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Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band best known for popularizing the southern hard-rock genre during the 1970s. Originally formed in 1964 as the "Noble Five" in Jacksonville, Florida, the band rose to worldwide recognition on the basis of its driving live performances and signature tunes "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird." At the peak of their success, three members died in an airplane crash in 1977, putting an abrupt end to the band's most popular incarnation.
The surviving band members re-formed in 1987 for a reunion tour with lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant, the younger brother of lead singer and founder Ronnie Van Zant. The re-formed band continues to tour and record with original and co-founding member Gary Rossington and core members Johnny Van Zant along with Rickey Medlocke who recorded with the band for a short time in the early 1970s. Long time drummer Michael Cartellone has recorded and toured with the band since 1999. Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006.
In the summer of 1964, teenage friends Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, and Gary Rossington formed the band "The Noble Five" in Jacksonville, Florida. The band changed in 1965 to "My Backyard", when Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns joined. In 1968, the group won a local Battle of the Bands contest and the opening slot on several Southeast shows for the California-based psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock.
In 1970, Van Zant sought a new name. "One Percent" and "The Noble Five" were each considered before the group settled on "Leonard Skinner", a mocking tribute to a physical-education teacher at Robert E. Lee High School, Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for strictly enforcing the school's policy against boys having long hair. Rossington dropped out of school, tired of being hassled about his hair. The more distinctive spelling was adopted before they released their first album. Despite their high school acrimony, the band developed a friendlier relationship with Skinner in later years, and invited him to introduce them at a concert in the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum. Skinner also allowed the band to use a photo of his Leonard Skinner Realty sign for the inside of their third album.
In 1970, Pat Armstrong, a Jacksonville native and partner in Macon-based Hustlers Inc. with Phil Walden's younger brother, Alan Walden, became the band's managers. Armstrong left Hustlers shortly thereafter to start his own agency. Walden stayed with the band until 1974, when management was turned over to Peter Rudge. The band continued to perform throughout the South in the early 1970s, further developing their hard-driving, blues-rock sound and image, and experimenting with making studio recordings.
During this time, the band experienced some lineup changes for the first time. Junstrom left and was briefly replaced by Greg T. Walker on bass. At the same time, Ricky Medlocke joined as a second drummer and vocalist. Medlocke grew up with the founding members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Some versions of the band's history also have Burns leaving the band for a short time during this period. The band played some shows with both Burns and Medlocke, using a dual-drummer approach similar to that of The Allman Brothers. In 1971, they made some recordings at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio with Walker and Medlocke serving as the rhythm section, without the participation of Burns.
Medlocke and Walker left the band to play with another southern rock band, Blackfoot, and when the band made a second round of Muscle Shoals recordings in 1972, Burns was featured on drums and Leon Wilkeson was Larry Junstrom's permanent replacement on bass.
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