Simple Man: Lynyrd Skynyrd: Part 1

By  | July 10, 2017 | Filed under: News

I have always been a huge reader.  I read about 3-4 books a week.  Mostly are action-adventure, western with an occasional biography.  However, there are few books that just “blow my mind.”  Here is one of them.  Recently I read a book called Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock.   It is written by Gene Odom, the former bodyguard for Lynyrd Skynyrd.  It is co-written by Frank Dorman.


Let me start out by saying that I have always been a Skynyrd fan.  However, I didn’t discover their music until the late 80s.  So, I knew Lynyrd Skynyrd as:

Johnny Van Zant,

Gary Rossington,

Billy Powell,

Ricky Medlocke,

Artimus Pyle

Leon Wilkeson.

I knew about Ronnie Van Zant and the plane crash but the only Skynyrd I had listened to was the reformed group listed above.




  After I read this book, I went to Youtube and watched some of the earlier videos with Ronnie Van Zant.  I guess listening to Johnny Van Zant for so long; the older music is a little different for me.  Anyway, whichever lead singer you listen to, it is pure musical genius.    May people have said and the author of this book agrees that Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd.  He wrote the songs.  He was the heart and soul as well as backbone for the band.

I decided that I did not know as much about the band as I thought I knew.  So I decided to do research on them.  I watched a VH1 Behind the Music Special as well as several Biopics about the band.  I also used the above book for reference.

Marion and Lacy Van Zant

Ronnie Van Zant was born in Jacksonville, Florida on October 15, 1948.  His parents were Lacy and Marion Van Zant.  There is a younger brother named Donnie Van Zant who is the lead singer for .38 Special.  In high school, Ronnie was known to fight.  But then he picked up the love of music (with fighting becoming a close 2nd.)

He played baseball while in High School.  One day, he hit a foul ball which struck Bob Burns in the head.  Van Zant ran over to him, thinking that “he might have killed him.”  Luckily, Burns was okay.  Soon, Van Zant, Burns, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Larry Junstrom formed a band.  The band went through several names before the name Lynyrd Skynyrd was used.

Ronnie Van Zant

Okay, where did the name Lynyrd Skynyrd come from?  The name comes from Leonard Skinner who was a Coach at Robert E. Lee High School where the boys attended.  Skinner was disliked by many because he strictly enforced the dress code of the school which included no long hair.  The members of the band had long hair and were getting sent to the School’s Office because of it.  Van Zant and Rosssington quit school because of this.

While in High Scholl, Ronnie met Nadine Ensco.  She became pregnant.  They were married but it did not last long.  However, a beautiful daughter named Tammy Michelle Van Zant was born.  Tammy would later record a single called “Freebird Child.”

Tammy Van Zant

Here are some interesting facts about Leonard Skinner.  The band members did not like him while in school.  However, they became friends later in life.  When Skinner retired, he went into the Real Estate Business.  The band used a photo of a Leonard Skinner Reality Sign on one of their album covers.  Skinner was actually contacted by attorneys one time telling him to stop using his name because of infringement with the band.

Tammy Van Zant

Skinner politely wrote back to the attorneys and told them that it had been his name for 60 something years and if anything, the band had infringed on his name.  He never heard anything else from the attorneys.

The band played around the area of Jacksonville, Florida while making occasional trips to Atlanta, Georgia.  During this time, the band refined its “Southern Rock” sound that they became known for.  They auditioned for a member of Capricorn Records in 1969.  They “stole the day” and soon acquired the management service of Alan Walden, Capricorn Records.  They soon made the first of several trips to Muscle Shoals Sound Recording Studios in Sheffield, Alabama

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

On their first trip to Sheffield, the band found that the studio was completely booked.  So they booked Quinvy Studios.  It is here that Skynyrd along with Engineer David Johnson put together a demo tape.

Returning to Jacksonville, Florida, the band found that they were local celebrities.  They began playing gigs in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.  Ronnie was famous (or maybe infamous) for practicing their music until he felt it was right.

With the band scheduled to return to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and begin recording with Jimmy Johnson, Band member Bob Burns left the band stating “his girlfriend convinced him of it.”  Ricky Medlocke of the band Blackfoot took Burns’ place.

Skynyrd continued playing venues in the Southeast.   During this time, the band went through several member changes.   In 1972, the band (comprised then of Van Zant, Collins, Rossington, Burns, Wilkeson, and Powell) was discovered by Al Kooper.  Kooper was a member of Earth, Wind and Fire.  He signed them to a subsidiary of MCA Records.  Knopper produced there first album. 


Skynyrd’s first album was called “Pronounced  ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd.”   The album featured the following songs:

Side One

  1. “I Ain’t the One” – 3:53
  2. Tuesday’s Gone“– 7:32
  3. Gimme Three Steps” – 4:30
  4. Simple Man– 5:57

Side Two

  1. Things Goin’ On” – 5:00
  2. “Mississippi Kid” – 3:56
  3. “Poison Whiskey” – 3:13
  4. Free Bird” – 9:09





In reference to the song “Freebird”, the record producers “hated it because it was too long.”  The band kept pressing “Freebird” and the record producers gave in.  Just think if the band had not kept on the producers.  A piece of musical history might not have happened.  I shorted (4 minutes) version was recorded by the original 9:09 minutes version is preferred.

During this time, the band started touring and demons arose.  Drinking and fighting became a way of life.   These demons would plague the band for years.

In 1974, Skynyrd released their second album, “Second Helping.” The following tracks were on this album:


1 Sweet Home Alabama 4:42
2 I Need You 6:54
3 Don’t Ask Me Questions 3:24
4 Working For MCA 4:46
5 The Ballad Of Curtis Loew 4:45
6 Swamp Music 3:29
7 The Needle And The Spoon 3:52
8 Call Me The Breeze 5:2

In the song “Sweet Home Alabama”, two references are made.  First is a quote about Neil Young and his “Southern Man” song.    This quote is meant as a jab at Young in jest and not serious as some people think.  The second reference is “Muscle Shoals has the Swampers.”  This is a mention to the Muscle Shoals Sound (Swampers).

In the movie Con-Air,  Steve Buscemi is talking to Nicholas Cage while the cons are partying after taking over the plane.  Sweet Home Alabama is playing in the background.  Buscemi makes the following comment “Define irony.  Bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash.”

In the next segment of this article, the third album and the plane crash.


Simple Man    (Lyrics)

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say.
And if you do this
It will help you some sunny day.
Take your time… Don’t live too fast,
Troubles will come and they will pass.
Go find a woman and you’ll find love,
And don’t forget son,
There is someone up above.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Baby, be a simple kind of man.
Oh won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul,
And you can do this if you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Baby, be a simple kind of man.
Oh won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Boy, don’t you worry.
You’ll find yourself.
Follow your heart,
And nothing else.
You can do this,
If you try.
All that I want for you my son,
Is to be satisfied.

And be a simple kind of man.
Be something you love and understand.
Baby, be a simple kind of man.
Oh won’t you do this for me son,
If you can?

Baby, be a simple, be a simple man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man




To be continued……………………………




Bobby Inman is retired from Law Enforcement after 21 years of Service.  He owns Hammer Down Gun & Pawn located in Sheffield, Alabama.  He has articles published in Law & Order Magazine, Police Marksman Magazine, Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement Magazine as well as several published ebooks on Amazon, Kobo Writing, as well as Nook (Barnes & Noble).  He is owner of Poopiedog, an Animal Rescue Dachshund, who is his constant companion.   He is a Correspondent for the Quad Cities Daily




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