Ronnie Van Zant
|Birth name||Ronald Wayne Van Zant|
|Born||January 15, 1948|
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
|Died||October 20, 1977 29) (aged|
Gillsburg, Mississippi, U.S.
|Associated acts||Lynyrd Skynyrd|
Ronald Wayne Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was an American musician known as the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of two other rock vocalists: current Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant and Donnie Van Zant, the founder and vocalist of 38 Special. He was the father of Tammy Van Zant and Melody Van Zant.
He was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, to Lacy Austin (1915–2004) and Marion Virginia (Hicks) Van Zant (1929–2000). Ronnie aspired to be many things before finding his love for music. Idolizing boxer Muhammad Ali, he considered a career in the ring, and while playing American Legion baseball dreamed of Minor League success.
Van Zant formed a band called My Backyardlate in the summer of 1964 with friends and schoolmates Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums). The quintet went through several names before deciding on Lynyrd Skynyrd, a mock tribute to gym teacher Leonard Skinner (who disapproved of male students with long hair) that all but Collins had at Robert E. Lee High School.
The band's national exposure began in 1973 with the release of their debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) , which had a string of hits that included "I Ain't the One", "Tuesday's Gone", "Gimme Three Steps", "Simple Man," and what became their signature, "Free Bird", later dedicated to the late Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band.[ citation needed ]
Lynyrd Skynyrd's biggest hit single was "Sweet Home Alabama" from their follow-up album Second Helping, an answer to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man." Young's song "Powderfinger" on the 1979 album Rust Never Sleeps was reportedly written for Skynyrd, and Van Zant is pictured on the cover of Street Survivors wearing a T-shirt of Young's Tonight's the Nightand in the 2 July 1977 Oakland Coliseum concert (excerpted in Freebird... The Movie ).
On October 20, 1977, a plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ran out of fuel outside Gillsburg, Mississippi. The passengers had been informed about potential problems with the Convair CV-240 and were told to brace for a crash.Van Zant died on impact from head injuries suffered after the aircraft struck a tree. Bandmates Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines, along with assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray, were also killed. The rest of the band was seriously injured. Van Zant was 29 years old.
According to former bandmate Artimus Pyle and family members, Van Zant frequently discussed his mortality. Pyle recalls a moment when Lynyrd Skynyrd was in Japan: "Ronnie and I were in Tokyo, Japan, and Ronnie told me that he would never live to see thirty and that he would go out with his boots on, in other words, on the road. I said, 'Ronnie, don't talk like that,' but the man knew his destiny."Van Zant's father, Lacy, said, "He said to me many times, 'Daddy, I'll never be 30 years old.' I said, 'Why are you talking this junk? You will never be 30 years old?’ and he said, 'Daddy, that's my limit.'" Van Zant's father later noted that, "God was a jealous god. Taking him for reasons I don't know." Ex-bandmate Ed King also reported hearing Van Zant saying he would never live to be 30 years old, saying Van Zant said it so often that he "had gotten sick of hearing it". Lynyrd Skynyrd backup singer JoJo Billingsley recalled that Van Zant had begun referring to himself as "The Mississippi Kid" in the months before his death despite being born and raised in Florida. She noted that, eerily, Van Zant's only connection to Mississippi was the fact that he would ultimately die there.
Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer when the band reunited in 1987.
Ex-Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Ed King recalls the intense sadness of Van Zant's funeral, noting that people in attendance were so overcome with grief that they were literally falling down.Van Zant was buried in Orange Park, Florida, in 1977. His body was relocated after vandals broke into his tomb and that of bandmate Steve Gaines on June 29, 2000. Van Zant's casket was pulled out and dropped on the ground. The bag containing Gaines' remains was torn open and some scattered onto the grass. Their mausoleums at Orange Park remain as memorials for fans to visit.
Ten years later, the new location of their interment was accidentally revealed by a Craigslist ad. A family selling two plots they decided not to retain, ran a Craigslist ad and stated the plots were in the Jacksonville Memory Gardens Cemetery in Orange Park, Florida, adjacent to Ronnie Van Zant's tomb.
According to the cemetery listing website Find-a-Grave, Van Zant was reburied at Riverside Memorial Park in Jacksonville, near the grave of his father Lacy and mother Marion. Both his current resting place and the empty mausoleum in Orange Park are listed, with the statement: "Due to the June 29th, 2000 vandalization of his original grave site, his casket was moved to this new location and buried in a massive underground concrete burial vault. To open the vault would require a tractor with a lift capacity of several tons. It is also patrolled by security."
Van Zant married Nadine Inscoe on January 2, 1967. Around this time, Van Zant also worked at his brother-in-law's auto parts store, Morris Auto Parts in Jacksonville. It was said that Van Zant was a virtual catalog of automotive parts, he had a near photographic memory for them. The couple had a daughter named Tammy, before divorcing in 1969; Tammy would become a musician. He married Judy Seymour in 1972 after meeting her at The Comic Book Club through Gary Rossington in 1969.(The club closed in 1975 and is now a parking garage.) They remained married up until his death in 1977. They had one daughter, Melody, born in 1976. Judy Van Zant-Jenness founded the Freebird Live in 1999, a music venue located in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. It featured Lynyrd Skynyrd memorabilia and was co-owned by Melody Van Zant. Judy married Jim Jenness and founded and ran The Freebird Foundation until its dissolution in 2001.
Van Zant was an avid fisherman. He enjoyed baseball, and was a fan of the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. As a child, he played American Legion baseball and aspired to play professional baseball, as he recalled in a 1975 interview.
Van Zant had several run-ins with the law, most notably in 1975, when he was arrested for hurling a table out of a second-story hotel room window.
The Ronnie Van Zant Memorial Park, funded by fans and family of the band, was built on Sandridge Road in Lake Asbury, Florida, nearby his hometown of Jacksonville.
Several members of his family have memorialized Ronnie in their music. His brothers Johnny and Donnie co-wrote the title track of John's 1990 album "Brickyard Road"with family friend and album producer Robert White Johnson. In the reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd's music video for the posthumously-released track "What's Your Name" closes with a white hat similar to Ronnie's sitting atop a microphone. Ronnie's daughter Tammy, who was only 10 years old when he died, dedicated the album title track, "Freebird Child" as well as the music video to her father in 2009. Van Zant's cousin Jimmie Van Zant recorded the tribute track "Ronnie's Song" on the album Southern Comfort (2000).
Alt country band Drive-By Truckers also paid tribute to Ronnie and members of the original band on their Southern Rock Opera album.
"The All-Night Bus Ride", the 8th episode of Season 1 of the Showtime series Roadies , was made in honor of Van Zant and the band.
In the 1978 song "Reflections"on the Charlie Daniels Band album Million Mile Reflections , the third verse talks about Van Zant saying "And Ronnie, my buddy above all the rest. I miss you the most and loved you the best.". With a dedication on the back of the original record sleeve with a poem the last line reading "Fly on proud bird, you're free at last." Signed Charlie Daniels 1978.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is an American rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida. The group originally formed as My Backyard in 1964 and comprised Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington (guitar), Allen Collins (guitar), Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns (drums). The band spent five years touring small venues under various names and with several lineup changes before deciding on "Lynyrd Skynyrd" in 1969. The band released their first album in 1973, having settled on a lineup that included bassist Leon Wilkeson, keyboardist Billy Powell and guitarist Ed King. Burns left and was replaced by Artimus Pyle in 1974. King left in 1975 and was replaced by Steve Gaines in 1976. At the height of their fame in the 1970s, the band popularized the Southern rock genre with songs such as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". After releasing five studio albums and one live album, the band's career was abruptly halted on October 20, 1977, when their chartered airplane crashed, killing Van Zant, Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines, and seriously injuring the rest of the band.
Edward Calhoun King was an American musician. He was a guitarist for the psychedelic rock band Strawberry Alarm Clock and guitarist and bassist for the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972 to 1975 and again from 1987 to 1996.
"Free Bird", also spelled "Freebird", is a song written and performed by American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song first featured on the band's debut album in 1973 and has been included on subsequent albums.
Steven Earl Gaines was an American musician. He is best known as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter with rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1976 until his death in the October 1977 airplane crash that claimed other band members and crew. His older sister Cassie Gaines, a backup vocalist with the band, likewise died in the crash.
Larkin Allen Collins Jr. was one of the founding members and guitarists of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and co-wrote many of the band's songs with late frontman Ronnie Van Zant. He was born in Jacksonville, Florida.
Johnny Roy Van Zant is an American singer/composer and the current lead vocalist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He is the younger brother of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder and former lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, and of the 38 Special founder Donnie Van Zant.
(Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) is the debut album from American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, released in 1973. Several of the album's songs remain among the band's most well-known: "Gimme Three Steps", "Simple Man", "Tuesday's Gone" and "Free Bird", the last of which launched the band to national stardom.
Gary Robert Rossington is an American musician, best known as a founding member of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, in which he plays lead and rhythm guitar.
Cassie LaRue Gaines was an American singer, best known for her work with Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Leon Russell Wilkeson was the bassist of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972 until his death in 2001.
Billy Powell was an American musician and a longtime keyboardist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972 until his death in 2009.
Street Survivors is the fifth studio album by the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, released on October 17, 1977. The LP is the last Skynyrd album recorded by original members Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins, and is the sole Skynyrd studio recording by guitarist Steve Gaines. Three days after the album's release, the band's chartered airplane crashed en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing the pilot, co-pilot, the group's assistant road-manager and three band members, and severely injuring most who survived the crash.
"That Smell" is a song by the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Written by Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Allen Collins, it was released in 1977 on the album Street Survivors. At the time the song was written, the band had been using alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. Van Zant had said that he started drinking heavily to relieve the pressure of performing in front of large audiences.
Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991 is the sixth studio album by American Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was the band's first new studio album since 1977's Street Survivors and the first following a 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of three members of the band.
Thomas Delmer "Artimus" Pyle is an American musician who played drums with Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1974 to 1977 and from 1987 to 1991. He and his Lynyrd Skynyrd bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Southern by the Grace of God is a live album by southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, recorded during the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987. These live concerts were a 10-year anniversary tribute by Lynyrd Skynyrd to the members of the band who had died in a 1977 plane crash. The plane crash killed frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines and road manager Dean Kilpatrick.
On October 20, 1977, a Convair CV-240 passenger aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi, United States. Chartered by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from L&J Company of Addison, Texas, it was near the end of its flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Forby Leonard Skinner was an American high school gym teacher, basketball coach, and businessman from Jacksonville, Florida. He is known in popular culture as the eponym of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd; Skinner was the band members' teacher.
Jimmie Van Zant (born December 22nd 1957 -April 7, 2016 He was named after his mother's current husband at the time, Jim Nightingale; When his mother married Alfred Kelsay in 1970 he was adopted soon after at the age of 12 and his surname was changed to Kelsay. He was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist.