Originally created 12/15/04

Rock hall of fame voters again snub Lynyrd Skynyrd



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For the sixth consecutive year, Jacksonville band Lynyrd Skynyrd was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And for the sixth consecutive year, it was jilted.

"Hell, we don't even talk about it," said Johnny Van Zant, the band's lead singer. "Skynyrd just hasn't gotten its just due."

The hall announced its 2005 class Monday. U2, The O'Jays, Percy Sledge, The Pretenders and Buddy Guy were selected. And for the sixth year, Skynyrd wasn't.

The band from Jacksonville's Westside has come to personify the American South. It formed in the late 1960s, when lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Gary Rossington attended Lee High School and guitarist Allen Collins attended Forrest High. The band was completed with bassist Leon Wilkeson, pianist Billy Powell, drummer Bob Burns and third guitarist Ed King.

The band released classic songs including Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama and was at the peak of its popularity when a 1977 plane crash in rural Mississippi killed Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, backup vocalist Cassie Gaines. The band's assistant road manager and two pilots also died.

Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited in 1987 when Johnny Van Zant took his brother's spot as lead singer. It is still touring and releasing albums.

"I think it's despicable," author Marley Brant said about the hall's vote. Mr. Brant wrote Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story, and said the main reason Skynyrd has been kept out of the hall is that voting for the band remains politically incorrect.

"In (the voter's) eyes, Skynyrd were Southern rednecks who aren't worthy of their consideration," said Mr. Brant, who is from California. "The rock 'n' roll elite are biased (against) the working-class Southerners who aren't black. It's not racism, (it's just that) Southerners aren't taken seriously."

A group of about 1,000 performers, rock writers and music industry insiders votes for entry into the hall, located in Cleveland. The induction ceremony will be March 14 in New York.

Johnny Van Zant said he would like to see this happen for his brother. He said at first he thought the band's exclusion had to do with the band's continuing to tour without core members. "(Or) maybe it's just different people in the music business think we're a bunch of rednecks."

Steve Waksman, professor of music at Smith College, said that reasoning is logical.

"At the time when Skynyrd were around, people looked at them with suspicion, because they were Southern," he said. "To anyone who looked at them closely, they were more than good ol' boys playing rock 'n' roll. I think Skynyrd was the best band representing the Southern rock movement."

The Allman Brothers Band is the only act from that movement in the hall.

Mr. Waksman said Lynyrd Skynyrd is more deserving than many acts already in the hall.

"If Billy Joel is the rock hall of fame," he said, "Skynyrd should be, three times over."