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Lynyrd Skynyrd: Overview


Lynyrd Skynyrd: All of the original group but one came from Jacksonville, Florida, where most attended the same high school.



They started in 1964 as My Backyard, referencing Willie Dixon's Back Door Man. Over the next five years the quintet tried The Noble Five ("Nobel Prize" pun), The Wild Cats, Sons Of Satan, The Pretty Ones, Conqueror Worm, and finally the One Percent, used for several years until 1970.



The inspiration for the final moniker was Leonard Skinner, a gym teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville. Skinner hated long-haired students and would strictly enforce the boys' dress code of no hair touching the collar or sideburns below the ears.



At some point in the 1960s he disciplined (budding guitarist) Gary Rossington and (drummer) Bob Burns for letting their hair grow. Skinner said in a 1978 interview that he couldn't remember who he suspended. Either way, the young musicians dropped out of school, partly because of his actions - and remembered the hassle.



Rossington tells the story on Judy Van Zant Jenness' web history. He and others slicked back their hair with Vaseline, but showers were compulsory after gym. "Skinner would come through the showers while you were doing it, and if he caught you with your hair down touching your ears or something he'd kick you out. After about 20 or 30 times of doing that to me, and kicking me out for two weeks of suspension, I just quit school."



According to the band's site: "In 1970, the band - playing as the One Percent - had a gig at a local club called the Forest Inn and Ronnie [Van Zant, singer] called out to the crowd, 'Hey, we're Leonard Skinner and we're gonna play for y'all tonight.' Since most of the crowd had run into Coach Skinner at one point or another the name was an instant hit. Eventually, the vowels were changed 'to protect the guilty' - as Gary put it."



They were Lynard Skynard until 1973 when they adopted the more skewed spelling Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band's debut album was called pronounced 'le˘h-'nérd 'skin-'nérd, commonly referred to as Pronounced.



The tribute worried Rossington, with friends telling him for months: "Gary, got a call for you - someone called Leonard". The unfortunate teacher wasn't pleased with his resulting fame/ infamy!



Within years of leaving school, the by-now very-long-haired band were worth millions: far more than their short-haired contemporaries who had obeyed Skinner's commands. Skinner still looked like a marine and moved into real estate and personal training.



Skynyrd was torn apart in 1977, with a plane crash which claimed the life of singer Ronnie Van Zant. They re-emerged, initially as "Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991".



Later Skinner introduced them at a 2006 concert and saw them enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same year.



Skynyrd has had 22 members over its life. The current version has two members of the original line up - keyboardist Billy Powell and Rossington, one of those who was disciplined by Skinner 40 years ago.



Related groups: Rossington Collins Band, .38 Special.



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