In the early 1970s a wave of Southern rock groups including the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, ZZ Top, the Charlie Daniels Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd began to break the chart dominance of British Invasion bands. These Southern rockers, with their harder edge and deep roots in the blues, were unlike more traditional country rock bands like Poco, the Flying Burrito Brothers and New Riders of the Purple Sage. The new Southern rock anthems were full of macho stereotypes, many involving drinking and fighting.
In 1973 Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Charlie Daniels Band both incorporated bars and brawls in their debut singles. Instead of the swagger you might expect, both songs – CDB’s “Uneasy Rider” and Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps” – boasted about how they managed to stay out of fights.
“Gimme Three Steps,” produced by Al Kooper of Blues Project and Blood, Sweat and Tears fame, was written by Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. The song tells the story of what happens to Ronnie when he’s caught by a jealous boyfriend while dancing in a bar “with a girl named Linda Lou.”
“Gimme Three Steps” came to be in Jacksonville, Florida during a visit to the W. T. West Tavern by Van Zant, Collins and guitarist Gary Rossington. A girl asked Van Zant to dance, which only became a problem when her boyfriend arrived and a fight broke out.
“(T)he guy pulled a gun and said he was gonna blow Ronnie’s brains,” Rossington writes on the Lynyrd Skynyrd website. “And Ronnie said, ‘Please just let me leave. I don’t know the girl. I don’t want to see her again.’ And he turned around and he said, ‘If you’re gonna shoot me, you’re gonna have to shoot me in the ass or the elbows.’”
The three headed for the door and wrote “Gimme Three Steps” in the car on the way home.
“Uneasy Rider,” written by Charlie Daniels, tells the hilarious story of a long-haired stoner whose car breaks down outside of a redneck bar in Jackson, Mississippi. To get out of trouble, Daniels accuses one of the locals of being a spy. Daniels said he wrote “Uneasy Rider” while at a rock festival in Baton Rogue, Louisiana in 1969, just after the release of the movie Easy Rider.
At the climax of the film, the long-haired bikers driving through Dixie are shot when some locals didn’t like their looks. The members of the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane performing at the concert believed art could easily become reality there in Baton Rogue. Southern boy Daniels knew that was ridiculous, but the experience gave him the germ of an idea for a song.
The situation–and the bar–were pure fiction, though Daniels based the line, “I just reached out and kicked ol’ Green Teeth right in the knee” on someone he knew. “I did actually know a guy one time who had green teeth,” Daniels told Shawna Ortega. “He had tartar on his teeth, and they actually turn green if they don’t get it off. And that’s where that came from.”