Artimus Pyle’s Lynyrd Skynyrd Memoir

JANUARY 2024 – Here’s a belated update on Artimus’ memoir. We will publish this book whatever it takes. It’s been almost 12 years since I first met with Artimus to discuss a collaboration, and seven years since we submitted the completed manuscript to the publisher for an October 2017 release date. A lot has happened since then, and it’s been a challenging time. Simply put, the Skynyrd camp — i.e. the estates and Vector Management — have denounced the book as “offensive” and “defamatory,” and they don’t want it to come out. We strongly deny these allegations, but our frequent offers to meet with them to review the alleged sore points have been ignored. The problem is our foes have unlimited resources while we have essentially none. Nonetheless we are soldiering on because we are extremely proud of this labor of love. Things could get even uglier, but hopefully there will be some sort of breakthrough this year. The rest of this blog post is kept intact for posterity.

AUGUST 2021 – Because of a cease and desist letter sent by a lawyer for the Skynyrd organization*, this book is unlikely to be published. While we are confident the legal hurdles can be overcome, the legal bills would render it a Pyrrhic victory. (*Gary Rossington, Johnny Van Zant, Judy Van Zant, the estates of Allen Collins, Steve Gaines and Leon Wilkeson.) It’s a great shame because we uncovered dozens of rare or unpublished Skynyrd photos in recent months, as well as plenty of interesting tidbits to add to the manuscript.

JANUARY 2021 – A note to fans at a certain Skynyrd fan website: Thank you for the early reviews of a memoir that not only has yet to come out, but also has yet to be finished. It is Artimus’ LIFE STORY, and it will be as up-to-date as possible because he is an active human being with a lot on his mind. There is no need to worry about anything. If you don’t give a “flying fuck” about Artimus’ southern heritage and want to write your own Skynyrd book, stop kvetching and just do it.

It is December 2020. If you are new here, the gist is that Artimus’ groundbreaking memoir was put on hold because elements associated (some very tangentially, such as Steve Gaines’ daughter’s half-sister) with the Lynyrd Skynyrd organization decided it was still “too soon” to write about the rise and fall of America’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band. But Artimus is a Marine; he laughs at obstacles. We are working on publication options, and have devised some cunning plans, as Blackadder would say. For the record, here is the previous post with annotations:

Former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle, the “Wild Man of Southern Rock,” is publishing his memoir in early-summer, 2019, through Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard. Street Survivor: Keeping the Beat in Lynyrd Skynyrd will be available in all good book stores, and at Amazon. The book was originally scheduled for publication in October 2017, but it has been delayed pending resolution of unrelated litigation pitting Artimus and Cleopatra Films against Judy Van Zant. [NOTE: Artimus won the lawsuit, but it had limited legal relevance to the book, and so the publisher exited, and the agent went M.I.A.]

Artimus Pyle

This will be the first—and possibly last—Skynyrd autobiography, and therefore your only opportunity to read the truth about the rise and fall of one of America’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands. I was honored to help Artimus put it all together, trailing him across the South with my pencil and writing pad for several years. But every word, every semicolon in the book is his. It’s a breathless, 100,000-word-plus ride through almost seventy years of joy, mayhem and tragedy. You could say that Artimus is also the Hunter S. Thompson of Southern Rock.

Some previously unpublished photos are included in the book, courtesy of Nuthin’ Fancy engineer Dave Evans and the band’s wonderful UK minder Sally Arnold. I have a lot more unpublished Skynyrd and family photos that I wanted to include, but the publisher limited to us to about 40 photos. Here’s an outtake. It’s of Artimus’ extremely handsome maternal grandfather, Guy Williams, as a young man:

Guy Williams • Fentress County, TN • 1906-1994 • Maternal grandfather of Artimus Pyle
Guy Williams • Fentress County, TN • 1906-1994 • Maternal grandfather of Artimus Pyle

The book’s image is a reproduction of a photo that can be found inside the Street Survivors album.

I love the original photo, taken by Dave Alexander, who also shot the cover for the Eagles’ Hotel California. But my protests about the distressed font on the cover fell on deaf ears as did my recommendation that the star be replaced with Artimus’ marine sergeant stripes. The publisher did, at least, include a pair of horizontal drum sticks, which is pretty cool.

By the way, Artimus and I are still having fun working on his family tree. We are currently at 600+ names going back to the Kogers of southern Germany in the 16th Century. Artimus’ southern American roots begin in about 1800 with Coonrod Pile (depicted below in a tiny portion of the tree; click on it for a bigger version).

Artimus' southern roots
Artimus’ southern roots

Yes, the Crocketts are connected to Davy Crockett, and Nancy Brooks was the grandmother of Sgt. Alvin York, one of America’s greatest WW1 heroes. Artimus is intensely proud to be a cousin of Alvin’s, and a son of the south.

Dean Goodman