In 1966, a band called The Pretty Ones made their debut in Jacksonville. Over the next two years, their style would be associated with two other bands: The Noble Five and One Percent. Of course, all three of these bands were in fact the exact same group of people. In 1968, they settled on a name that would become commonplace with fans of southern hard rock throughout the bulk of the 1970s. The band in question was Lynyrd Skynyrd.
When Skynyrd entered the music scene, there were a number of other progressive rock groups to compete with. Bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd were topping the charts, while Skynyrd was playing veritable dive bars in Atlanta. Eventually, however, they would cross paths with a music producer in search of a talented three-chord band with a unique sound. He would find their work ethic impressive, not to mention the ability of a technically amateur rock band to play their songs with the seasoned finesse of a more experienced musical group.
Despite having three guitar players on the stage at one time, Lynyrd Skynyrd was known for churning out catchy musical numbers that sounded simplistic at first glance. From a swamp shack in Florida, they perfected later hits such as “Sweet Home Alabama.” Their success was due in no small way to the leadership of Ronnie Van Zant, who preferred sturdy composition to wild improvisation. He did not want to be like Led Zeppelin, playing every guitar solo as if it were a unique endeavor. Instead, every solo played by the band was composed fully beforehand to ensure a consistent sound in every performance.
It only took about three studio albums or so before the band’s style started to expand a little bit. They were no longer considered to fit the niche style of southern rock, but rather were considered to stand alongside other mainstream rock bands as one of the better groups in the industry. As a testament to their mainstream success, they opened for the Who during the first national tour of their career. They were also asked to perform encores, an especially notable achievement for an opening band.
Unfortunately, the band’s mounting success was halted in its tracks by sudden tragedy. After a show in October of 1977, the band was scheduled to fly to Louisiana to perform at LSU. The plane, however, was unable to stay in the air due to faults in the engine. Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines did not survive, nor did Ronnie Van Zant. While the rest of the band survived, they only performed one more show before disbanding.
In 1987, the band reunited. Johnny Van Zant, younger brother of the band’s former lead singer, took to the stage with comparable vocal skills. The band’s style was intact, and their talent was still indisputable. Even so, the loss of their stalwart leader still echoed in the background of every show. Long-time fans knew that this reunited band was not the Lynyrd Skynyrd they had fallen in love with, even if they still rocked the stage with every bit of energy and prowess for which they had been known since their start in the late 1960s. Nonetheless, the band is still active to this day, performing the songs that made them legend.
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