Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pronounced: Leonard Skinner

A Florida newspaper columnist suggested this week that if members of Lynyrd Skynyrd had played by society's rules they may have been a greater band and better members of society.  "Maybe their lives would have been as glorious as their music," the writer opined.

Well, maybe.  And maybe they would've called themselves The Noble Five -- one of the band names they considered -- and cranked out lousy music that nobody cared about. 

The occasion for this discussion is the death of Leonard Skinner, the strict gym teacher for whom Lynyrd Skynyrd's name was mockingly taken, who died this week at age 77 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease.
It's true the original band members dealt with a variety of tragic consequences related to drugs and alcohol.  We don't know that it caused the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, or prevented Lynyrd Skynyrd's lead singer from being the absolute best Southern rocker that he could be.

We don't know that if drummer Artimus Pyle had obeyed Skinner and the school rules at Robert E. Lee High in Jacksonville he would've found a better beat and never wound up a registered sex offender.

Guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington nearly killed themselves in automobile crashes -- Collins would eventually die of related complications -- and bass player Leon Wilkeson was dead at 49, far too young to be a victim of liver disease. 

That's a lot of tragedy, and it may have been related to hell raising and hard living.  But greatness and tragedy are often wrapped up in the same tight ball.  You sometimes don't get one without the other, especially it seems with rock 'n' roll.  We wish they had all stayed around a lot longer, but we wouldn't have asked them to do things differently.

As their anthem boldly proclaimed, those birds you cannot change.


  1. Bianchi? He's a weenie! Ever since Jerry retired, Bianchi makes hay by telling everyone how to think and act. Review his columns: little substance, even less thought, no evidence of experience or original thought - he's become someone's mommy. And as you intimated, had those Boys From Jacksonville listened to their coach, they wouldn't-a had the maverick spirit that led to some mighty fine music. What an odd hook for an ostensible sports column. But then this is what's become Bianchi's stock-in-trade. ('Course, if I never hear "Freebird" again I'll still get through the day ...). Can't believe you read Bianchi; he hasn't had much of anything intelligent to say since ... since he worked at the Times-Union.

  2. Jerry Greene was the man.

    1980 or thereabouts, Tampa Stadium press box ...

    Hostess: Do you need anything?

    Jerry: Yeah, a lead and a lapdance.

    Skynyrd would have been proud.

  3. At the risk of this blog becoming the Orlando Sentinel Fan Club (South), Jerry WAS the man. I worked with him and when I moved on, corresponded with him (still do). The self-deprecating, never holier-than-thou sportsman was a thinking man's sports columnist. Jerry adores Bianchi - they're best buds - but the smaller man is no chip off the ol' blockhead. And Jerry - let's call him The Breeze now that he's blowed on down the road - would-a celebrated Van Zant et al specifically for challenging authority. And for looking ridiculous on stage. ;-{)

  4. It seems all the good bands, had their share of problems!They were making money doing something they loved to do... so it allowed them to support all their bad habits.
    Drinking too much doesn't do much for your liver or wacky stuff didn't help their lungs....much less their minds
    etc, etc....Skinner made it to 77, that's pretty good I guess....look at the Stones....they all gotta be walkin time bombs with all the partying they did....all that catches up with you with age, or like some never made it to a ripe old age.....did they???