Lynyrd Skynyrd will always define what a country rock band should sound like; “Street Survivors” will always be their definitive album.
Leonard Skinner was a high school gym teacher in Jacksonville Florida that had a strong dislike for the long hair some of the students at Robert E. Lee High School had. Some of them he even got suspended until they cut it. Needless to say, some students didn’t like Mr. Skinner very much. So when Steve Gaines, Ronnie Van Zant, and the other members of a recently formed local rock band were coming up with a name, they decided to mockingly pay tribute to their high school nemesis. Only they changed the spelling and pronunciation just enough to avoid any kind of lawsuit. Lynyrd Skynyrd went on to become one of the most significant forces in country rock.
Tragically, Skynyrd’s career was nearly cut short when the Convair CV-240 the band and their crew were flying in crashed en route to Louisiana, killing Gains, Van Zant and his older sister Cassie who was singing background vocals for the band. The pilot, copilot, and Skynyrd’s tour manager also died. The band had played only four dates on their concert tour supporting “Street Survivors”. Because of the tragedy, the original album cover, showing the band members engulfed by flames, was almost immediately pulled from record stores, replaced by an enlarged copy of the band’s picture on the back of the album.
“Street Survivors” was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s fifth studio album. It took what the band had accomplished on their previous records to a new level. The songwriting, playing, and production are at a level nearly all bands strive for, and few will ever achieve. Street Survivors was the album that immediately propelled Lynyrd Skynyrd to superstars and country rock legends.
Amazingly, the tragedy that struck Lynyrd Skynyrd did not end the band. The surviving members regrouped in 1991 with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant on lead vocals. Currently on their “Last of the Street Survivors” tour, they are scheduled to play their last ever concert on August 9, 2019 in Las Vegas.