Can I get some “Free Bird” up in here?

Leonard Skinner, the high school gym teacher from whom the seminal Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd borrowed its name, has passed away at the age of 77.

Skinner spawned the group’s peculiarly (mis)spelled moniker during a conflict with several long-haired male students at Robert E. Lee High, the Jacksonville, Florida school where he taught in the early 1960s. The students, irked at Skinner’s mockery of their flowing manly tresses, displayed their outrage by forming a band and naming it after Skinner. (Which leads one to wonder why more rock bands aren’t named after high school gym teachers. Not to mention mothers, neighborhood bullies, and ex-wives.)

What strikes me as ironic about Skinner’s passing is the fact that he survived almost all of the key members of the band that parodied his name.

Lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines were killed in an infamous 1977 plane crash.

Guitarist Allen Collins was seriously injured in an automobile accident in 1986, and died of complications from his injuries in 1990.

Bassist Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver disease in 2001, at the age of 49.

Keyboard player Billy Powell died of a heart attack in 2009.

Guitarist and vocalist Hughie Thomasson, who joined a latter-day incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd after a long career as the leader of another influential Southern rock band, the Outlaws, died of an apparent heart attack in 2007.

I guess Mr. Skinner got the last laugh.

There is, apparently, no truth to the rumor that the current edition of Skynyrd, which retains guitarist Gary Rossington as the “sole survivor” from the original membership, is planning to release an album entitled Lynyrd Skynyrd Is Dead (And Most of Us Have Been For Some Time).

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Explore posts in the same categories: Celebritiana, Dead People Got No Reason to Live, Hero of the Day, Listology, Ripped From the Headlines, Soundtrack of My Life

One Comment on “Can I get some “Free Bird” up in here?”

  1. Scott Roche Says:

    Wow. That might just be the dictionary definition of ironic.


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