After the release of 'Second Helping' and the resulting tour, the band regrouped at home for a short break. However, the pressure was soon on again as Skynyrd had a contractual obligation to MCA to put out a new album fairly quickly.

The band headed out to the studio to crank out the songs. In an extremely limited time span, the band managed to come up with an album's worth of original material. The first song to be recorded was their gun control anthem 'Saturday Night Special'. By the time the song was finally recorded, the band found themselves in turmoil.

Original member Bob Burns decided that he had had enough and he quit prior to Skynyrd embarking on a European tour. It was later claimed by elements associated to the band that Bob's growing obsession with the film 'The Exorcist', as well as his involvement in a car crash ( which involved a fatality ) had seriously altered his personality.



Other versions of why Burns departed the band are, firstly that, Alan Walden remembers meeting Bob at an airport, and finding that the band had fired him, and secondly that, Bob left because he was suffering with his health due to the bands lifestyle.

Bob Burns; "I just had to leave for my own sake. The touring, the recording, the constant motion was too much. I'm very proud of my contributions though, even today, when I listen to the radio and hear me, I can hardly believe it."

The departure of Burns inspired Ronnie to write the lyrics to one of his most unsung treasures 'Am I Losin', an acoustic lament for his friend Bob.


The band looked around for a replacement. Their southern contemporaries The Marshall Tucker band knew of a drummer who they believed could fit right in; Thomas Delmar Pyle. Pyle was a North Carolina drummer who had worked both with Tucker and also with Charlie Daniels. He was known to his friends, not as Thomas, but under the (at first glance bizzare) name of Artimus. The name Artimus was a nickname attributed to him in his days in the Marines by his comrades. Artemus was a god of beauty, and the name was attributed to Pyle because of his (then) fresh faced complexion.



Artimus made his live debut at Jacksonville’s Sgt Pepper’s Club in October 1974 and then joined the band for the rest of the recordings at Webb IV Studios in Atlanta in January, 1975, The recording of the album continued to completion. The resulting tour to support it brought another chaotic decision for Skynyrd.


With the album 'Nuthin' Fancy' in the can, and then released, the band went out on the road to promote it. The Nuthin Fancy tour became the stuff of legend, with the band members themselves unofficially naming it the 'Torture Tour'. It was a monster 61 shows in three months. Skynyrds hellraising lifestyle was at an all time high, and the tour often involved drunken performances, cancellations, and fist fights between the band and just about anyone else, even fellow band members.


Ronnie Van Zant;
"We were doing bottles of Dom Perignon, fifths of whiskey, wine and beer...We couldn't even remember the order of the songs. Some guy crouched behind an amp and shouted them to us. We made the Who look like church boys on Sunday. We done things only fools'd do."

Guitarist Ed King, who by now had serious problems with drug addiction, decided that he couldn't carry on for the good of his health. He simply packed up and left in the middle of the so called "Torture Tour" on May 27, 1975 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Collins and Rossington divided King's parts for the remainder of the tour.

Ed King; "I couldn't live with it anymore. It was a situation that had gotten out of control and I had gotten out of control with it. I'm not proud of the way I left, but I'm glad I did. I had problems with the management, and there were internal conflicts in the band I just couldn't cope with."



The album, although a good one, was treated more harshly by critics, who described it as "awkward compared to live renditions of the same songs."


Skynyrd had reached the end of the road with their current management, and bought out Alan Walden for $225,000, before signing up with Peter Rudge. Allen believed that Walden booked "the same old places where we had made all the money, so they could make their money." Walden claims that he was responsible for making money for the band by getting their music featured in movies.


Alan Walden;
"When I was asked to step down as the manager of Lynyrd Skynyrd, I was naturally disappointed and probably reached my lowest point in life since the tragic death of Otis Redding. I tried to reach an intelligent decision as what direction to take. I could have met with them and stroked them and made some type of compromise with my commissions and some of their other demands. But..... I knew I had lost control and would end up being another 'yes' man, not the position a Manager should be in. I went to Columbus, Georgia, and had a talk with Ronnie and this is when he told me the brotherhood was gone, that Lynyrd Skynyrd was now 'a working machine'. I knew then this was not for me. We had been one of the best, 'all for one and one for all' up until this day. I left and proceeded to make a deal to relinquish my management to Peter Rudge."


Rudge was soon making his presence felt, pushing away Skynyrd producer Al Kooper to a greater and greater degree.


Another person added to the Skynyrd family around that time was Ronnie's boyhood friend Gene Odom. Gene was added to the mix as Ronnie's personal bodyguard as well as being in total command of the band's security. Gene came onboard in 1975, and after the Torture Tour spent some time on the road doing a similar job for The Rolling Stones. After that Gene was a permanent fixture with Skynyrd until Oct 20 1977.

Gene has written two books with his memories and stories of Lynyrd Skynyrd and they are, 'Lynyrd Skynyrd - I'll Never Forget You' published by A S C Pub., ISBN No. 0965661903, and, 'Lynyrd Skynyrd : Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock' published by Broadway Pub. ISBN No. 0767910273.

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Chapter 5: 1975 To 1976 - 'Bullets'