Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ronnie Van Zant

@ Wiki
Ronald Wayne "Ronnie" Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and a founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of .38 Special founder and vocalist Donnie Van Zant and current Lynyrd Skynyrd lead vocalist Johnny Van Zant.

Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, Van Zant aspired to be many things before finding his love for music. Notably, Ronnie was interested in becoming a boxer (as Muhammad Ali was one of his idols), this profession seemed fit, as Ronnie had the reputation for being a "tough" person. Ronnie also tossed around the idea of becoming a stock-car racer. In fact, Ronnie used to say that he was going to be the most famous person to come out of Jacksonville since Lee Roy Yarbrough. However, after seeing The Rolling Stones with his future bandmates, Ronnie knew what he wanted to do.

Van Zant formed Skynyrd late in the summer of 1964 with friends and schoolmates Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums). Lynyrd Skynyrd's name was inspired by a gym teacher the boys had in high school, Leonard Skinner, who disapproved of kids with long hair.

The band's national exposure began in 1973 with the release of their debut album, (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd), which included their signature song, "Free Bird", which he often dedicated to his friend, the late Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's biggest hit single, although "Free Bird" was a close second, "Sweet Home Alabama", was an answer song to Neil Young's "Alabama" and "Southern Man". The common belief that Van Zant and Young were rivals is incorrect—they were actually fans of each other and considered collaborating on several occasions.

On October 20, 1977, a plane carrying the band between shows from Greenville, South Carolina to Baton Rouge, Louisiana crashed outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. The impact of the crash tossed Van Zant out of the plane's window killing him. Van Zant, reportedly, was not wearing a seatbelt, as it is said that he preferred to sit on the floor of planes rather than proper seats. Bandmates Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray were also killed. Remaining band members survived, although all were seriously injured.

Van Zant often told those closest to him he would never live to see 30 and he wanted to die with his boots on. He died three months short of his 30th birthday.

Van Zant's younger brother, Johnny, took over as the new lead singer when the band reunited in 1987.

Van Zant was buried in Orange Park, Florida in 1977, but was relocated after vandals broke into his and band-mate Steve Gaines' tombs on June 29, 2000. Van Zant's casket was pulled out and dropped on the ground. The bag containing Gaines' ashes was torn open and some scattered onto the grass. Their mausoleums at Orange Park remain as memorials for fans to visit.

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 (1915-2004) and mother Marion (1929-2000). Both his current resting place and the empty mausoleum in Orange Park are listed. The following statement was made on the Find-a-Grave entry of his current resting place in Jacksonville: "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 capability of several tons. It is also patrolled by security."

Van Zant was married twice. His first marriage was to Nadine Inscoe and during this marriage Ronnie's first daughter Tammy Van Zant was born. During his second marriage to Judy, Melody Van Zant (his second daughter) was born. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Charlotte Dillon @ All Music
Sometimes when history is being made, the world tunes in with wide-eyed anticipation. Other times, it just kind of happens when no one is looking. That's how it was with Ronnie VanZant and a group of young guys he pulled together in the '60s who came to be known as Lynyrd Skynyrd.

VanZant was born on January 15, 1948, in Jacksonville, FL, and was raised on the rough Westside of the city where money was often scarce and street fights were the norm instead of the exception. His father, Lacey -- don't let the name fool you -- was a truck driver who had spent time working as a prizefighter when he was younger. He made sure his boys could fight well enough to hold their own. Ronnie VanZant was a great baseball player and dreamed of going pro one day, but it seemed his main love was music. He would travel with his father sometimes, listening to the truck radio the whole way. Fortunately, there was a piano and a guitar in the young VanZant's home that he could practice on. Many artists influenced him during those early years, one of them being country singer Merle Haggard. There would be other noteworthy influences later, like the Rolling Stones and Free.

When VanZant was 16, he became the lead singer for a group called Us. Things didn't work out as well as he had hoped, so he put together a band of his own, My Backyard, with Bob Burns, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Larry Junstrom. The guys, some as young as 13, practiced every second that was possible. After a while there was a name change to the Noble Five and the group began landing gigs at local dances, the pay usually being gas money and drinks. The band gained a lot of notice right away -- all from neighbors who couldn't stand the noise.

The neighbors were given a break when the Noble Five found an empty house out of town on a huge farm. The guys nicked named the little place Hell House. It was small and hot and old, but it was isolated and they could play as loud and as long as they wanted. All of the practice paid off. Working under different names, like One Percent and Conqueror Worm, the fivesome performed in clubs. It was through their tongue-in-cheek name game that the band used Lynyrd Skynyrd for the first time. The name stuck.

By 1970, Lynyrd Skynyrd had recorded a demo and was even offered a contract by the Capricorn Records label. VanZant turned it down. For the next three years the band performed at bars, traveling hours from gig to gig. The group's sound matured along the way, the equipment improved, and the guys became masters at achieving the album rock and Southern rock sound and rhythm they wanted.

In 1973 Skynyrd was offered another record deal, this time from MCA. The guys signed, and VanZant was on his way into rock history.

The band toured worldwide over the next four years, and recorded albums that went gold and platinum. The little boy, who had once dreamed of going pro in baseball, had hit a home run with his music. But fate threw a terrible curve ball to VanZant and Lynyrd Skynyrd fans. In 1977, the tour plane the group was traveling in crashed. Lead singer Ronnie VanZant, only 29 at the time, was killed in the crash, along with guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister Cassie Gaines, and the group's road manager Dean Kilpatrick. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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