Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama

Ronnie Van Zant: “I confess, those songs are there to
cause some controversy. I like looking for trouble. I mean, I always dug
Neil Young and we’ve been friends ever since the song came out. It was just there to provoke a little excitement. Ya gotta catch the audience off guard to keep ’em
listening.”

I was never going to post this song because it is one of the most overplayed songs in rock history. I still like Ed King’s opening riff…it’s so crisp and clear. The Turn It Up phrase was a mistake. Van Zant was telling the engineer to turn up the volume in his headphones…they liked it so they kept it.

While writing this post I listened to the song around 5 times in headphones. I noticed things that I’ve overlooked through the years just because I was so familiar with it. The song has some great hooks, riffs, and piano fills. Forget the lyrics…the music for this song is full of catchy runs. I heard things I never heard before…I now know why it was a hit.

In a rehearsal for the first album Gary Rossington was playing around with the simple D-C-G chord structure and Ed King added the main intro. They knew they had something special and it was written in a few minutes. After writing this Van Zant said, “this is our Rambling Man” in reference to the Allman Brothers’ rare hit single. The song ended up on the second album (Second Helping) and became a breakout hit for the band.

The song peaked at #8 on the Billboard 100, #6 in Canada, and #31 in the UK in 1974. The band was very popular in the UK.

There’s absolutely zero doubt Sweet Home Alabama was a revenge song—a rebuttal to Neil Young’s Alabama and Southern Man…for the sweeping generalization of all southerners as bigots past and at that time present by Neil. Neil even admits this now.

Neil Young: “My own song ‘Alabama’ richly deserved the shot Lynyrd Skynyrd gave me with their great record. I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.”

There is also an easter egg in the song. After Van Zant sings “Well I heard Mr. Young sing about her” you can hear what sounds like Neil Young singing Southern Man out of the left speaker…it’s Al Kooper the producer imitating Young. You need headphones to hear it.

This song did not start any bad feelings between the two singers in fact it drew them closer. Neil was a fan of Van Zant and Van Zant was a fan of Neil and wore his shirt many times. Neil Young sent Ronnie Van Zant the song Powderfinger for the band to record but the plane crash put an end to that. Young performed Sweet Home Alabama one time only at a benefit less than a month after the plane crash as a tribute to them.

Just as Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA was misinterpreted, this song was also. The line about George Wallace has drawn controversy… In Birmingham they love the governor (Boo, Boo, Boo). Some ignored the boo’s, and at first thought, they endorsed the guy.

Ronnie Van Zant: “Wallace and I have very little in common, I don’t like what he says about black people.”

In the Watergate lyrics, it’s been said that Van Zant was saying the north made mistakes also. The Swamper’s lyrics are about the Muscle Shoals recording band with Jimmy Johnson.

The backup singers were Merry Clayton and Clydie King. Merry Clayton was on Gimme Shelter and amazingly enough…Southern Man by Neil Young.

The band would also dive into gun control with “Saturday Night Special” and saving the environment  with “All I Can Do Is Write About It.

Ronnie Van Zant: “We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two. We’re southern rebels, but more than that, we know the difference between right and wrong.”

Sweet Home Alabama

Big wheels keep on turning
Carrying me home to see my kin
Singing songs about the southland
I miss Alabamy once again
And I think it’s a sin, yes

Well I heard Mr. Young sing about her
Well I heard old Neil put her down
Well I hope Neil Young will remember
A southern man don’t need him around anyhow

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

In Birmingham they love the governor (boo, boo, boo)
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Here I come Alabama

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feeling blue
Now how about you?

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Sweet home Alabama (Oh sweet home baby)
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home Alabama (Lordy)
Lord, I’m coming home to you
Yea, yea

Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)

I don’t review many albums…because frankly I’m not great at it and there are other sites that do it much better…but I wanted to give this one a try.

Looking back on this album…it was one of the greatest debut rock albums of all time. The track listing

I Ain’t the One
Tuesday’s Gone
Gimme Three Steps
Simple Man
Things Goin’ On
Mississippi Kid
Poison Whiskey
Free Bird

That is four classic rock songs on their debut album! It’s great if you can luck out with one good song on your first two albums. There is not a weak song on here. They had been playing around 7 or so years by this time… around Jacksonville and Atlanta. They did not improvise like other bands…they played for the song and the song only.

Al Kooper discovered them in a rough club called Funochio’s in Atlanta Georgia. He ended up signing them on MCA’s Sounds of the South label and produced this album. They were called the American Rolling Stones and their concerts backed that claim up.

It was idiotic but they were compared to the Allman Brothers…who had nothing in common except both were from the south. The Allmans were a very versatile blues/jazz/rock jam band and Lynryd Skynryd was a southern rock band that was influenced by British rock and blues… the closer comparison would have been Paul Rodgers’s band Free. One listen to I Ain’t The One will verify that.

I Ain’t The One – One of my favorite songs on the album. It does remind me of the band Free with Paul Kossoff’s guitar sound. A rocker…

Tuesday’s Gone – A simple epic song that is structured beautifully. One of their best slower songs.

Gimmer Three Steps – A song that has been played and played on the radio but a rocker about getting out of Dodge really quick.

Simple Man – The song is simple and effective… now it’s been in numerous commercials. It’s the third most streaming song from LS just behind Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama.

Free Bird – The signature song of their career. It usually ends up in the top 3 of the best rock songs. Both Stairway to Heaven and this one build up into a never to be forgotten ending. This one ended each of their shows with an incredible high. When they played this at Knebworth no other band could touch it.

They only released 5 albums in their career before the crash. Of those 5 albums, 3 were great and 2 were really good.

Robert Christgau…the crusty rock critic loved this band and album: Lacking both hippie roots and virtuosos, post-Allmanites like ZZ Top, Marshall Tucker, and Wet Willie become transcendently boring except when they get off a good song. But in this staunchly untranscendent band, lack of virtuosos is a virtue, because it inspires good songs, songs that often debunk good-old-boy shibboleths. Examples: “Poison Whiskey,” “Mississippi Kid,” and “Gimme Three Steps,” when Ronnie Van Zant, instead of outwitting the dumb redneck the way onetime Dylan sideman Charlie Daniels does in “Uneasy Rider,” just hightails it out of there. Savvy production from onetime Dylan sideman Al Kooper. A

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man

This song was on their debut album (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-erd ) but if it were up to their producer (Al Kooper) it wouldn’t have been recorded.

Kooper didn’t like how the song was sounding and wasn’t crazy about it in the first place. He kept on saying he didn’t want it on the album.

At the studio, Van Zant told him to go somewhere and not come back for a while. He then proceeded to walk Kooper outside and to his car…he opened the door and then waved Kooper goodbye.

They recorded the song while he was away and it stayed on the album. Kooper later overdubbed an organ on the song.  It’s a huge favorite with fans and has been featured in movies and commercials. It’s one of those album songs that has gotten more popular as the years go by.

Van Zant’s grandmother passed away around the same time, so Gary Rossington and Van Zant got together at Van Zant’s apartment to share memories of their grandparents. As they talked, the stories they passed back and forth suddenly began to form into a song. Rossington came up with a chord progression, and Van Zant wrote the lyrics based on advice the women had given them over the years. They wrote it in about an hour.

Rossington was raised by his mother, and Van Zant was like a father figure in his life, even though he was just a few years older than him. Van Zant taught the guitarist how to drive a car or the other things that youngsters needed to learn in their teenage years.

The song was not released as a single but it finally charted in 2021 on Billboard US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs.

Ed King: I really enjoyed working with Al Kooper. I believe, had it not been for Al, no one would’ve heard of Skynyrd. He was the visionary behind the band and how it should be presented to the world. We didn’t always agree with Al, but I certainly enjoyed his presence.
When we drove up to Atlanta to record “Simple Man,” we played the song for Al in the studio. He hadn’t heard it. He didn’t care for it and said “You’re not putting that song on the album.” Ronnie asked Al to step outside. He escorted Al to his Bentley and opened the car door. Al stepped in. Ronnie shut the door and stuck his head in thru the open window. “When we’re done recording it, we’ll call you.”
Al came back a few hours later, added the organ part and it was a keeper. I don’t think any band before or since, making its debut album, could get away with doing that to the record producer. There was a healthy respect happening there…and that is a really funny story that reflects that.

Gary Rossington: “We just put down in a song what our mama or grandma had said to us, they really wrote it, we just played it.”

Al Kooper: Early on I begged Skynyrd to change their name. It looked on paper like it was pronounced “Lie-nerd Sky-nerd.” It didn’t make any sense at first glance, and it certainly didn’t conjure up what their music was about. I tried everything, but to no avail. They would not budge. So, I decided if I was stuck with it, I’d make the best of it.
They were also always getting in fistfights. If they couldn’t find anyone to fight, they’d fight each other. I decided to paint a rough-house image for them. I designed a skull head and spelled their name out in a bones typeface. 

Simple Man

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’ll help you some sunny day”

“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll 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
Oh, 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, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, 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”

Oh yes, I will

“Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied”

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

Turn It UP! My years with Lynyrd Skynyrd…. by Ron Eckerman

Not long ago I had to fly somewhere and I’m a nervous flyer. I usually dread getting into a plane but I was determined I would enjoy this flight to Texas and then Colorado. We got into the air with my right ear-popping like crazy and I decided to listen to an audiobook once we were flying. I opened my audible library selection and just picked one at random. Well, needless to say, I picked this one. I was 30 minutes into the book before I discovered the irony of the situation. I quickly picked another book (Grateful Dead bio) and listened to that but…I finished this one on the way back while… driving safely on the ground.

This is not an autobiography of the band… it is an account of their mid to late-70s tours. The book was written by an insider (the road manager) book from 1974 to the 1977 plane crash. Lynyrd Skynyrd was a wild bunch who was ruled by lead singer Ronnie Van Zant with an iron fist. It was partly about babysitting a bunch of up-and-coming rock stars and yes…very entertaining. These guys learned from the best… they had opened for The Who on the Quadrophenia tour in 1973. Keith Moon showed them the path to destruction in hotels across the globe. They took it to a new level though…not only fighting with people who annoyed them…they fought each other. Contrary to popular belief…most of them were well-read and intelligent men but with a wild side. 

The band was managed by Peter Rudge who was known to be very cheap with bands. He also managed the Stones and The Who. It was Ron Eckerman’s (tour manager) job to collect the money and figure out the most economical way of traveling. In early 1977 he saw that traveling by plane would be cheaper than by bus. The band toured constantly and was rarely at home adding to the short tempers. They lost their guitar player Ed King in 1975 because of that plus madness exploding out of pure exhaustion. Keeping a road crew together while you are not touring was near impossible unless you play over 200 – 250 shows a year. 

Reading this book is truly like being transported in time back in the seventies rock world. It was back to a time when bands had to build up an audience. It didn’t happen with a youtube video or a Facebook page. There were no auto-tune or backing tracks to save you in concert. Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of the best live bands around. They played at Knebworth in 1976 and were heralded in the press as the next great band in league with the Stones and Who. They never got that chance and were different than most bands. They had no production values at all…just a mirror disco ball. Ronnie Van Zant did not dance around like Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler…he was more like a field general directing his troops to conquer the audience. 

After losing Ed King, a great California guitarist… they picked up Oklahoma native Steve Gaines who would have had a chance to be a huge star. Gaines was an absolute phenom on guitar and had he not died at 28 in the plane crash, he might well be a guitar legend now. The book is hilarious in places but you know what is coming. They climbed the rock ladder and the new album Street Survivors showed what they might do. The album was not a “southern rock” album…it was a rock album by a band from the south. 

They never would get a chance to fulfill their promise. The new album was their biggest yet and in two weeks’ time, they would have headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time. It really did look like they were about to be elevated to the top bracket of touring rock bands.

I was a kid when all of this was going on but I am amazed at how much the world has changed since then. If a band, no matter how successful, would do what they did in today’s world…the band would be in jail and shunned. Not only Lynyrd Skynryd but Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, and a host of other rock bands. The book will truly transport you back to that time. Even if you are a fan or not…it’s worth a read. Ron Eckerman was in the plane when it crashed and his description is truly chilling. 

Eckerman took the blame for the crash but it wasn’t one man’s fault. A short while after releasing the book he died of acute myeloid leukemia. His wife said he never got over the guilt for the crash and he died three years after the book was published. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More Time

This band was known mostly for Sweet Home Alabama, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, and Free Bird for the most part. It’s a shame really because they have some outstanding album cuts.

I’ve had love-hate feelings with them because people automatically think you have to like them…if you are from the south. Our band would refuse to play their music for the longest time. Now I’m embarrassed we thought that way.

After a little time, I started to realize how great of a  rock band they were…southern or not. Their influences were The Stones, Yardbirds, and most of all Cream…and it showed. At the time of their crash in 1977, Street Survivors had just been released 3 days and it was moving fast up the charts. This was going to be their big breakthrough album…and it was. They were a double-threat band…they could hit with singles and make superb rock albums. If not for the crash they would have been up in the stardom league of Aerosmith at least.

Ronnie Van Zant was a fantastic songwriter and a good singer. He is a singer who knew his limits and stayed within them. He would never write any words down…he would walk around the band during rehearsal and start to make up verses while hearing riffs and he would have a finished song.

I was really surprised by this song. I always liked it but…it sounded different from the other songs and I never knew why. I assumed that this song was recorded in 1977 but I was wrong. One More Time was recorded back in 1970 – 1971 when they were making demos and just starting their recording career. That was 2 years before they released their first album.

It was written by Van Zant and guitarist Gary Rossington. They worked on this album for a long time…they re-recorded every song on Street Survivors twice except this one. They dropped some other songs they worked on and pulled out this demo from the vaults and used it. The band re-mixed it and it blended in with the other new songs but I can hear now while listening to What’s Her Name and others on the album.

Street Survivors peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Charts and #3 in Canada in 1977. The band has sold 28 million albums in the US since 1991 when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales, not including album sales for the band’s first 17 years.

His voice sounds a little different in this song because it was so early in their career and he was learning. Van Zant sings this song in a controlled cool while delivering this line.

So I’ll take the word of a liar
One more time, one more time

One More Time

How can you stand there smilin’
After all you’ve done
You know it seems to make you happy
When you’ve hurt someone
Twice before you fooled me
With your deceivin’ and lyin’
Come in and close the door
One more time, one more time

Yeah you’ve been gone so long
No one knows where
And you say that you still love me
Then show me you care
‘Cause you got what it takes sweet mama
To make a man feel fine
So I’ll take the word of a liar
One more time, one more time

Girl you’ve got me hungry
Losin’ my mind
I know I’m playin’ with fire
Get burned every time
Yes I’m a fool for you baby I can’t deny
But I got to have your sweet love
One more time, one more time

Girl you’ve got me hungry
Losin’ my mind
I know I’m playin’ with fire
I get burned every time
Yes I’m a fool for you mama I can’t deny
But I got to have your sweet love
One more time, one more time

Yes I’m her fool once more
I can read her brown eyes
But when the rooster crows tomorrow
Well its her turn to cry
I’m headed down that old road
She lost her free ride
So tonight I’ll take what I paid for
One more time, one more time
One more time

Blackfoot – Train Train

How many grandfathers write your biggest hit song? This one was written by Shorty Medlocke and later covered by his grandson Rickey Medlocke’s band Blackfoot. Shorty was a bluegrass and Delta blues musician and played the blues harp intro on the track. This song doesn’t play around…it’s straight seventies boogie rock and comes straight at you.

On a side note…train songs. There are so many great ones. Big Train From Memphis, Love Train, Midnight Train to Georgia, Peace Train, Train In Vain, Downbound Train, Train Kept a Rollin’ and I could go on and on but I’ll stop.

Before founding Blackfoot, Rickey Medlocke was also an early member of Lynyrd Skynyrd as a second drummer. Blackfoot had a number of hit albums but proved to be more popular in Europe than in the United States. Blackfoot Strikes was their first platinum album and produced their only Top 40 hits: “Highway Song” and this one.

They named themselves Blackfoot because they decided to change their name to represent the American Indian heritage of its members. Jakson Spires had a Cheyenne/French father and a Cherokee mother. Rickey Medlocke’s father was Lakota Sioux and Blackfoot Indian, and his mother’s side is Creek/Cherokee, Scottish and Irish. Greg “Two Wolf” Walker is part of Eastern (Muskogee) Creek. Charlie Hargrett was the only one without Native American heritage in the original, classic line-up.

Train Train peaked at #38 in the Billboard 100 in 1979. While this song was in the Charts, they opened up for the Who in 1979. The album Blackfoot Strikes peaked at #42 in the Billboard Album Charts.

The group disbanded in the early 1980s but has reunited a few times since then, the second time including all the original members except Medlocke, who had rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1996. 

This song has been covered by hard rock band Warrant and… Dolly Parton.

They did go through different names as many bands do… Fresh Garbage, Hammer, and Free.

Charlie Hargrett (guitar player): The band found out there was another Hammer already in operation. We needed a new name quick, Since we were moving up north to start a big recording career, we thought, ok, we’ll call it ‘Free’, because we’re free now. And then All Right Now came out, and we were like, ‘Shit’. So Jakson came up with Blackfoot, because of his Native American heritage.”

Train Train

Oh, here it comes

Well, train, train, take me on out of this town
Train, train, Lord, take me on out of this town
Well, that woman I’m in love with, Lord, she’s Memphis bound

Well, leavin’ here, I’m just a raggedy hobo
Lord, I’m leaving here, I’m just a raggedy hobo
Well, that woman I’m in love with, Lord, she’s got to go

Well, goodbye pretty mama, get yourself a money man
Goodbye, pretty mama, Lord, get yourself a money man
You take that midnight train to Memphis
Lord, leave me if you can
Oh, take that midnight train to Memphis
Lord, leave me if you can
Oh, take that train, baby

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Saturday Night Special

The riff in this song is ominous sounding. As usual Van Zant’s lyrics fit the music perfectly. This song seems strange knowing that many members had guns and were widely known as a wild band.

This song is about the cheap guns you could buy on the street for 20 bucks called Saturday Night Specials. Van Zant was advocating more control over the illegal ones that were so easy to get.

Lynyrd Skynyrd weren’t against legal guns. Many of them had them. Leon Wilkeson, the bass player, actually took to wearing a holster and a real gun onstage but it was only loaded with blanks. On one tour they were opening for Black Sabbath at Nassau Coliseum, Long Island. Black Sabbath fans apparently didn’t like them and rushed the stage with taunts.

When one fan got too close, Wilkeson drew his pistol and fired a blank over the heads of the crowd. Everybody immediately backed off and the show completed without any more trouble. Yep…they were a wild bunch.

The song peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100 and #63 in Canada. It was off of their Nothin’ Fancy album released in 1975. The album peaked at #8 in the Billboard Album Charts and #43 in the UK. It would be their last album produced by Al Kooper.

For this song, drummer Bob Burns had to take a break from touring and Artimus Pyle was brought in to replace him. Pyle was given just a couple of days to rehearse the song in a rented Atlanta club before they hit the road again.

This was the last album that Ed King appeared on with the original band. Ed was from Southern California and the only non-Southerner in the lineup. He said he felt like an outsider in the band. He was originally in the Strawberry Alarm Clock and joined Lynyrd Skynyrd just in time for their original album and played bass on that. He would soon switch back to electric guitar and would help write Sweet Home Alabama.

One night on tour in Pittsburgh King was fed up and left in the middle of the night. They had 4 weeks remaining on the tour.

Ed King: We had a show in Pittsburgh one night. (May 26, 1975) Ronnie and my guitar tech got thrown in jail the night before in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They were really late getting to the show. My guitar strings weren’t changed for the show. By the end of the night, I had broken two strings. All the way back to the hotel Ronnie was just raising hell about it. When we got back to the hotel, I just said that this is just really screwed up. This came at the very end of all kinds of stuff on that tour. I just didn’t need it anymore.

Despite this…. some people forget just how good live they were. They could go toe to toe with the Stones or any other touring band at the time.

Mick Jagger laid some ground rules at the 1976 Knebworth Festival for Lynyrd Skynyrd…they could do what they wanted except walk down the prop tongue part of the stage. That was a stupid thing to tell this band…they did exactly that.

The Stones played later but the day belonged to Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Gary Rossington: “It was a strong message that Ronnie was conveying, Those cheap handguns were no good for hunting or anything else – they were just made to kill people. And those guns were easy to find. We came from a rough part of town, the west side of Jacksonville. There were a lot of bad people there, and every week you’d hear that somebody got shot or killed.”

Although the song didn’t hit the top 20, it has remained a staple on classic rock radio for years.

This is a live version in 1976 at the Knebworth Festival after Ed left the band and Steve Gaines took his place. Gaines was probably the best guitar player they ever had.

Saturday Night Special

Two feet they come a creepin’
Like a black cat do
And two bodies are layin’ naked
Creeper think he got nothin’ to lose
So he creeps into this house, yeah
And unlocks the door
And as a man’s reaching for his trousers
Shoots him full of thirty-eight holes

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Big Jim’s been drinkin’ whiskey
And playin’ poker on a losin’ night
And pretty soon ol’ Jim starts a thinkin’
Somebody been cheatin’ and lyin’
So Big Jim commence to fightin’
I wouldn’t tell you no lie
Big Jim done pulled his pistol
Shot his friend right between the eyes

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Oh, it’s the Saturday night special

Hand guns are made for killin’
They ain’t no good for nothin’ else
And if you like to drink your whiskey
You might even shoot yourself
So why don’t we dump ’em people
To the bottom of the sea
Before some ol’ fool come around here
Wanna shoot either you or me

Mr. Saturday night special
Got a barrel that’s blue and cold
Ain’t good for nothin’
But put a man six feet in a hole

Mr. the Saturday night special
And I’d like to tell you what you could do with it
And that’s the end of the song

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Need You

This album track came off of their second album Second Helping released in 1974. It was less than a year after their fantastic debut album called Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd. 

In my opinion they had some good albums after this one but not until their final one Street Survivors  did they match their first two.

Second Helping contained their big hit Sweet Home Alabama.  The album peaked at #12 in the Billboard Album Chart and #9 in Canada in 1974.

They played schools, parties, and bars for years before they hit it big. The band was first discovered in a rock club called Funnochio’s, on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1972. They were found by the famous Al Kooper, who had just landed an executive position at MCA Records and was searching to find some new talent for MCA’s “Sounds of the South” label. At that time Kooper was on tour supporting Badfinger at the time.

This album was produced by Al Kooper who was a founding member of Blood, Sweat, and Tears and he also played organ on Bob Dylan’s classic Like A Rolling Stone.

The three guitar attack was important with this band but it was Ronnie Van Zant’s songwriting that made them what they were. This song is a little slower but has that Skynryd build up of guitars. The band had some great album cuts and this is one of them.

Al Kooper: “Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t mean to demean the roles the others played in the group’s success, but it never would have happened without him. His lyrics were a big part of it – like Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard before him, Ronnie knew how to cut to the chase. And Ronnie ran that band with an iron hand. I have never seen such internal discipline in a band. One example: These guys composed all of their guitar solos. Most bands improvised solos each time they performed or recorded. Not them. Ronnie’s dream was that they would sound exactly the same every time they took the stage.” 

I Need You

Ain’t no need to worry
There ain’t no use to cry
‘Cause I’ll be comin’ home soon
To keep you satisfied

You know I get so lonely
That I feel I can’t go on
And it feels so good inside babe
Just to call you on the telephone
An’ I said…

Ooh baby I love you
What more can I say
Ooh baby I need you
I miss you more everyday

I woke up early this mornin’
And sun came shining down
And it found me wishin’ and a’hoping
Mama you could be around

Well you know I need you
More than the air I breathe
And I guess I’m just tryin’ to tell you woman
Oh what you mean to me yeah, yeah

Ooh baby I love you
What more can I say
Ooh baby I need you
I miss you more everyday
What I say…

I’m tryin’ to tell you I love you
In each and every way
I’m tryin’ to tell you I need you
Much more than just a piece of leg

Ooh baby I love you
What more can I say
Ooh baby I need you
I miss you more everyday

Ooh baby I love, love, love, love you
What more can I say yeah
‘Cause ooh baby I need your sweet lovin’
I miss you more an’ more everyday

Ooh baby I love you
Baby, baby I need ya

….

Lynryd Skynryd – Comin’ Home

This song wasn’t released during the lifetime of the original band. It was -released on the album Skynyrd’s First and…Last  in 1978 a year after the plane crash.

The album was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama in 1971-1972. It was originally intended to be their debut album but it was shelved, making (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd) their actual debut.

There are some really good songs on this posthumous album . Personally I wished this song would have made the debut album. The song is about being out on the road touring and finally making it back home. It was written by Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins. The song doesn’t have the crisp production of the debut album Prounounced but it’s a good song.

Ronnie Van Zant was a great and  sometimes under rated songwriter. The band members have  said that he never wrote lyrics down on paper. The band would be practicing and he would hear a riff or a chord progression he liked and would tell them to keep going through it over and over. After thinking about it he would start singing what he came up with. 

A year or so before the crash Ronnie thought venturing into country music. One of his musical influences was Merle Haggard.

Comin’ Home

It’s been so long since I’ve been gone
Another day might be too long for me
Traveling around I’ve had my fill
Of broken dreams and dirty deals
A concrete jungle surrounding me
Many nights I’ve slept out in the streets
I paid my dues and I changed my style
Seen hard times, all over now

I want to come home. It’s been so long since I’ve been away
And please, don’t blame me ’cause I’ve tried
I’ll be coming home soon to your love, to stay

I miss old friends that I once had
Times ain’t changed and I’ll be glad when I go home
I don’t know why the thought came to me
But why I’m here I really can’t see, and now

I want to come home. It’s been so long since I’ve been away
And please, don’t blame me ’cause I’ve tried
I’ll be coming home soon to your love, to stay
Coming home to stay
Coming home to your love, mama
I’ve seen better days

I miss old friends that I once had
Times ain’t changed and I’ll be glad when I go home
I don’t know why the thought came to me
But why I’m here I really can’t see, and now

I want to come home. it’s been so long since I’ve been away
And please, don’t blame me ’cause I’ve tried
I’ll be coming home soon to your love, to stay
Coming home to stay
Coming home to your love, mama
I’ve seen better days

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Ain’t The One

I Ain’t the One has a great opening riff and it was written by guitarist Gary Rossington and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, and was featured as the first track on Skynyrd’s debut album (pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd).

The album was one of the great rock debut albums. When you listen to this album you can hear a little of Cream, Stones, and Free. British rock was a huge influence on Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There is a great version of this song of them playing it  at the Knebworth Festival in England. Although the headliner was The Rolling Stones but Skynyrd was the band that grabbed the notices of that festival.

At a gig in Atlanta in 1972 they were discovered and signed by musician, producer, and founding member of Blood, Sweat, and Tears and The Blues Project, Al Kooper.

After two songs into recording bassist Leon Wilkeson quit so he was replaced by ex-Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist Ed King who originally wanted to play guitar with the band.

After they finished recording Ronnie Van Zant decided that King, who had added some guitar to the record, would be better on lead guitar so he asked Wilkeson to rejoin.

With Wilkeson back the now seven-man band was complete and would remain that way until Ed King and Bob Burns left the band in 1975. The guitarist Steve Gaines would join in 1976.

I Ain’t The One

Well, I’ll tell you plainly baby
What I plan to do
‘Cause I may be crazy baby
But I ain’t no fool
Your daddy’s rich, mama
You’re overdue
But I ain’t the one, baby
Been messing with you
Got bells in your mind, mama
So won’t you pardon me
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe

Now you’re talking jive, woman
When you say to me
Your daddy’s gonna take us in baby
‘N take care of me
You know and I know, woman
I ain’t the one
I never hurt you sweet heart
I never pulled my gun
Got bells in your mind, baby
So won’t you pardon me?
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe
Time for me to put my boots out in the street baby
Are you ready boots — walk on

All right there missy, let me tell you a thing or two
Now you’re talking jive, woman
When you say to me
Your daddy’s gonna take us in baby
‘N take care of me
When you know and I know, woman
I ain’t the one
That ain’t my idea — uh unh — of having fun
Got rings in your eyes lady
So won’t you pardon me
I think its time for me to move along
I do believe
I must be in the middle of some kind of conspiracy

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Whiskey Rock-A-Roller

I thought of this song because a vendor I deal with asked me if I wanted to be in a whisky tasting event. I told him I rarely if ever drink but he convinced me! I was sent two bottles of whiskey and I have to log on and tell them what I think of the two different brands.

The song was written by Billy Powell, Edward King, and Ronnie Van Zant, this song is about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s touring life which was interesting. Ronnie Van Zant  ran into a writer who asked him “what are you man?” Ronnie Van Zant responded to the writer, saying he is a “Whiskey Rock a Roller.”

The song was on their 3rd album Nuthin’ Fancy. This is a great bar song. It was their last album produced by Al Kooper. The sound just wasn’t coming together and it was a mutual understanding that Kooper would leave after the album was finished.

Guitar player Ed King would quit and leave in May while on tour in Pittsburgh for this album. It would be the last album he would play on by the original band. It’s also Artimus Pyle’s first album on drums with the band. Bob Burns the original drummer had left shortly before after seeing the Exorcist and thinking he was possessed by the devil.

The album peaked at #9 in the Billboard Album Chart in 1975.

From Songfacts

This song was released on the Nuthin’ Fancy album on March 24, 1975. There are also two other recordings of this song that are on Skynyrd’s live album One More From the Road. In one if these recordings, Ronnie Van Zant forgets the song, and has to ask the back up singers (the Honketts) what the song is. On the other live version. Ronnie changes the opening lyrics to “I’m traveling down a highway, got a blue sky on my head, movin’ down this highway 500 miles away.”

Whiskey Rock-A-Roller

I’m headed down a highway got a suitcase by my side
Blue skies hangin’ over my head I got five hundred miles to ride
I’m goin’ down to Memphis town to play a late night show
I hope the people are ready there ’cause the boys are all ready to go

[Chorus]
Well, I’m a whiskey rock-a-roller
That’s what I am
Women, whiskey and miles of travelin’
Is all I understand

I was born a travelin’ man and my feets do burn the ground
I don’t care for fancy music if your shoes can’t shuffle around
I got a hundred women or more and there’s no place I call home
The only time I’m satisfied is when I’m on the road

[Chorus]
Sometimes I wonder where will we go

Lord don’t take my whiskey, rock and roll
Take me down to Memphis town, bus driver get me there
I got me a queenie she got long brown curly hair
She likes to drink old grandad and her shoes do shuffle around
And every time I see that gal
Lord she wants to take me down

[Chorus]

Sometimes I wonder where will we go
Lord don’t take my whiskey, rock and roll

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird…Epic Rock Songs Week

There is one more song coming after Free Bird…and we will finish this up.

When I was playing in clubs and bars we played mostly British rock. We didn’t know many Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. There would always be one drunk jackass person in the back that yelled “Free Bird”…it never failed! I have to admit it was funny the first few times. The song is a classic. It is one of rock’s anthems.

Like the others this week it builds up and it does have an electrifying solo to close it out. I’ve heard this live before and it is one of the great live songs you can hear.

The song was usually dedicated to Duane Allman and he died in 1971, two years before “Free Bird” was released. The song was written long before his death. The double guitar solo at the end is the same style as many early Allman Brothers songs.

Free Bird was on their debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd…They gave it the title because well… they knew people would not be able to pronounce their name. The album was a very solid album and it peaked at #27 in the Billboard Album Chart, #47 in Canada, and #44 in the UK in 1973. They would soon open up for The Who on their Quadrophenia tour and that helped build their audience. 

This song began as a ballad without the guitar solos at the end, and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded it that way for the first time in 1972. Guitarist Allen Collins had been working on the song on and off for the previous two years. Collins wrote the music long before Ronnie Van Zant came up with lyrics for it. Van Zant finally got inspired one night and had Collins and Gary Rossington play it over and over until he wrote the words. 

At the time of recording, the song was only 7 1/2 minutes long, but throughout the next year, Collins continued to refine the song until it was recorded for the final cut of the Pronounced album in 1973. It ended up 9:08 minutes long.

MCA did not want this on the album. They thought it was too long and that no radio station would play it. Even the band never thought it was going to be a hit.

The song was released as a single in 1974 and peaked at #19 in the Billboard 100 adn #58 in Canada. In 1976, a live version was released from the One More For the Road live album. It peaked at #38 in the Billboard 100 and #48 in Canada. 

 

From Songfacts

Frontman Johnny Van Zant discussed this song in a track-by-track commentary to promote the band’s 2010 CD/DVD Live From Freedom Hall. He said: “For years Skynyrd has always closed the show with that song and the song has different meanings for different people. This kid was telling me that they used it for their graduation song and not too long ago somebody told me that they used it at a funeral. And really it’s a love song, its one of the few that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ever had. It’s about a guy and a girl. Of course at the end it was dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers because it goes into the guitar part. If you can get through that one you’ve had a good night at a Skynyrd show.”

The lyrics are about a man explaining to a girl why he can’t settle down and make a commitment. The opening lines, “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” were inspired by Allen Collins’ girlfriend Kathy, who had asked him this very question during a fight. 

The album version runs 9:08, with the last lyric uttered at 4:55 (“fly high, free bird, yeah”). Those last four minutes comprise perhaps the most famous instrumental passage in rock history. Skynyrd had three guitarists: Allen Collins, Ed King and Gary Rossington, allowing them to jam for extended periods long after most songs would peter out.

After the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, his brother, Johnny, took his place. Performing the song was very emotional for Johnny, and for a while, he wouldn’t sing it – the band played it as an instrumental and the crowd would sing the words.

This is a classic rock anthem. Shouting it out as a request at concerts became a rock and roll joke, and every now and then a musician will actually play it. The 2007 Mitch Myers book The Boy Who Cried Freebird: Rock & Roll Fables and Sonic Storytelling explores this subject in a work of fiction about the first person ever to shout “Free Bird” at a concert.

In places, the high-pitched guitar mimics a bird flying free. This is something Duane Allman did on the 1970 Derek & the Dominos track “Layla,” where at the end he plays the “crying bird.” In that song, it signifies Layla’s untamed spirit. In “Free Bird,” the guy is the elusive one, refusing to be caged by intimacy.

Like “Free Bird,” “Layla” loses most of its mojo when cut down for single release. The full version of that song runs 7:10, with the radio edit truncated to 2:43.

Skynyrd always plays this as the last song at their shows.

In the US, this wasn’t released as a single until a year after the album came out. By that time, “Sweet Home Alabama” had already been released, and the single version of “Free Bird” was edited down. The long version from the album has always been more popular.

This Southern Rock classic was produced by a northerner: Al Kooper, who discovered the band a year earlier when they were playing a gig in Atlanta. Kooper, a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears, is from Brooklyn, New York, but he gelled with Skynyrd, crafting their sound for wide appeal without diluting it. He produced their next two albums as well.

Despite having three guitarists, “Free Bird” opens with an organ as the lead instrument, giving the guitars more impact when they arrive. In early versions of the song, this section was done on piano, but Al Kooper convinced the band that organ was the way to go. He played the instrument on the track, credited on the album as “Roosevelt Gook.” Kooper had the bona fides to pull it off: he came up with the organ section on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Ronnie Van Zant thought at first that this song “had too many chords to write lyrics for.” Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington commented in an interview with Blender magazine, “But after a few months, we were sitting around, and he asked Allen to play those chords again. After about 20 minutes, Ronnie started singing, ‘If I leave here tomorrow,’ and it fit great. It wasn’t anything heavy, just a love song about leavin’ town, time to move on. Al put the organ on the front, which was a very good idea. He also helped me get the sound of the delayed slide guitar that I play – it’s actually me playing the same thing twice, recording one on top of the other, so it sounds kind of slurry, echoey.” 

In 1988, the group Will To Power went to #1 in America with a mellow medley of this song and Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” The official title of that track is “Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley (Free Baby).”

While the lyrics contain the phrase “free as a bird,” the title itself (“Free Bird”) is used just once, right before the guitar solos begin: “Won’t you fly high, free bird.” 

Free Bird

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelin’ on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see

But if I stay here with you, girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change
Lord knows, I can’t change

Bye-bye baby, it’s been sweet love, yeah yeah
Though this feelin’ I can’t change
Please don’t take it so badly
‘Cause Lord knows, I’m to blame

If I stay here with you girl
Things just couldn’t be the same
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now
And this bird you cannot change
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
And the bird you cannot change
And this bird you cannot change

Lord knows, I can’t change
Lord help me, I can’t change
Lord, I can’t change
Won’t you fly high, free bird yeah

Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Needle And The Spoon…Drug Reference Week

This song has a cool walk down intro along with some harmonics. I like the dynamics of the song when it kicks in.

This one has gotten some significant FM play in my region. It was written by Allen Collins and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant…Van Zant was warning about the dangers of hardcore drugs, which the band was just learning about.

The song was on their sophomore offering Second Helping. The album had their biggest hit, Sweet Home Alabama. They released their debut album the year before and their fan base was growing after opening up on The Who’s Quadrophenia tour. The album peaked at #12 in the Billboard Album Chart and #9 in Canada.

In the 2015 edition of Guitar World Magazine, the solo to this song was listed as the #19 best of all time.

 

The Needle and The Spoon

Thirty days, Lord, and thirty nights
I’m coming home on an airplane flight
Mama waiting at the ticket line
Tell me son, why do you stand there cryin’?

It was the needle and the spoon
And a trip to the moon
Took me away
Took me away

I’ve been feeling so sick inside
Got to get better, Lord, before I die
Some doctors couldn’t help my head, they said
You’d better quit, son, before you’re dead

Quit the needle, quit the spoon
Quit the trip to the moon
They gonna take you away
Lord, they gonna take you away

It was the needle and the spoon

I’ve seen a lot of people who thought they were cool
But then again, Lord, I’ve seen a lot of fools
I hope you people, Lord, can hear what I say
You’ll have your chance to hit it some day

Don’t mess with a needle or a spoon
Or a trip to the moon
They’ll take you away

Lord, their gonna bury you boy
Don’t mess with the needle
Now I know, I know, I know, I know, I know

Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Ballad of Curtis Loew

Curtis Loew is not the name of an actual person from Ronnie Van Zant’s life. Curtis Loew is a composite of different people, including Skynyrd lead guitarist Ricky Medlocke’s grandfather, Shorty Medlocke. Despite the song’s lyrics, Shorty was not black.

When Ed King was writing the liner notes for the Second Helping album, he decided to name the character after Loew’s Theater thus giving an old bluesman a Jewish name.

Personally, I think it’s one of their best songs. It has an old feel about it and the slide is perfect.

Many bands go into the studio without complete songs written and work on them in there. The two bands I’ve read about that were ready when they walked into a studio were this band and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Ronnie Van Zant ran the band with an iron fist and they were rehearsed like crazy. If someone missed a note on stage…it would not be a happy time afterward.

This song was on their second album Second Helping. Their first two albums were great and the next few dipped a bit but they came back strong with their last studio album Street Survivors.

Since the song mentions a dobro…A dobro is a resonator guitar with a mechanical amplifier. It was originally released in 1927. Gibson now owns the rights to the dobro guitar.

Ref:# 00559 - This is a very beautiful 1973 Dobro Model M-66S (S ...

They had many great album cuts and this is one of them. It never was released as a single but remains on the playlist of classic rock stations.

The Ballad of Curtis Loew

Well, I used to wake the mornin’
Before the rooster crowed
Searchin’ for soda bottles
To get myself some dough
Brought ’em down to the corner
Down to the country store
Cash ’em in, and give my money
To a man named Curtis Loew

Old Curt was a black man
With white curly hair
When he had a fifth of wine
He did not have a care
He used to own an old Dobro
Used to play it ‘cross his knee
I’d give old Curt my money
He’d play all day for me

Play me a song
Curtis Loew, Curtis Loew
Well, I got your drinkin’ money
Tune up your Dobro
People said he was useless
Them people all were fools
‘Cause Curtis Loew was the finest picker
To ever play the blues

He looked to be sixty
And maybe I was ten
Mama used to whoop me
But I’d go see him again
I’d clap my hands, stomp my feet
Try to stay in time
He’d play me a song or two
Then take another drink of wine

Play me a song
Curtis Loew, Curtis Loew
Well, I got your drinkin’ money
Tune up your Dobro
People said he was useless
Them people all were fools
‘Cause Curtis Loew was the finest picker
To ever play the blues

Yes, sir

On the day old Curtis died
Nobody came to pray
Ol’ preacher said some words
And they chunked him in the clay
Well, he lived a lifetime
Playin’ the black man’s blues
And on the day he lost his life
That’s all he had to lose

Play me a song
Curtis Loew, hey Curtis Loew
I wish that you was here so
Everyone would know
People said he was useless
Them people all were fools
‘Cause Curtis you’re the finest picker
To ever play the blues

Lynyrd Skynyrd – I Never Dreamed—- Sunday Album Cut

On Sundays, I am going to start posting a good album cut.

When I think of forgotten great album cuts…this one is one of the first songs that come to mind. If you haven’t heard it give it a try. The song has a good riff starting out and the arrangement of the melody is a little different than some of their previous songs. I credit that to new guitarist Steve Gaines… Gaines and Van Zant wrote this song.

Give this song a try…The song takes a while to get going but the melody, guitar work, and the bass are great in this one.

Steve joined the band as a guitarist in 1976. Gaines had an immediate impact, writing or co-writing four of the eight songs on Street Survivors, which was released three days before the group’s plane crashed in Mississippi, killing Gaines, his sister Cassie (a backup singer with the group) and Van Zant.

It is my favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd song hands down. The band never played this live…the original or the new edition.

Street Survivors peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Charts in 1977.

I Never Dreamed

My daddy told me always be strong son
Don’t you ever cry
You find the pretty girls, and then you love them
And then you say goodbye
I never dreamed that you would leave me
But now you’re gone
I never dreamed that I would miss you
Woman won’t you come back home

I never dreamed that you could hurt me
And leave me blue
I’ve had a thousand, maybe more
But never one like you
I never dreamed I could feel so empty
But now I’m down
I never dreamed that I would beg you
But woman I need you now

It seems to me, I took your love for granted
It feels to me, this time I was wrong, so wrong
Oh Lord, how I feel so lonely
I said woman, won’t you come back home

I tried to do what my daddy taught me,
But I think he knew
Someday I would find
One woman like you
I never dreamed it could feel so good Lord
That two could be one
I never knew about sweet love
So woman won’t you come back home
Oh baby won’t you come back home