In The Beginning
Before they were Lynyrd Skynyrd, they were The One Percent (and before that, The Noble Five, and before that My Backyard, and before that The Pretty Ones). While Ronnie Van Zant attended Jacksonville, Florida’s Robert E. Lee High School, Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Bob Burns were students at Lake Shore Junior High School.
Van Zant — a tough kid from the other side of Jacksonville’s tracks with a bit of reputation for throwing punches — had asserted himself into one of the Lake Shore High bands called The Squires (made up of kids from the town’s wealthier areas), by showing up to one of their practices and declaring, “I’m your new lead singer.” At a Battle of the Bands a few weeks later, and under the new name Us, Van Zant and co. took the crown, but the singer had been impressed by the musicians in their rival group, The Mods, particularly their guitarist Allen Collins. Collins also happened to spend most of Saturday mornings trading licks with buddy Gary Rossington, who’d begun playing guitar alongside drummer Bob Burns. One afternoon Gary and Bob went to a Little League game where Van Zant happened to crack a foul ball that hit Burns in the head and knocked him unconscious — afterwards the three went back to Burns’ to bash out crummy covers of the Stones’ “Last Time” and Them’s “Gloria.” A few weeks later, Collins quit the Mods and joined up with the group: Van Zant had yanked him off the pitching mound in the middle of a pickup game and hadn’t really given him any other choice.
Their first show was on the back of a flatbed truck during a festival in a church parking lot.