Gene Odom grew up with the original members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, later serving as their security manager. He now lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Journalist Frank Dorman lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Tune into any "classic rock" radio station, and within a couple of hours you will inevitably hear "Sweet Home Alabama," "Freebird," and other standards by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Second only to the Allman Brothers Band in the Southern rock pantheon, Skynyrd was at its artistic and commercial peak when a plane crash killed three members, including leader Ronnie Van Zant, in October 1977. Skynyrd's security manager, Odom, was on that plane, and this (his second Skynyrd book following the self-published Lynyrd Skynyrd: I'll Never Forget You) focuses on the tragedy and its aftermath. Though a childhood friend of Van Zant's, Odom does not offer much of an insider's perspective; instead, this is a workmanlike chronicle of the band's journey from its Jacksonville, FL, roots to worldwide stardom that appears to have been written without the cooperation of the surviving members. Marley Brant's recent Freebirds: The Lynyrd Skynyrd Story offers a less detailed and noticeably different version of the crash and also addresses the controversial recollections of other survivors in a recent VH-1 Behind the Music segment. Including a discography and tour schedules, this book is marginal as a Skynyrd biography, but it is recommended for its gripping account of the fateful crash.-Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This faithful bio of the Southern rock superstars by Odom, bodyguard and childhood friend, and journalist Dorman, starts with the plane crash that killed three band members, including charismatic singer Ronnie Van Zant. Before and after takeoff, Odom details how he repeatedly approached the cockpit and warned the pilots that the plane was malfunctioning, once even telling them, "I care an awful lot about these people," only to be told to return to his seat. Following that chapter, Odom wisely takes a backseat, and in turn offers up an earnest and informative look at the band, from their childhood days hunting squirrels in Jacksonville, Fla., to forming the group in high school and becoming one of the biggest rock bands in America. A later chapter describes the crash in sobering detail, while examining what went wrong. Much more entertaining are Skynyrd's Spinal Tap-esque problems finding the right bassist, and the genesis of the band name, which was based on a no-nonsense high school gym teacher named Leonard Skinner, who constantly apprehended the boys for smoking marijuana. Van Zant dominates the book, and the authors effectively show both his hard-drinking, brawling side, and his softer touches. The authors at times slip into overly floral prose, such as a description of the original version of the anthemic "Free Bird": "this comparative sparrow of a song was surely a hit in the making, but not yet the eagle to come." When the authors simply tell the story, they do it just fine. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Van Zant dominates the book, and the authors effectively show both
his hard-drinking, brawling side, and his softer touches."
"An admiring biography . . . disturbing and electrifying." -Kirkus Reviews