Long considered the "wild man" of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Artimus Pyle's powerful and distinctive double bass drumming helped define the legendary Skynyrd sound.

 


Born at St Joseph's Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky on July 15, 1948, Thomas Delmar Pyle, the only son of Clarence and Mildred Pyle, weighed nearly 8 pounds. Almost from his earliest memories, Artimus recalls being fascinated by rhythm and sound. Even his first love, horses, came from the rhythmic clopping as they moved. Tommy and his two sisters were always around horses and animals as they grew up spending a lot of time with their grandparents. Artimus' first memory involves falling off a horse at age seven. When asked if he was OK after picking himself up, the confident Tommy replied,
"Yep, it's a long way down though."

All of the Pyle kids worked a great deal for their family while growing up. One of his earliest jobs,at the age of eight, was running a bulldozer with his grandfather. Again, Tommy noticed the constant rhythm of the machine and was soon tapping his feet and patting his hands in time with his work.


ARTIMUS IN 1949

 


Music was always there for young Arti. His dad sometimes conducted swing bands and sang a little. In fact country and swing music dominated the airwaves for Artimus.

Artimus; "Grandma would always have country, pure Nashville Tennessee country music, blaring over the radio with a lot of static. Real bad reception, just blasting through the house to get everybody up for breakfast."

Artimus' natural sense for time and rhythm made his mother buy him a set of bongos when he was nine years old. Then when Tommy turned twelve, his dad bought him a real set of drums, a used red sparkle Slingerland rig that he treasured. The Pyles often moved around a lot, because Arti's dad was an architect who had to move with his work. Artimus spent his teenage years in Columbus, Ohio. This gift soon led to the formation of his first band, The Thom Thumbs.

 


After graduating high school, Tommy entered the Marine Corps where he performed extremely well. He was selected the best honour recruit in 1968, which netted him the award of a full-dress Marine uniform from the Leatherneck magazine. His career in Marines, although short, was rewarding and an influence that remains to this day. Arti was very nearly sent into combat in Vietnam - he was being sent for training when the war drew to a conclusion. Artimus was eventually discharged from the forces on compassionate grounds - his father's Cessna 150 plane was hit from behind by a B-57 bomber over Albuquerque, New Mexico. When he left the Marines, Tommy enrolled at Tennessee Technical College in Cookeville, Tennessee. Here Tommy was transformed into Artimus. Still "baby-faced" despite the years in the Marines, his buddies at the school renamed him in honour of the virgin Artemus.



TOMMY ( ARTIMUS ) 1968

 


As college friends met hometown friends, Artimus stuck.

Artimus settled in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His first wife said she had musician friends who lived there, and indeed she did, George McCorkle and the rest of The Marshall Tucker Band.

Artimus; "I met George McCorkle and all of them and it was just like getting together and smoking a joint. So, I got to know the guys and everything. They invited me to a couple of shows."

Still playing drums locally In the early '70s, Pyle came to the attention of Southern Rock legend Charlie Daniels, via Marshall Tucker, who gave him a job as a percussionist at the Volunteer Jam. From the Charlie Daniels Band, Pyle moved on to play as a session drummer with The Marshall Tucker Band themselves. Pyle's' association with Tucker and possibly Daniels even more so, came in very handy. Charlie Daniels was a man who Ronnie Van Zant had huge respect for. Pyle wanted to play a show with Skynyrd, and when Charlie said Artimus was a great drummer, that was good enough for Ronnie. Pyle got to meet Ronnie and Ed King at Studio One at Doraville, Georgia.

Artimus; "When Ronnie Van Zant got the OK from Marshall Tucker and Charlie Daniels, hell, he hired me almost without hearing me. He set up an audition for me with Ed King and Leon in Atlanta but he didn't even show up. He said "Hire the guy". He gave me a paper sack with $5,000 cash in it. We were two of the happiest people in the whole wide world. We paid our bills, we bought us a Sony Triton TV set. We were fat city."

 


Artimus' live debut with the band took place in Jacksonville's Sgt Pepper's Club in October 1974. The gig, a show to raise money and awareness for Jacksonville's food bank, was hot. Everyone remembers the band walking through the front door and into a crush of people that doubled the legal occupancy of the club. Playing under the hot lights in an over-packed club with an underpowered air conditioner made for a memorable night. When Bob Burns left the band permanently following Skynyrd's first European tour in December 1974, Artimus quickly got the nod as Skynyrd's new drummer.

 


Pyle's first album with Skynyrd was 'Nuthin' Fancy', a chance for him to show of his distinctive double bass drumming. However, Pyle didn't need a big kit to produce his distinctive Southern feel - on the great acoustic track Artimus backs Ronnie, Gary, Ed, and guest mandolin picker Barrylee Harwood on nothing more than a marching drum and a coca-cola crate. It worked brilliantly.

One of Arti's highlights with the band was the 1976 Knebworth festival - a huge open air gig at Knebworth, England where the band was second on the bill to the Rolling Stones. It was the biggest single audience the band had ever played to and they played their hearts out on the day, outperforming the Stones according to legend.

 


ARTIMUS & RONNIE

 

Artimus; "There was 250,000 people there that day. There were no drug overdoses, it was in the middle of an English drought. There was dogfights above the crowd by old WWI aircraft. Simulated dogfights. There was hot air balloons...it was just a beautiful day."

Artimus; "It was an incredible day. Incredible music and just brushing shoulders with Jack Nicholson and Paul and Linda (McCartney) and I met the Stones and all the people from the business that were there. I remember looking through a window out of our dressing trailer, and looking into this tent where Mick Jagger and Gary Rossington and Ronnie were sitting. They were smoking hash. They were tapping a pipe. I mean this was years ago so I know it wasn't crack, or whatever they smoke in that. They were passing this thing around, and I remember sitting there in my dressing room looking through the window and going "Man, I'd like to go over and smoke hash with Mick Jagger" But I didn't. I said "Nah...I'll just watch"."

Skynyrd were on one of their many UK and European tours in 1977, when they involved in a fracas in a London hotel. With a conference going on in one of the function rooms, Ronnie and the band were drinking the bar dry. As often happens, the drink started talking and Ronnie, Gary and Artimus wound up in a fistfight with the conference delegates. Unfortunately for Skynyrd, they had selected the wrong opponents. The delegates were not paunchy businessmen, but the Metropolitan Police Boxing team. Artimus and Gary ended up being carried out of the hotel unconscious.

 


The years Artimus played with Skynyrd were the years that solidified the legend behind the band. Quickly developing into one of the nation's top touring draws with a gruelling schedule of 300 shows a year, the constant work and touring paid off. During this time Artimus was generous to other talented bands who hadn't broken like Skynyrd had, such as the late Ace Moreland's band. By October 20, 1977, Skynyrd's songs had become radio staples. Their latest album, Street Survivors, had just been released to critical and popular acclaim. Their ambitious new tour, just days underway, saw sell-out crowds. Then it all fell away at 6000 feet above a Mississippi swamp.

Once the plane had been downed into the swamp, Pyle knew that if help didn't come they would probably all die.

Artimus; "My friends were bleeding and dying. I didn't think about it, I just took off running."



ARTIMUS 1976

 


Pyle had numerous wounds from the crash including broken ribs as he ran for help. It is important to remember his bravery, he had to negotiate two to three feet of swamp water, infested with snakes and alligators in pitch darkness. Eventually, Artimus spotted a farmhouse in the distance, and made for it. The farmer, Johnny Mote, saw a bloodied Pyle charging towards him, looking like Charles Manson. Unsurprisingly, Mote assumed himself to be under attack, and so he shot Pyle in the shoulder. It wasn't until Pyle could say the words
"plane crash" that Mote began to realise what had happened.

Gritz Magazine; What's the truth about you after the crash? There are so many rumours and urban legends about you running for help and getting shot by a farmer.
Artimus; Those are all true.

 


Pyle survived the crash and after some time in recovery he continued to drum. His first outing was with fellow Skynyrd, Billy Powell, when they helped out on an album by Texan singer-songwriter Leon LeBront. He then performed with some of his ex-Skynyrd colleagues in a short-lived band called 'Alias' who released a solitary album in 1979 called 'Contraband'.

 


He was then lined up to be the drummer for the Rossington Collins Band, but partway through the preparation of the first RCB album, Pyle broke his leg in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina. The band tried to make provision for his recovery by pushing back the recording dates, but eventually Artimus decided that his participation was not fated, and he pulled out. He was replaced in the band by well known Jacksonville drummer Derek Hess. He wasn't forgotten however, and was mentioned in the credits in the liner notes of the first Rossington Collins Band album 'Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere', as well as introducing the RCB at a concert in Orlando, Florida.

 


With Arti unable to participate in the Rossington Collins Band, he formed his own band in 1981, APB (All Points Bulletin), with Darryl Otis Smith, John Boerstler, Steve Brewington and Steve Lockhart. The band put out two MCA albums, 1982's 'APB' followed by 'Nightcaller' in 1983 ( on which Lockhart was replaced by Russ Milner and new vocalist Karen Blackmon ).

In 1987, the Skynyrd reunion was being planned, and when the time came for a drummer to be found, Artimus was the man they turned to, ahead of even Bob Burns, after all, Arti had the bond of being a crash survivor and was also with the band in '77, and the reunion was to continue as close to that line-up as possible. Arti got the call to say the band was going to play a one off show. At this time he was living and working in Jerusalem. He was on a plane home to America within 24 hours, with a plan that he would commute between his home in Israel and the Tribute Tour in America. He rejoined his former colleagues for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987.

The Tribute Tour was not without problems, especially when Judy Van Zant and Teresa Gaines took the band to court. Judy had a document signed on a drug filled night in 1978 which was signed by Rossington and Collins. It said that Skynyrd's name would never be used again. Although settled out of court, Skynyrd agreed the name could only be used under the 'Rule of Three'. This meant that the band had to include Gary Rossington, and at least two more out of Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ed King and Artimus.

Artimus remained with the band until the recording of their comeback studio album 'Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991'. Pyle left the band shortly after.

Artimus; "I left Skynyrd because they were doing the coke thing. I couldn't stand to be a part of that. I'm not saying that I haven't done drugs and that was years ago."

 


Not long after leaving Skynyrd, Artimus was embroiled in personal problems involving allegations from his then girlfriend. The short version is that Pyle's legal defence allegedly cost him half a million dollars and cleaned out his bank account of everything he made from playing with the band.

It is also alleged that when the news broke, Skynyrd very quickly distanced itself from Artimus.

Artimus allegedly said that he went to see Rossington and Johnny Van Zant to see if they would allow him to work with them, even temporarily, to help get him back on his feet. They apparently never contacted him with an offer.


ARTIMUS

 


Although he was no longer a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Artimus put much of his time into helping to promote 1995's 'Freebird the Movie' across the US.

 


After Skynyrd, Artimus was a member of The Fenwicks, before forming a trio involving Molly Hatchet's legendary bassist Banner Thomas called "The Truth". "The Truth" didn't last for a long time, due to Artimus having differences with the other two members and ever since it finished Artimus has resurrected and sustained his APB band which remains a popular draw on the live circuit. In fact, APB was the launch pad for some great musician's, most notably The Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mules phenomenal bass player, the late Allen Woody.

In 1997, Pyle says that he was contacted by Gary Rossington and asked back into the Skynyrd fold to drum on what would become the 'Twenty' album. Arti expressed interest, but says that Gary never returned to him. Next thing Pyle knew, the band had signed up session drummer Owen Hale to perform with them.

In 1999, Artimus joined most of the original Molly Hatchet band in a one-off fund raising show for their diabetes and stroke affected leader Danny Joe Brown.

 



A.P.B. (All Points Bulletin)

 
More recently Artimus has been performing in 2004 with the Saturday Night Special Band, a Ronnie Van Zant tribute act. The band has since renamed itself 'Artimus Pyle and the Saturday Night Special Band'.

Arti is now happy and healthy, living in Asheville, North Carolina, with his lovely wife Kerry.

March 13th 2006, Artimus was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame for his pre-1977 involvement with Lynyrd Skynyrd. At the induction ceremony Artimus performed with fellow inductees, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Bob Burns and Ed King, and current Lynyrd Skynyrd members Johnny Van Zant and Ean Evans.

Congratulations Artimus.

Visit Artimus at his website : http://www.apbband.com

       


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