Iconic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed in 1969. Acknowledged as the greatest southern rock band of all time, the group is best known for the songs “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” as well as the tragic 1977 plane crash that took the lives of several members of the band. Founded by vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, bassist Larry Junstrom, and drummer Bob Burns, the group’s members had been playing together in various formations since 1963. Originally known as Leonard Skinnered (an homage to a high school physical education teacher), the group signed with MCA Records and released their debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), in 1973. Produced by rock icon Al Kooper, the album featured “Gimme Three Steps” and the future concert anthem “Free Bird.” By this time, the band had added former Strawberry Alarm Clock member Ed King and keyboardist Billy Powell to the line-up. Their sophomore release, Second Helping (1974), contained the massive hit single “Sweet Home Alabama,” which became the group’s signature song and catapulted them to rock & roll fame and fortune. Second Helping reached Number 14 on the Billboard 200 while “Sweet Home Alabama” climbed to Number 8 on the singles chart. The band continued to rule the rock airwaves with albums such as Nuthin’ Fancy (1975), Gimme Back My Bullets (1976), and One More from the Road (1976). By the time of the release of 1977’s Street Survivors, guitarist Steve Gaines had replaced Ed King and Artimus Pyle had taken over the drums from Bob Burns. Three days after the release of the album, the band’s plane crashed on October 20th, 1977, killing band members lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, along with their assistant road manager and the pilot and co-pilot. The remaining band members and members of their crew were seriously injured in the accident. The surviving band members spent several years recovering from the, both physically and mentally. Gary Rossington and Allen Collins formed the Rossington Collins Band in 1979, which also featured several other members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 1987, Rossington, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson, Artimus Pyle, and Ed King reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd with Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny Van Zant. Initially coming together to pay tribute to Ronnie and the original band, it became a permanent situation, and the group released a series of albums including Lynyrd Skynyrd (1991), Edge of Forever (1999), Vicious Cycle (2003), Gods & Guns (2009) and Last of a Dyin' Breed (2012). Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 and a variation of the band continues to tour to this very day. Leon Wilkeson died on July 27, 2007. Later guitarist Hughie Thomasson died on September 9, 2007. Billy Powell passed away on January 28, 2009. Ed King died on September 22, 2018. Gary Rossington died on March 5, 2023.