Ed's Intro Nov 28, 2009 12:54:28 GMT -5
Post by ekforum on Nov 28, 2009 12:54:28 GMT -5
When Lynyrd Skynyrd's bassist, Leon Wilkeson, quit the band I was invited to join by Ronnie Van Zant. I was playing in a band in Greenville, N.C. and Van Zant and Gary Rossington drove up there to pick me up.
During a week-long stint at Funochio's in Atlanta (before I had joined), Skynyrd was discovered by Al Kooper. After signing a record deal with Kooper's MCA subsidiary Sounds of the South, we went into Studio One in Doraville, Georgia to record our first album "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd".
Immediately after finishing the record, Van Zant took me aside and told me that I was the worst bass player he'd ever played with! I thought I was out of a job but he suggested I switch to guitar so that the band could recreate the sound of our first album. With Van Zant's persuasion, Leon came back to the band. Even though Leon's picture is on that first album cover, I played bass guitar on that record.
The song "Sweet Home Alabama" was written during our first rehearsal with me on guitar. Our first album had not yet been released. Inspired by something Gary Rossington was playing one day at rehearsals (the arpeggiated part that you hear behind the verse), I came up with the opening riff and proceeded to write the balance of the music once I heard where Van Zant was taking it. We went up to Atlanta 4 days later to record it. It was very fresh and Van Zant commented to me that day "Well...THAT's our 'Ramblin' Man." Al Kooper loved the song and wanted to put it on the first album...but thought saving it was a better idea.
Following MCA's debut of the band, Skynyrd received the nod as the opening act for the Who's 1973 American Tour. Three shows into the tour in L.A. Pete Townsend came into the dressing room to say hey and give us his blessing. A few days later, in Boston, we (Skynyrd) got into a brawl in our dressing room and tore the place up. Someone threw an open container of beer in the direction of the entrance just as Roger Daltrey walked in wearing his infamous leather-fringe vest. He got TOTALLY SOAKED!! Daltrey, amazingly, didn't lose his cool. Even though we only played a 30 minute set, that tour with The Who really set the Skynyrd wheels in motion.
After the first single from "Second Helping" ("Don't Ask Me No Questions") failed to generate any airplay, MCA bowed to radio pressure and released "...Alabama" as a single. It was getting tremendous airplay anyway and, by October, was sitting at #8 on the national charts. That hit record earned the band our first gold record and along with it pulled our first album back up the charts making that one gold as well.
In January 1975, having just completed a grueling European Tour that saw the departure of drummer Bob Burns, Skynyrd entered the studio to begin work on our third album. Due to our heavy touring schedule, we had no other material prepared except for "Saturday Night Special" that had been recorded the previous Summer for the movie "The Longest Yard". We worked solid 16 hour days for 3 weeks to get seven songs. The result was the album "Nuthin' Fancy".
To make a long story short, I wasn't enjoying my life with the band and in June, 1975 I quit. Kooper, Rossington, and Collins all called asking if I was coming back. I didn't want to...but if Van Zant had called, I probably would have. As it stands, I'm glad the way things have worked out. Divine Providence, I call it.