant as ever.
Mark “Sparky” Matejka
Joining Lynyrd Skynyrd in the mid-2000s, Mark “Sparky” Matejka quickly became an integral part of the band’s sound. As a guitarist, he’s played a significant role in both preserving the band’s iconic Southern Rock feel and pushing its musical boundaries.
Peter Keys, who joined as the band’s keyboardist in the late 2000s, has since then been a crucial element in the Lynyrd Skynyrd ensemble. With his melodic contributions, he has added depth and richness to the band’s sound, helping to carry forward its legendary musical legacy.
Each of these members has played a significant role in shaping and maintaining the essence of Lynyrd Skynyrd, ensuring the band remains a towering figure in rock history.
Member Trivia and Popular Facts
Lynyrd Skynyrd is more than just their music. Here are some interesting facts and stories about the band and its members:
- The band’s name, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was inspired by their high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. He was strict about boys having long hair, so the band named themselves in a fun way after him.
- Rickey Medlocke was with the band twice. First, he played drums and then left. He came back in 1996, but this time as a guitarist.
- Their famous song “Sweet Home Alabama” was written as a reply to two songs by Neil Young: “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” These songs criticized the South, and Skynyrd wanted to answer back.
- Johnny Van Zant, who took over as the lead singer after his brother Ronnie died, also sings without shoes on, just like Ronnie did.
- In 2006, Lynyrd Skynyrd got a big honor. They were added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
These facts give us a closer look at what makes Lynyrd Skynyrd a special band in rock history.
In summary, Lynyrd Skynyrd stands out as more than just a musical group. From its early days with founders like Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington to today’s line-up featuring Johnny Van Zant and Rickey Medlocke, the band has carved a deep mark in Southern Rock history.
Their journey is rich with captivating facts, and their enduring influence, shaped by past and current members, showcases their distinctive sound. Although members have changed over time, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s essence remains unchanged, reaching fans worldwide.