How to Play Guitar Like Lynyrd Skynyrd

Hi All,

This lesson is how to play guitar like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Its the ‘Freebird’ Intro & Chords. Before we start the video lesson of how to play ‘Freebird’ here is a bit of history of the band for you.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – The Show Must Go On

    Lynyrd Skynyrd is a band influenced by rock-blues inspired groups of British music, as well as by their own southern foundations. The American Southern Rock band originated in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida when Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins and Gary Rossington (guitar) formed the group “The Noble Five.”  Undergoing several name changes before settling on Lynyrd Skynyrd, the group identified as “My Backyard” when Larry Junstrom (bass) and Bob Burns (drums) joined in 1965, and later as “One Percent” when keyboardist Billy Powell united in 1970.  The bands final and current name derives from a mocking homage to Robert E. Lee High School’s gym coach Leonard Skinner who enforced the school’s dress policy that didn’t allow boys to have long hair that would fall below the ear line.

The Discovery


    In 1972 bassist Leon Wilkeson joined in replacement of Larry Junstrom and this same year, after playing at a club in Atlanta, Lynyrd Skynyrd was discovered by al Kooper of ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears” who signed them to MCA records. Under management of Allen Walden, the band produced their first album the following year, ‘(pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd)’ which included the hit song ‘Free Bird’. Eventually reaching #19 in the Billboard Hot 100, the hit is still acclaimed to be a rock & roll hymn to this day.

Rising Success

    Lynyrd Skynyrd underwent rising success and gained a solid fan base throughout 1973 and 1974. Releasing their follow-up “Second helping” the group revealed their breakthrough hit ‘Sweet Home Alabama” that placed #8 on the charts. The album itself reached #12, and ultimately went multi-platinum.
They released their third and fourth albums, ‘Nuthin’ Fancy’ and ‘Gimme Back my Bullets’ in 1974 and 1976, respectively. These, however, didn’t achieve as much recognition as the first two had accrued. Having lost guitarist Ed King midway through the tour of ‘Nuthin’ Fancy’, the band needed to recover the 3-guitar lineup that had been their hallmark during their earliest years.
Despite recruiting several high-profile guitarists, it wasn’t until Steve Gaines was auditioned that the band found their missing link. With him aboard, they released their 5th, double live-album ‘One More from the Road’ and toured the UK with the Rolling Stones. Selling half a million records upon release, 1977’s follow-up ‘Street Survivors” proved Gaines’ guitar and songwriting contributions to be the band’s ideal complement.

The Plane Crash

    On October 20th 1977, three days after the release of ‘Street Survivors’ and four dates into the tour of said album, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed close to their destination of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At around 6:42 PM, 2 hours and 42 minutes into the flight, the Convair 240’s engine magneto failed and, after loosing communication with the Houston Center, the aircraft went down 5 miles NE of Gillsburg, Mississippi.
Upon crashing, Pyle, the only ambulatory band member along with two other members of the crew, called for the help of nearby farmer Johnny Mote.  Soon after, paramedics and rescue workers arrived at the scene to help the injured and move the dead.
Out of the 24 passengers on board, the accident claimed the lives of pilot Walter McCreary, co-pilot William Gray, Ronnie VanZant, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, Steve and Cassie Gaines. Allen Collins suffered two cracked vertebrae and severe injuries in his arms. Leon Wilkenson, another surviving band member, sustained a punctured lung and had most of his teeth knocked out. Gary Rossington broke both arms, both legs and his pelvic bone also suffering puncture wounds to his stomach and liver. Billy Powell virtually lost his nose due to severe facial lacerations upon impact and backup singer Leslie Hawkins broke her neck in 3 places, suffering a concussion. Artimus Pyle also endured several exposed fractured ribs.
The accident brought along some media and public attention, bumping ‘Street Survivors’’ placing up to #5 in the US charts. The group, however, found it a better decision to dissolve and disbanded following the tragedy.

More Tragety

   Years after the plane crash, misfortune still seemed to haunt some of the remaining founding members of the group. Collins, who had joined Rossington, Wilkenson and Powell to become ‘The Rossington-Collins Band’ lost his wife and unborn son to internal hemorrhaging and complications during pregnancy. Later, in 1986 he crashed his car costing the life of his girlfriend and also resulting in his complete paralysis from the waist down. Pleading guilty to a charge on DUI manslaughter, he avoided jail time due to his condition. After reuniting with surviving members for a tribute tour, he contracted pneumonia and died on January 23rd 1990.

Supposedly a one time event due to legal band/band name ownership issues, the remaining members kept up with the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour and even settled in continuing the band under the Lynyrd Skynyrd name.

Rickey  and Hughie

 The band recovered an infallible 3-guitar-lead when Rickey Medlocke and Hughie Thomasson joined in 1996. Medlocke, better known as the lead guitarist and front man of ‘Blackfoot’, had grown up with the founding members of the band and once already been a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1970. In 1971 he left in order to reform ‘Blackfoot’, joining Skynyrd once again 25 years later in replacement of Ed King. Hughie Thomasson, on the other hand, was a former member and main writer of ‘The Outlaws’. When they disbanded in ’96 he joined Lynyrd Skynyrd, where he remained as one of the 3 lead guitars, until 2005 that he left so as to reform his former group “The Outlaws”.

Leon Wilkenson

The group faced death once again when bassist Leon Wilkenson passed away at a Florida hotel due to lung and liver disease in 2001.  More recently on the 9th of September 2007, Hughie Thomasson, former member of the band for over 9 years, died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack at the age of 55.
Despite being repeatedly surrounded by loss and misfortune, Lynyrd Skynyrd still manages to transcend, continuing the legacy of their names.  Under the lead of original members Gary Rossington and Billy Powell and a little VanZant heritage, the band still records and tours today.

Before we go on I would just like to dedicate this video to my lost friend B.B.(Brian Bird) R.I.P.

 On with the lesson

Freebird intro and Chords

My version for Brian R.I.P.

Anybody want to have a go at the end lead break? Here are a set of video’s for you. Of course this is my version.

Intro and Chords

Free Bird Lead Break Part 1

Free Bird Lead Break Part 2

Free Bird Lead Break Part 3

Free Bird Lead Break Part 4

Free Bird Lead Break Part 5

Free Bird Lead Break Part 6

Free Bird Lead Break Part 7

Free Bird Lead Break Part 8

Have fun

Hope this helps

Tony J.

4 thoughts on “How to Play Guitar Like Lynyrd Skynyrd

  1. Hi Lynyrd Skynyrd are very good guitar player and they are very popular ever. It requires lot of practice to learn guitar. Lynyrd Skynyrd are very professional player their music is too good I like listing them. Thank you for the post. Do post more about them.

  2. Who runs this page? I’m Brian’s daughter Katy, it’s so good to see my dad on this page after him being gone 7 years :’)

  3. Who runs the page? Apparently no one because the info is very outdated. There’s no mention of the loss of Eav Evans & Billy Powell.

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