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Lynyrd Skynyrd's Well Deserved Hall of Fame Induction

Would You Still Remember Me?

by Michael Buffalo Smith
December 2005

Eight years. Eight long years of watching one of the South’s all time greatest bands make the list on nominees to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only to see them passed over time and time again. Well, that’s all water under the bridge now, because Lynyrd Skynyrd has finally made it, and will be inducted into The Hall of Fame in March, 2006, along with Black Sabbath, Blondie, Miles Davis and The Sex Pistols.

GRITZ spoke to some past and present Lynyrd Skynyrd band members and friends to get their comments on the induction.

The consensus seemed to be that it was “a long time coming,” “well deserved.” It quickly became obvious as well that, to a fault, the band members credited the late Ronnie Van Zant as not only their lead singer, primary songwriter and friend, but also as the undisputed leader of the band that gave us “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Guitarist Gary Rossington said, "I'm thankful to everyone involved. It's a great thing and a great day for all of us. I'm glad those we've lost - Ronnie, Allen, Leon, Steve and Cassie - will get the honor and recognition they deserve. I'm also thankful to Rickey Medlocke and Larry Junstrom, who were with us in the beginning and Rickey's even in the band with us now. Those two also deserve a piece of this honor. We're just all really thankful for this."

Ed King, an original guitarist with the band who wrote the immortal Stratocaster lick to “Sweet Home Alabama,” said, “I am more than happy to ride into the Hall of Fame on Ronnie Van Zant's coat-tails. Sure, we all had talent...but we were the luckiest back-up band in the world.”

When drummer Artimus Pyle received a Fed Ex letter welcoming him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his first reaction was to look upward and say “Thank you Ronnie.” His second reaction was tears of sheer joy, not just for himself, but for his fallen brothers and sisters, Ronnie, Steve, Cassie, Dean, Allen and Leon. “I don’t deserve it but I am very happy for the honor,” said Artimus.”I am happy for the fans who have pushed for this for years.”

When asked what he has been up to lately, Pyle smiles and says, “I have been really happy lately, raising my kids, playing some music and surviving. I’m a survivor. And my new solo album is about finished. It should be ready the first part of the year, so that’s cool.”

"Obviously this proves that the music is here to stay,” said pianist Billy Powell. “And I feel I made a contribution to the industry and it certainly completes a lifetime accomplishment for me. I'm more excited to receive this honor especially on behalf of our brothers who can't be here, but are watching from above."

“It is my honor to say a few words,” said Deborah Jo “JoJo” Billingsley White, one of the three original Honkettes. “And to extend the very best of wishes to some of the finest musicians in this whole world, the original Lynyrd Skynyrd band. It has been a long time coming and long overdue and it is with great pleasure and pure delight that I say congratulations, way to go, hallelujah, and keep on rocking! We actually made rock & roll history! Thanks to everyone who ever bought a record, CD, or DVD. Thanks to all the DJ's who played our music, and thanks most of all to the fans and all the roadies who took such good care of us.You are the very best. I am so very pleased to have been a part, and to have been acquainted and associated with you! God Bless you each and every one and I will always love you and pray for you. You each hold a very special place in my heart. May God's richest and best be yours always.”

“I'm just thrilled,” says original Honkette Leslie Hawkins.”This is so long overdue. Ronnie would be so proud. His lyrics make him one of the greatest writers of all time. And these songs are true classics.I want to thank all the fans and people that have petitioned for so long to make this happen. I loved Ronnie, Allen, Leon, Cass, Steve and Dean and if there is champagne in heaven they're having some now.”

When asked what she has been up to lately, Leslie said “I'm happy to be performing again with my friends Ed King and Artimus Pyle. Jo and I are still having fun singing the parts we performed with the original Lynyrd Skynyrd Band and especially happy to be sharing the stage with legends Ed and Artimus. These guys are still awesome and so deserve this honor. Ed said this would be the year. Hell yeah! Thank you Hall of Fame, and God bless.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd began their career in 1973 with the release of pronounced leh-nerd skin-nerd. With more than 25 million albums sold to date, the band has become an American staple and a permanent fixture in rock n' roll history. In 2003 the band celebrated their 30th anniversary with the release of the studio album,Vicious Cycle, which was augmented by a successful tour. Artimus, Ed, JoJo and Leslie have appeared recently with Saturday Night Special, in tribute to Ronnie and the original Skynyrd Band. Bob Burns was seen most recently sitting in on drums with The Southern Rock Allstars at Freedomfest.

Friends and former band mates were eager to congratulate the band on their Hall of Fame induction, including guitarist Mike Estes, who was a member of Skynyrd during The Last Rebel era.

"It's about damn time. Lynyrd Skynyrd defined Southern Rock and inspired so many people with undeniably great songs and vocals, and killer pickin' from the band. I'm very proud to have been a part of a band that was once called America's Rolling Stones."

"I am thrilled Lynyrd Skynyrd is being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame,” says Alan Walden, the original manager for the band. “I am sure I join the legion of fans who also wonder why it has taken so long! But since the day I met them, they have always had to wait. I personally witnessed nine different major record companies pass on Lynyrd Skynyrd and this was after they heard "Free Bird," "Gimmie Three Steps," "Simple Man," "I Aint' The One," and over ten other great songs written and recorded by the band. But these guys always hung in there, never quit, and always won in the long run. My hat is off to them again and my sincere true "Congratulations" on an award well deserved. They earned it!”

Country rock superstar Charlie Daniels, a life long friend of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd guys, said “I congratulate my friends for an honor long deserved and finally forth coming. Skynyrd is the purest rock and roll band the USA has ever produced and being enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame puts the icing on the cake.”

Eddie Montgomery, one half of the red hot country duo Montgomery Gentry, said "There's not a more deserving band anywhere. Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of America's all time finest and proudest bands."

“The tides are changing for the better,” says Doug Gray, founding vocalist of The Marshall Tucker Band. “The Florida boys from the past and the present should be proud. I know as a true Southerner it sometimes takes a while for music industry movers and shakers to accept our ol’ redneck ways. Congratulations guys.”

"It is with a warm heart that I congratulate Lynyrd Skynyrd for their induction into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2006,” said George McCorkle, an original founding member of The Marshall Tucker Band. “It’s a very deserving honor to some of Americas favorite true Artists and pioneers of a wonderful form of music. Gentlemen, today the universe Rocks!”

Tim Fodrey, drummer for the Virginia based Southern Rock band The Rhythm Pigs, who have opened shows for Skynyrd in the past said “It is about time and long over due for the boys, and I know Ronnie,Allen,Steve, Leon and the rest of that great band that we lost so long ago are looking down on us and will accept that award. So with that being said, hat’s off to Lynyrd Skynyrd and to Southern Rock! Fly on Free Birds!”

GRITZ Magazine would like to toss our two-cents in as well, by saying "Congratulations guys. And thank you for many years of some of the finest rock and roll ever played by anyone, anywhere. Ronnie Van Zant, this Bud's for you brother!"

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction will happen March 13, 2006 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The ceremonies will be taped, edited and broadcast on VH1 at a later date.

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