Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lynyrd Skynyrd – "Gimme Three Steps" (1973)

In walked a man
With a gun in his hand
And he was looking for you know who

In 1969, the members of a Jacksonville, Florida band consisting of five former Robert E. Lee High School students changed their name – which had originally been My Backyard, then The Noble Five, then One Percent – to Leonard Skinnerd.  Shortly thereafter, they became Lynyrd Skynyrd.

That name was the band’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to one of their high school gym teachers, Leonard Skinner.  Skinner, who personally favored a flattop hair style, was a strict constructionist when it came to the school’s policy against male students having long hair.  

Leonard Skinner
Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington was one of the many students Skinner had sent to the principal’s office for violating that policy.  In fact, Rossington dropped out of high school at least in part because he got tired of being hassled about his hair.

After Skinner retired from teaching, he started his own realty business.  The gatefold of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third album, Nuthin’ Fancy, featured a photo of a Skinner Realty yard sign.

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“Gimme Three Steps” was released in 1973 on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), which was produced by Al Kooper.

The song tells the story of what happens when a man who is dancing in a bar with a woman is confronted by her pissed-off boyfriend, who pulls a gun.  The terrified interloper asks one favor of the boyfriend: “Won’t you give me three steps/Give me three steps, mister/Give me three steps towards the door.”

The song is based on an actual incident.  From Songfacts:

As Skynyrd guitarist Gary Rossington tells it, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, who was about 18 at the time, used a fake ID to get in a bar while his younger band mates Rossington and Allen Collins waited for him in a truck.  Van Zant danced with a girl named Linda, whose boyfriend, who was not too happy about it, came up to Ronnie and reached for something in his boot.  Figuring he was going for a gun, Van Zant told him, “If you're going to shoot me it's going to be in the ass or the elbows . . . just gimme a few steps and I'll be gone.”  He ran to the truck, and he, Rossington, and Collins wrote [“Gimme Three Steps”] that night.

“Gimme Three Steps” is a staple of classic-rock radio, although it didn’t chart when it was released as a single.  But Lynyrd Skynyrd’s next two singles – “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” – didn’t do too badly.

Here’s “Gimme Three Steps”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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