The Truth About Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 Hit “Gimme Three Steps”

via Lynyrd Skynyrd / Youtube

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut single, “Gimme Three Steps,” captivated listeners with its heart-racing rock energy and vivid storytelling. While the lyrics may seem too wild to be true, the song draws its inspiration from a real-life encounter that unfolded in the band’s early days. Let’s delve into the story behind this iconic tune and uncover the truth behind the lyrics.

Setting the Stage: The Little Brown Jug Incident

The opening lines of “Gimme Three Steps” immediately set a thrilling scene, as lead singer Ronnie Van Zant introduces the narrative. He describes being at a local bar called The Little Brown Jug, dancing with a girl named Linda Lu when an unexpected visitor arrives: a man wielding a gun and searching for someone.

Gary Rossington, one of the band’s founding guitarists, revealed the authenticity of the story, saying:

“This is another true story. Ronnie went into a bar to look for someone, and me and Allen were too young to get in, so we were waiting for him outside.”

The Chorus That Echoed the Escape

In a moment of quick thinking and desperation, Van Zant utters the now-iconic chorus that drives the song’s narrative:

“Oh, won’t you give me three steps, Gimme three steps a-mister, Gimme three steps towards the door? Gimme three steps, Gimme three steps a-mister, And you’ll never see a-me no more, for sure.” Rossington explained that Van Zant’s words mirrored the actual events of that night, with the lead singer saying, “‘Just give me three steps, and I’m gone.’ The guy had a gun, and he was a redneck and he was drunk – a nasty combination of things – and Ronnie said, ‘If you’re going to shoot me, it’s going to be in the ass or in the elbow.’ And he took off like a bat out of hell.”

Escaping the Chaos

The song continues to recount Van Zant’s escape from his enraged boyfriend. In the lyrics, he acknowledges the danger he faced, singing, “I’m telling you son, well, it ain’t no fun, Staring straight down a forty-four.” Van Zant does not paint himself as a hero but instead recalls his break for freedom, remarking, “And that’s the break I was looking for, And you could hear me screaming a mile away, As I was headed out towards the door.” Rossington corroborated the events, confirming that they quickly got into a car and fled the scene, laughing about the incident as they wrote the song together.

Gary Rossington shared that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songs were rooted in relatable stories, crafted to resonate with their audience. The band considered themselves a working-class outfit, and their songs aimed to tell vivid tales that people could connect with.

Rossington reflected:

“The more wild experiences you have, the better songs you can write. We always just considered ourselves a working-man’s band and thought every song should tell a story that people could relate to.”