Song Recorded With Producer Banned From Studio Becomes Band’s Signature Tune
This is Behind The Cover, an interesting look at the story behind the music and the cover artwork of an iconic album release from the past few decades. This feature is proudly presented by Pure Music Manufacturing.
“Pronounced ‘Leh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nerd” was the debut album for American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd which was released in 1973. The album produced several singles including “Gimme Three Steps,” “Simple Man,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” and the song that launched the band to stardom, “Free Bird.” The album went on to be certified gold by the RIAA in December 1974 and double platinum in July 1987. It also peaked on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart at Number 27 two years after it was released.
The band had been playing live concerts for quite some time and the majority of the songs on their debut album were these songs. Before going into the studio, the band rented a rural rehearsal space they named Hell House near Jacksonville, Florida. It earned that name from the long hours and the intense heat the band experienced while there. It was at this location where the rest of the material for the album was written. The band chose to run through each song endlessly until they were perfected and then they went to the studio to record the final product.
Before the recording sessions, bassist Leon Wilkeson left the group. He was replaced by guitarist Ed King. Following the recording of the debut album, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant convinced Wilkeson to rejoin the band and as a result, created the trademark “Three Guitar Army” that filled the signature Lynyrd Skynyrd sound.
Producer Al Kooper felt that the song “Simple Man” was too weak to be included on the album. The band felt otherwise and could not sway Kooper so he was escorted outside of the studio by Van Zant and left to sit in his car until the song had been recorded. The song, recorded without their producer present, has since become one of the band’s most recognized songs.
The cover features a photograph of the band. It was taken on Main Street in Jonesboro, Georgia and happens to be the final photo taken that day. It was a long day in the heat but the group photo continues to be one of the best of the band. It shows, from the left: Leon Wilkeson (seated), Billy Powell (seated), Ronnie Van Zant, Gary Rossington (seated), Bob Burns, Allen Collins, and Ed King. It was such a hot day when the photoshoot took place that seconds after the cover shot was taken, Rossington vomited on the sidewalk.
As of August 22, 2018 (the date of Ed King’s passing), the last surviving member of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the album photo is Gary Rossington. The band name, chosen by Van Zant, is a mock tribute to his school gym teacher Leonard Skinner who had a dislike of male students with long hair.
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