The story of how Lynyrd Skynyrd came up with their name has become a well-known part of Southern rock history. In 1969, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant wanted a new name for the band, and they eventually had the idea to use Leonard Skinnerd. The moniker was a combination of a tribute and a mockery, since it was a play on their physical education teacher’s name, Leonard Skinner.
Robert E. Lee High had a strict policy against boys having long hair, which was something that Coach Skinner was adamant about enforcing. But, if you know anything about Skynyrd, you know they were famous for their long hair, and not wanting to cut it, they dropped out of school.
Years later, Skynyrd developed a friendly relationship with coach Skinner, and he even let them use a photo of his realty sign for their third album.
While on a tour of their old high school in 2012, Ronnie’s younger brothers Donnie and Johnny shared their own memories of Coach Skinner. When Donnie first arrived at the school, he said they turned him away and told him to get his hair cut because it was too long. Donnie then went on to explain how out of everyone at the school, Coach Skinner was the one who was fully dedicated to enforcing the long hair rule.
“Coach Skinner would line everybody up over here…there was like a hundred in the class ya know? He would go down the line and if you had hair, actually at that time just touched your ears, it was considered too long, so you’d get kicked out.”
Despite Coach Skinner’s strict attitude, Donnie managed to keep his long hair hidden. When it came time for him to graduate, he went above and behind to make sure he didn’t get in trouble for his hair on his final day at school
“I graduated with a wig on my head because my hair was so long,” he said with a smile, adding that he thought about ripping it off during the ceremony if his parents hadn’t been in the audience.
You can watch Donnie and Johnny tour Robert E. Lee High School and talk more about Coach Skinner here. While you’re at it, enjoy one of Skynyrd’s performances below, in which they proudly show off their long hair.
We bet these guys would have been a blast to go to high school with!
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