Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder killed in car crash

He helped establish a new heavy, rebellious style of rock that took its spirit from outlaw country.

Bob Burns, the Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer whose backbeats laid the foundation for Southern rock, died Friday. He was 64.

Burns was killed when his car veered off a road in Georgia and collided with a tree and a mailbox. He was not wearing a seatbelt, according to a Georgia State Patrol spokesperson who spoke to the BBC.  

No others were injured in the crash, and Burns was the vehicle's sole occupant. Representatives for the band did not immediately return requests for comment. 

Burns co-founded Lynyrd Skynyrd in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1966. With bandmates including singer Ronnie Van Zant, bassist Larry Junstrom and guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington, he helped establish a new, rebellious, heavier style of rock that took its spirit from outlaw country and Southern mythology, and its arrangements from hard-edged era contemporaries like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. 

Burns left the band in 1975 after a series of more extreme rock 'n' roll episodes (one involving a hotel owner's cat and a window); he was replaced by drummer Artimus Pyle. Burns was not on the infamous plane that crashed in 1977, killing three band members including singer Van Zandt. The group dissolved after the crash, but reformed with Rossington – the sole surviving original member – on guitar and Van Zandt's younger brother Johnny singing lead.

Burns briefly re-joined the group in 2006 for a single performance at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On the band's official Facebook page, Rossington posted a message in tribute.

"Ironically, ... we played Jacksonville yesterday. Dale, my daughter, and I went by the cemetery to see some of the guys in the band and my parents' grave sites," he wrote. "On the way back, we went by Bob Burns' old house; it was there in the carport where we used to first start to practice with Skynyrd. My heart goes out to his family and God bless him and them in this sad time. He was a great, great drummer."

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