Skynyrd's in, but So Is All of North Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods

After the first few snubs, some fans began to say that it didn't really matter whether Lynyrd Skynyrd ever got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If the voters didn't appreciate the band's music, fine. That was their problem and the Hall of Fame's loss.

It sounded good. But, truth be told, didn't it make you mad each time the list of inductees came out and Skynyrd wasn't on it? Weren't you still waiting to hear that the boys from North Florida had been invited into that building in Cleveland? Isn't that why, for years, we kept signing online petitions, rallying around radio station drives, writing testimonials?

"It did matter," said Billy Bob Johnson, who along with his wife owns a Westside bar that is part of Skynyrd lore. "They deserve it."

Monday, they finally got it.

Crank up Free Bird.

Skynyrd is going into the Hall.

And if you're looking for reaction to that news, the bar at 5301 Lenox Ave. seems like a decent place to start. Johnson and his wife, Brittany, bought The Pastime about two years ago. On one wall, not far from a couple of photos of Skynyrd patriarch Lacy Van Zant, there is a digital jukebox that includes 242 Skynyrd songs (that's more than the Stones, Beatles and just about any other band). One of the patrons' favorites is Gimme Three Steps, partly because legend has it that the bar formerly known as "The West Tavern" was Ronnie Van Zant's inspiration for the song.

"He wrote it while sitting over there," Johnson said, pointing at a bar stool that, if you spun around, faces the door. "If it had been a bigger bar, it might have been Gimme Five Steps."

After checking out a Skynyrd drum head hung on the wall, we hopped in Johnson's truck and went for a drive, heading through the old neighborhood known as "The Bottom" and eventually ending up at the Westside cemetery where there's a row of Van Zant tombstones, including one for Ronnie. …