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Skynyrd: The Reason The Band Survived

lynyrd skynyrdFormed: 1965 in Jacksonville, Florida
Years Active: 1965 through 1977 and 1987 to present
Group’s Main Members: Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Bob Burns, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Ed King, Artimus Pyle, Steve Gaines

Members that passed away: Ronnie Van Zant (1977), Steve Gaines (1977),  Allen Collins (1990), Leon Wilkeson (2001), Billy Powell (2009), Bob Burns (2015)

Continue reading Skynyrd: The Reason The Band Survived

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Dave Hlubek 9/2017

September 3, 2017 – Dave Hlubek was born on August 28, 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 5 or 6, Hlubek and his family moved to the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, where he attended Waikiki Elementary School. From there, Hlubek’s father was transferred and the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, then to Mountain View, and finally settling in San Jose. It was the South Bay that Dave called home during the next few years, before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, around 1965. There he attended and graduated from Forrest High School.

Hlubek, founded the band Molly Hatchet in 1971. Vocalist Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, along with Steve Holland, guitarist in 1974. Duane Roland, Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump completed the line up in 1976. Continue reading Dave Hlubek 9/2017

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Gregg Allman 5/2017

gregg allman passes from liver cancerMay 27, 2017 – Gregory LeNoir “Gregg” Allman was born December 8th, 1947 in Nashville, TN, a little more than a year after his older brother Duane. In 1949, his dad offered a hitchhiker a ride home and was subsequently shot and killed. After that tragedy his mother Geraldine moved to Nashville with her two sons, and she never remarried. Lacking money to support her two sons, she enrolled in college to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). State laws at the time required students to live on-campus and as a consequence, Gregg and his older brother Duane were sent to Castle Heights Military Academy in nearby Lebanon. A young Gregg interpreted these actions as evidence of his mother’s dislike for him, though he later came to understand the reality: “She was actually sacrificing everything she possibly could—she was working around the clock, getting by just by a hair, so as to not send us to an orphanage, which would have been a living hell.” Continue reading Gregg Allman 5/2017

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Banner Thomas 4/2017

banner thomas, bass for molly hatchettApril 10, 2017 – Banner Thomas – bass for Molly Hatchet, was born on September 6, 1954 in Savannah, Georgia.

About his musical ambitions during childhood he said: “There was always some kind of music to listen to in my house when I was a child. Unfortunately, it was all either on the radio or on records. There were no musicians in my family. I still got exposed to a lot of good music, from Nat King Cole and Al Hirt through Elvis and Johnny Horton to Tennessee Ernie Ford. Then the Beatles came along. By the time the sixties were halfway over, I had a guitar and was learning songs by the Monkees and Donovan, the Beatles and the Stones. Then I discovered Hendrix and Cream, and by the time Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath came out, I was hopelessly addicted. By the time I graduated high school, I had already been in a few bands. I was a music major at college for about a year or so, then I dropped out and joined an early version of Molly Hatchet. Who knows where I would be now if I had finished school? Probably not talking to you now.” Continue reading Banner Thomas 4/2017

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Butch Trucks 1/2017

Butch Trucks, drummer for the Allman Brothers BandJanuary 24, 2017 – Claude Hudson “Butch” Trucks was born on May 11, 1947 in Jacksonville, Florida.

A drummer, one of Trucks’ first bands was local Jacksonville band The Vikings, who made one 7-inch record in 1964. Another early band was The 31st of February which formed and broke up in 1968. This group’s lineup eventually included both Duane Allman and Gregg Allman. They recorded a cover of “Morning Dew”, by 1960s folk singer Bonnie Dobson.

Trucks then helped form The Allman Brothers Band in 1969, along with Duane Allman (guitar), Gregg Allman (vocals and organ), Dickey Betts (guitar), Berry Oakley (bass), and fellow drummer Jai Johanny Johanson.
Together, the two drummers developed a rhythmic drive that would prove crucial to the band’s success. Trucks laid down a powerful conventional beat while the jazz-influenced Johanson added a second laminate of percussion and ad libitum cymbal flourishes, seamlessly melded into one syncopated sound. Continue reading Butch Trucks 1/2017

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Bob Burns 4/2015

Bob BurnsApril 3, 2015 – Robert Lewis “Bob” Burns Jr. was born November 24, 1950 in Jacksonville, Fla. He took up drumming after watching the Beatles perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964 and soon after in that same year was invited to join Ronnie van Zant, Albert Collins and Gary Rossington to become a founding member and original drummer of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Burns plays on the band’s earliest demos, recorded in 1970, but on the album Skynyrd’s First and… Last, a collection of early demos, the drum parts of the songs recorded in 1971, are played by guitarist Rickey Medlocke of Blackfoot. That album also contains songs recorded in 1972 which feature Burns on drums, suggesting that Burns may have left the band in 1971 and had returned by 1972. During a brief period in the early 1970s, Medlocke occasionally played alongside Burns on drums for live shows, a two-drummer line-up similar to The Allman Brothers Band. Medlocke later took up guitar and joined Skynyrd in the late 1990s as one of the three lead guitarists.

Continue reading Bob Burns 4/2015

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Bruce Crump 3/2015

Bruce CrumpMarch 16, 2015 – Bruce Crump, Jr. (Molly Hatchett) was born on July 17th 1957 in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1976 he became a member of southern rock band Molly Hatchet, appearing on their most successful albums: 1978’s ‘Molly Hatchet’, 1979’s double-platinum ‘Flirtin’ With Disaster’, 1980’s ‘Beatin’ The Odds’ and 1981’s ‘Take No Prisoners’, and playing on hit singles such as “Flirtin’ With Disaster”, “The Rambler”, “Power Play” and “Satisfied Man”.

Crump was a member of Molly Hatchet from 1976, through the turn of the ’90s – save for a brief absence around 1983. He got into the band, Crump once said, almost by accident as a kid in the Jacksonville, Fla., area.

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Paul Goddard 4/2014

Paul GoddardApril 29, 2014 – Paul Goddard (ARS) was born on June 3rd 1945.

The southern rock band the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed in 1971 by musicians who were former members of the Candymen and the Classics IV, which had become the session band for the newly opened Studio One in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta in 1970.

After playing on other artists’ recordings, they decided to become a true band in their own right. The original lineup consisted of vocalist Rodney Justo, guitarist Barry Bailey, bassist Paul Goddard, keyboardist Dean Daughtry, and drummer Robert Nix.

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Ronnie
Hammond
3/2011

Ronnie HammondMarch 14, 2011 – Ronnie Hammond was born on November 10th 1950.

Ronnie became lead singer for the southern rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1972 after original vocalist Rodney Justo left. The band had a string of hits during the 1970s, including “Doraville,” “Jukin,” “Champagne Jam,” “Imaginary Lover,” “So Into You,” “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight,” and a remake of the Classics IV hit “Spooky”.

ARS did not achieve the commercial top success of Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers Band, but was solidly anchored in the second echelon of Southern Rock performers such as The Outlaws, Blackfoot and Molly Hatchett, Marshall Tucker and the Kentucky Haedhunters.

The group had (and still has) a strong following in the South and charted a consistent string of hits. The band also influenced a number of rock and country artists, notably Travis Tritt, who covered the ARS songs “Back Up Against the Wall” and “Homesick”. The group Shudder to Think covered “So Into You”.

Noted Christian Music artist and Southern rocker Mylon LeFevre appeared on “Jesus Hearted People”, from the band’s album Third Annual Pipe Dream. Before they became founding members of Atlanta Rhythm Section, members of LeFevre’s backup band included Barry Bailey, Paul Goddard and Dean Daughtry.

Hammond left ARS in the early 1980s, but even during his years off the road, he continued to write music, with songwriting partner and producer Buddy Buie, who is listed first on almost all of the band’s songwriting credits. Hammond, who was also a carpenter, built houses around Macon, including his own near Lake Tobesofkee.

He returned in 1987, and 1989 ARS released their first album in 8 years ‘Truth in a Structured Form’. He continued to record and tour wit the band until 2001 when Ronnie decided to leave ARS and join the band Voices of Classic Rock, but left the touring business altogether soon afterward to focus on family and songwriting.

Ronnie died from a heart attack at age 60 on March 14, 2011 in Forsyth, Georgia.

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JoJo Billingsley 6/2010

jojo-billingsleyJune 24, 2010 – JoJo Billingsley was born Deborah Jo Billingsley on May 28, 1952 in Memphis Tennessee and raised in Tennessean country communities. She started singing at age three; took dance lessons (tap and jazz) from the time she was three to about age 14. She also was church soloist by the time I was 10 or 12 and deeply involved in the music program at school; choral group, girl’s vocal ensemble, as a soloist coloratura soprano. She received a scholarship to attend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) but had a difficult time because she never had music theory. When she was 16 she was invited to attend Juliard School but her dad would not let her because it was in New York City.

After her dad passed in 1971 she took up singing as a profession and first joined Oil Can Harry with whom she toured the US and Europe in 1973/74, and then joined Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Honkettes”.

A friend of mine named Bob O’Neal was doing the lights for Skynyrd and Fleetwood Mac; he turned my name into them and Kevin Elson (the sound producer) invited me to come to Nashville to a concert. It was there I met Ronnie Van Zant for the first time and he hired me on the spot. When I entered the room backstage where he was sitting with his bare feet propped up on a table, he took one look at me, tipped his hat back, smiled and said, “she’ll do just fine!” and hired me without ever hearing me sing. Good thing I knew how!

The next 3 years were magic with numerous tours around the world until on October 20, 1977 the airplane crash killed several members of the band and road crew, but Billingsley was the only band member not on the flight.

Continue reading JoJo Billingsley 6/2010

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Ean Evans 5/2009

ean-evansMay 6, 2009 – Ean Evans Outlaws/Lynyrd Skynyrd) was born on September 16, 1960 in Atlanta, Georgia. He started in music at the age of five, playing trumpet and having an orchestral background until his teen years. Picking up the guitar at 15, he was soon playing the southeastern rock circuit with various cover groups.

A few years later he switched to bass so as to bring fellow guitarist into the band. In the 1980s he played bass for a rock band called “…Five Miles High”, along with Mike Reynolds (drummer), Reuban Lace (guitarist), Carl Brown (keyboardist), Del Stockstill (guitar). Five Miles High played venues from Georgia to Kentucky and all over the south east. Five Miles High was rated in the top 10 rock bands of the 1980s in a Mississippi radio station contest.

Around 1983 FMH disbanded, and Ean returned to his native Atlanta, Georgia. There he welcomed his newborn daughter and worked on plans to form a new group with close friend keyboardist, Joey Huffman. This project quickly became the band, “Babe Blu” (with former FMH members Carl Brown, Reuban Lace, and adding JT Williams on drums). Babe Blu immediately become a top draw in Atlanta, and on the southeastern club and college circuit. However, in 1987, Ean left Babe Blu permanently to be home with his young family, and to work on his own original compositions.

He studied the styles and techniques of John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Geddy Lee (Rush) and Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd) giving him an aggressive approach to the bass guitar.

In 1988, he was picked up by his then personal manager, J.J. French. (Twisted Sister), Evans formed his first original band “Cupid’s Arrow”. They became quite popular in the Atlanta area. After composing and recording over 50 songs, Ean became a full-time studio musician.

It was during this time he was called to join the Outlaws by leader Hughie Thomasson, who showed him worldwide touring experience. The Outlaws stopped touring when Hughie was called to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in the mid 90s.

In 1997, Evans and ex-Halloween guitarist (1982–1988, 1997–2000) Rick Craig formed “Noon”, which blends metal with southern rock. They released 1 album in 2002 and many other unreleased recordings exist and are subject to release.

Following the death of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson, the call came for Ean to continue on for his fallen friend. He joined the line up of Lynyrd Skynyrd on August 11, 2001, in Las Vegas, Nevada, beginning his own chapter with the band which lasted until his lung cancer diagnosis in 2008.

Evans performed with Skynyrd one last time from a chair on April 19, 2009, at the Mississippi Kid Festival, organized in support of him.

He died 17 days later at age 48 on May 6, 2009.

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Billy Powell 1/2009

Billy PowellJanuary 28, 2009 – William Norris “Billy” Powell was born on June 3rd 1952 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Powell grew up in a military family and spent several of his childhood years in Italy, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Navy. After his father died of cancer in 1960, the Powells returned to the United States to settle in Jacksonville, Florida. In elementary school, Powell met Leon Wilkeson, who would become a lifelong friend and the bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Powell took an interest in piano and he began taking piano lessons from a local teacher named Madalyn Brown, who claimed that Billy did not need a teacher as he was a natural and picked things up well on his own.

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Hughie Thomasson 9/2007

Hughie Thomasson 300September 9, 2007 – Hughie Thomasson (The Outlaws) Born Hugh Edward Thomasson Jr., Hughie Thomasson joined a fledgling Tampa-area bar band named the Outlaws in the late ’60s. With David Dix on drums, Thomasson quickly made a name for himself as a no-nonsense guitar master. The group disbanded, but Thomasson reformed the Outlaws in 1972 with guitarist Henry Paul, drummer Monte Yoho and bassist Frank O’Keefe. (Paul later enjoyed a successful country career as a member of BlackHawk) Guitarist Billy Jones joined in 1973, completing the guitar army rock approach.

Known as the Florida Guitar Army for their triple-lead guitar attack, the Outlaws were the first group signed by former Columbia Records head Clive Davis when he formed Arista Records. He flew to Columbus, Ga., in 1974 to see the Outlaws perform with Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Columbus Civic Center and went to the Ramada Inn after the show and made an offer.

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George McCorkle 6/2007

george mccorkleJune 29, 2007 – George McCorkle (Marshall Tucker Band) was born on August 23, 1947 in Chester, South Carolina, but raised in nearby Spartanburg from the age of two. As the youngest of three brothers he grew up aware of the long and hard hours mother Mildred worked at the cotton mill.

“We were a typical South Carolina mill family,” George recalled in his web page bio. “Very poor.”So he developed a strong and active work ethic. Although his greatest achievements were from music, he took gigs as a dental lab technician, race-car driver, and car salesman, owner of both a glass company and a car lot to supplement his professional music livelihood. He believed his work ethic has its roots in his “meagre beginnings” and “growing up Southern”.

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Duane Roland 6/2006

duane-rolandJune 19, 2006 – Duane Roland was born on December 3rd 1953 in Jeffersonville, Indiana and moved to Florida at the age of 7. Music was evident in the Roland home – Duane’s dad was an occasional guitarist, and his mom was a concert pianist. Duane originally played drums in his first band, at high school, before gravitating to the guitar.

On his decision to become a serious musician he said: “I was at the “West Palm Beach Music Festival” and the line up was Johnny Winter, Vanilla Fudge,Janis Joplin, King Krimson and the Rolling Stones. It had rained and I was laying on a piece of  plastic. King Krimson was late so Johnny Winter, Janis Joplin and The Vanilla Fudge got up and jammed and I came straight up off that plastic and said, “That’s what I wanna do! I watched Johnny play and that was it for me.”

Duane originally tried to put a band together with Banner Thomas, and Bruce Crump but it didn’t really work. He made his name in Florida as a guitarist with The Ball Brothers Band. When The Ball Brothers split, Duane filled in for Dave Hlubek with Molly Hatchet when Dave was unable to make a gig. He was in!! The band had originally formed around Jacksonville, Florida in 1971 and taken their name from a 17th century prostitute who allegedly mutilated and decapitated her clients with a hatchet.

Molly Hatchet was formed in 1971 by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland. Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, Duane Roland, Banner Thomas, Bruce Crump in 1975. When they finally got their recording contract with Epic they got some help and advice from Ronnie Van Zant, who was originally suppose to produce the album, but was unable to due to the tragic plane crash in ’77. Because of this the band’s debut was not released until late 1978. Fortunately for the band, this late delivery did little to deter their popularity. By the time their second record was released, the band had became enormously popular and stayed that way for many years despite the departure of vocalist/frontman Danny Joe Brown. Brown left the band in 1980 due to health problems stemming from diabetes. Others have stated that the band worked hard on the road, and drank just as hard, which was the reason that Brown had to go. Brown returned to the band in ’83 for a successful tour and the release of “No Guts No Glory”.

Duane began performing with Molly Hatchet fulltime in 1975, and he remained with the band through various personnel changes until he left in 1990. (the only exception being when he quit the band for ONE DAY during a summer tour in 1983!!)

They recorded and released their first album, “Molly Hatchet” in 1978, followed by “Flirtin’ with Disaster” in 1979. They toured behind the album building a larger fan base. He recorded seven albums with the band and is is credited with co-writing some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Bloody Reunion” and “Boogie No More”.  During his stay, he was famous for his ability to nail his lead spots in just one take. He was actually the only member of the classic lineup to appear on all seven albums. The only song he didn’t perform on was “Cheatin’ Woman”. He also co-wrote a great deal of classic Molly Hatchet music. Duane appeared on the 1989 album “Junkyard” by the band of the same name.

At the time he left in 1990, he was the owner of the Molly Hatchet brand. The agreement in the band had always been that the last man standing got the name.

Duane then quit music for almost a decade and ran a company in the field of office machine repairs and later became a call centre supervisor with an Internet company.

Duane was the only Hatchet original to not play in the Dixie Jam Band during Jammin’ for DJB. Riff West (the shows organiser) sites “legal difficulties” as the reason Duane did not perform. He did however, lend his talents by added his guitar tracks in the studio.

In 2002, Duane’s employer was bought out, and unemployment beckoned. He was also suffering problems with his hip, which he had replaced in late 2002. During his recuperation, the news broke that Jimmy Farrar had joined the SRA, and it wasn’t long before Jimmy was trying to bring Duane out again. He was on leave from the the Southern Rock Allstars to recuperate from a hip operation when in November 2004, Riff West confirmed that the rumours of a reunion of sorts were true. Riff, Bruce Crump, Steve Holland, Dave Hlubek, Duane Roland and Jimmy Farrar were rehearsing. Dave Hlubek dropped out of the project in January 2005 however…so the new band were the remaining five and Bruce’s bandmate from Daddy-Oh, guitarist Linne Disse. They named themselves after their classic song…”Gator Country Band” and kicked off their career in style opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd on March 12, 2005 in Orlando, FLA. Gator Country, included many of the founding members of Molly Hatchet

Duane Roland sadly passed away at his home in St. Augustine, Florida on Monday June 19, 2006. He was 53, and his death was apparently from “natural causes”.

“He had a heart as big as Texas and a talent twice that big,” said singer Jimmy Farrar, who performed with Roland in all three bands. “Not only was he a colleague but he was one of the best friends I ever had and he will be sorely missed.”

Drummer Bruce Crump said Roland was the anchor of Molly Hatchet during the 1980s, a time when the band’s lineup was constantly changing. “During all that time, Duane was the constant,” said Crump. “I can’t imagine playing Molly Hatchet music without Duane Roland. It just wouldn’t be the same.”

“…then the Allman Brothers came along and made the sound heavier and started churning out these 15-minute songs. Next, Lynyrd Skynyrd came along and refined that sound: made it more powerful and crunchier. Then you had Marshall Tucker and Grinderswitch and they added a country flavor to it and then came Molly Hatchet and we were the first to put a metal edge to it. That was the evolution of the things that were taking place then.”
– Dave Hlubek

 

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Danny Joe Brown 3/2005

Danny Joe BrownMarch 10, 2005 – Danny Joe Brown (Molly Hatchett) was born on August 24th 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Terry Parker High School in 1969. Shortly after graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed in New York for two years. Once he left the Coast Guard, Brown’s focus turned solely to music and he joined Molly Hatchet in 1974.

He is best known for writing and singing on such songs as “Flirtin’ with Disaster” and “Whiskey Man.” He was also the vocalist on “Dreams I’ll Never See,” a faster-tempoed cover of the Allman Brothers song. The band’s sound was immediately recognizable by Brown’s distinct voice: a deep, raspy, throaty growl.

Brown left Molly Hatchet in 1980 because of chronic diabetes and pancreatic problems, but soon started his own band, The Danny Joe Brown Band, which released a single studio album in 1981.

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Leon Wilkeson 7/2001

July 27, 2001 – Leon Wilkeson (bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972 until his death). was born on April 2nd 1952 in Newport, Rhode Island, but raised in Jacksonville, Florida.

At about the age of 12, inspired by The Beatles, Leon began learning to play bass guitar copying his favorite member of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney. Only wanting to play music, he dropped out of his school band at the age of 14 and, soon he was playing bass with Ronnie Van Zant’s local group, the Collegiates.

However, due to plummeting school grades, Wilkeson had to drop out of the group at the behest of his parents. Soon Wilkeson found himself in another local group, the King James Version. He began to study the ‘lead bass style’ of such accomplished players as Cream’s Jack Bruce, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady, The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and the Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley. Continue reading Leon Wilkeson 7/2001

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Allen Woody 8/2000

Allen Woody, bass for the Allman Brothers and Gov't MuleAugust 26, 2000 – Douglas Allen Woody (Allman Brothers) was born on October 3, 1955 in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, a truck driver, weaned him on the blues, country and rock oldies. Woody picked up both the mandolin and bass guitar at a very young age. Watching Paul McCartney play with the Beatles, he began learning the bass at age 14. Inspired by such bassists as Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi, Cream’s Jack Bruce, and Hot Tuna’s Jack Cassady, Woody began playing in local bands. Not long afterward he first heard the Allman Brothers Band on the radio and became interested in exploratory Southern rock. Allen started as a guitar player, but later on switched to bass.

He majored in music at at Middle Tennessee University.  After graduating, he worked at local Guitarshop in Nashville for eight years, where he met Artimus Pyle, ex-drummer of Lynyrd Skynyrd , who gave Allen his first big break by giving him a job as bass player for APB.

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Allen
Collins
10/1990

Allen Collins 300October 20, 1990 – Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was one of three lead guitar players in the Southern Rock guitar army Lynyrd Skynyrd. He survived the tragic crash that killed Ronnie van Zant and Stevie Gaines, but succumbed to chronic pneumonia 13 years later. Collins, just 12 years old joined Ronnie van Zant and Gary Rossington to form Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964. Even though his life was littered by personal tragedies and illness, he gained super stardom recognition for co-writing many of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s monster hit songs, including Freebird, That Smell and Gimme Three Steps.

Lynyrd Skynyrd History.com says the following about Allen Collins:

Long considered one of rock’s premier guitarists, Allen Collins served as heart to Ronnie VanZant’s soul in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Allen’s unique, firy guitar playing and powerful songwriting helped insure Lynyrd Skynyrd’s place in rock and roll history.

Born at St. Lukes Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida on July 19, 1952, Allen (delivered by Doctor Owens) weighed in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Allen’s mother, Eva remembers her son as full of energy and enthusiasm — even before Allen could walk he moved constantly. From his earliest days Allen loved cars — especially race cars — and his favorite summer activity was going to Jacksonville Raceway every Saturday night to watch Leroy Yarborough race. The Collins family first started attending the races when Allen was eight years old and Allen, sitting as high in the stands as possible, would laugh and holler as he pretended to be racing his own car. This early fascination lasted throughout Allen’s life — he later collected an entire fleet of collectible and performance cars that was one of his proudest possessions.

In 1963, Allen lived in Jacksonville’s Cedar Hills area when an older friend received a guitar for his birthday. Allen was hooked. Allen’s parents had recently divorced and times were tough for Allen, his sister and mother. His mother, already working all day at the cigar factory, took a second job at Woolworths in the evenings. As soon as she had saved enough money, she surprised Allen by taking him down to Sears and ordered his first Silvertone guitar and amplifier. Despite no training aside from a few tips from his step-mother and friend, Allen picked up the guitar easily and quickly formed his first band — The Mods.

Together with singer Ronnie VanZant and guitarist Gary Rossington, Allen Collins formed the nucleus of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1964 by learning what they could from each other and listening to the radio. This early band, first called My Backyard, then the Noble Five also included drummer Bob Burns and bassist Larry Junstrum. Finding a place to practice proved difficult and the choices were limited to the carport at Bob’s house, Ronnie’s backyard, where they were sure to get a full meal or Allen’s living room which usually included Eva’s famous cakes and candies. After several years of practicing, performing and personnel changes, Skynyrd, like any decent group of fledgling rock stars, started gigging the notorious one-nighters.

In 1970, Allen married Kathy Johns. Allen included his band mates in his wedding party, but Kathy worried that their long haired appearance would disturb her parents. Solving the problem required everyone tucking their rock and roll image under wigs for the wedding ceremony. The wedding reception played host to a piece of rock and roll history – one of the first public performances of “Freebird” complete with the trademark extended guitar jam at the end. Allen’s family grew with the birth of his daughter Amie followed quickly by Allison. Times were very difficult since Allen’s musical career barely brought in enough to support the young family. Despite coming close several times, Lynyrd Skynyrd just kept missing that elusive big break.

In 1973, however, things finally started coming together for Lynyrd Skynyrd. During a week-long stint at Funochio’s in Atlanta, the band was discovered by the renown Al Kooper. After signing a record deal with MCA subsidiary Sounds of the South, Skynyrd entered the studio with Kooper producing. The result — Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd — started the band on its rise to fame with standards like ‘Gimme Three Steps’, ‘Simple Man’, and the incendiary, guitar-driven classic, ‘Freebird’.

Gold and platinum albums followed a string of hit songs like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘Saturday Night Special’, ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’, ‘What’s Your Name?’, and ‘That Smell’. Over the four years Skynyrd recorded, the memories gradually turned into legends. Opening the Who tour. “Skynning” Europe alive. 1975’s Torture Tour. Steve Gaines. One More From The Road. The Knebworth Fair ’76.

By October 20, 1977, Skynyrd’s songs had become radio staples. Their latest album, Street Survivors, had just been released to critical and popular acclaim. Their ambitious new tour, just days underway, saw sellout crowds. Then it all fell away at 6000 feet above a Mississippi swamp.
At 6:42 PM, the pilot of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s chartered Convair 240 airplane radioed that the craft was dangerously low on fuel. Less than ten minutes later, the plane crashed into a densely wooded thicket in the middle of a swamp. The crash, which killed Ronnie VanZant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, road manager Dean Kilpatrick and seriously injured the rest of the band and crew, shattered Skynyrd’s fast rising star as it cut a 500 foot path through the swamp. Lynyrd Skynyrd had met a sudden, tragic end.

After several years of recovery, the crash survivors felt the time was right for another try. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins had performed at a few special jams, and slowly began planning a new band. Over the next few weeks they signed on Skynyrd survivors Billy Powell and Leon Wilkeson and other local musicians, although the choice of a lead vocalist for the new band remained a perplexing one. Realizing any singer would be faced with inevitable comparisons with Ronnie VanZant, Allen and Gary chose Dale Krantz, a gutsy, whiskey-voiced female backup singer from .38 Special. This change set the Rossington Collins band apart as they entered the 1980s.

The Rossington-Collins Band debuted in June 1980 with the Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere album. Kicked by such songs as ‘Getaway” and ‘Don’t Misunderstand Me’ the album sold more than a million copies and the band toured to enthusiastic, sellout crowds. However the band’s 1981 follow-up effort stumbled in the marketplace despite being well-received critically.

Tragedy struck Allen’s life again just as the Rossington Collins Band started. During the first days of the stressful debut concert tour, Allen’s wife Kathy passed away forcing the tour’s cancellation. Coupled with the lingering effects of losing his friends in the plane crash, Kathy’s death devastated Allen. However, the pull of creating music was too strong for Allen to walk away from. Even when Gary Rossington and Dale Krantz quit the Rossington Collins Band, Allen continued on forming the Allen Collins Band in 1983. Allen originally wanted the name Horsepower for his band, but shortly after completing the new album’s artwork they learned that name was already used. Their one release, Here, There and Back, met with considerable fan approval, but little support from MCA Records which dropped the band shortly after the album’s release.

Once again tragedy struck Allen in 1986. Driving near his home in Jacksonville, Allen crashed his car in an accident which killed his girlfriend and left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down. The injuries also limited the use of his upper body and arms. He later plead no contest to DUI manslaughter.

During the 1987 Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute tour Allen served as musical director — selecting the set lists, arranging the songs and setting the stage. However, remaining on the sidelines while his band took center stage proved painful for the guitarist. Part of Allen’s sentence from his car wreck, called for him to use his fame and influence to warn kids of the dangers of drunk driving. Allen used the Tribute tour to go on stage and let his fans know the reason why he couldn’t play with Skynyrd — a powerful, sobering message few fans will forget.

In 1989, Allen developed pneumonia as a result of decreased lung capacity from the paralyzation. He entered the hospital in September where he passed away on January 23, 1990.

Allen Collins – Rossington Collins Band One Good Man

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Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977

ronnie-van-zantOctober 20, 1977 – Ronald Wayne “Ronnie” Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948 in West Jacksonville, Florida. As a member of a very musical family, brother Donnie became frontman for 38 Special, another Jacksonville based band and youngest brother Johnny took Roonie’s shoes and hat when Lynyrd Skynyrd reformed in 1987.

Ronnie however was the nucleus founding member and frontman of the Southern rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd that formed in 1964.

Friends and schoolmates Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Larry Junstrom, and Bob Burns made up the original band. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of students with long hair.

Their fan base grow rapidly throughout 1973, mainly due to their opening slot on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States. Their debut self titled album produced the hit Freebird, the track achieved the No. 3 spot on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Continue reading Ronnie Van Zant 10/1977

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Stevie
Gaines
10/1977

Steve-Gaines-smilingOctober 20, 1977 – Stevie Gaines joined Lynyrd Skynyrd in May of 1976 and 17 months later he died with lead singer Ronnie van Zant and his sister Cassie in a chartered airplane crash in Mississippi. It was a chart breaking 17 months. The world had lost a guitar player whose skills were so outstanding that the entire band would “all be in his shadow one day”according to lead singer Ronnie vanZant.

Gaines was born September 14, 1949 in Seneca, Missouri, and raised in Miami, Oklahoma. When Steve was 15 years old, he saw The Beatles live in Kansas City. After being driven home from the concert, he pestered his father enough to buy him his first guitar. His first band, The Ravens (a local High School rock band that Steve’s friends formed), made its first recording at the famous Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

In the 1970s Steve played with bands Rio Smokehouse, The Band Detroit with Rusty Day (originally an offshoot of The Detroit Wheels) and Crawdad (a band that Steve had started around 1974). In 1975, he recorded several songs with Crawdad at Capricorn studios in Macon, Georgia which were released by MCA in 1988 as One in the Sun (when the present day Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band began touring) and is listed as his only official solo album.

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Duane Allman 10/1971

duane allmanOctober 29, 1971  – Duane “Skydog” Allman was born November 20th 1946 in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1960, Duane was motivated to take up the guitar by the example of his younger brother, Gregg. In the twelve years that followed until his sadly untimely passing, he left a great body of work and a legacy as one of the best rock guitar players ever.

He and his brother Gregg played in several bands while in school before forming the Escorts which eventually became the Allman Joys. In 1965, the Allman Joys went on the road, performing throughout the Southeast and eventually based themselves in Nashville and St. Louis.

After a short stint with The Hour Glass, he was hired by FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to play on an album with Wilson Pickett’s Hey Jude, 1968 album. Continue reading Duane Allman 10/1971

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The Cemetery of Southern Rock

abb 500Probably more than any qualifying grouping of musical genres, it can be said Southern Rock has a devastating propensity to find Rock and Roll Paradise much earlier in life. Absolute greats like Duane Allman and Ronnie vanZant bit the dust in their twenties, while many others like Hughie Thomasson, Billy Powell, Duane Roland, Billy Jones, Frankie and Dan Toler and many more were also plucked long before their legitimate expiration dates. Motorcycles, airplanes, or plane old drugs and alcohol, it seems that hard living is a mandatory exercise in Southern Rock culture.

Here is a not even complete listing of those southern rockers who checked out early.

Continue reading The Cemetery of Southern Rock