After the release of their gold-selling 1973 debut record, Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd, and subsequent triumphant opening slot on the Who’s Quadrophenia tour, they no longer were a struggling “little” band. Lynyrd Skynyrd had conquered the international rock scene, convincingly. With the release of their sophomore set, the boys from Jacksonville were positioned to “close the deal” in a big way. And 45 years ago this week (April 15, 1974), they delivered a platinum-selling slam dunk.

Produced by Blood, Sweat & Tears co-founder, Al Kooper, Second Helping was brimming with southern-bred authenticity and — great songs. Kicking off with the iconic chart-buster, “Sweet Home Alabama,” the eight cut collection sounded raw, and felt real.

Fueled by Gary Rossington, Allen Collins and Ed King’s heart-stopping triple-threat guitar riffs, beefed-up by Leon Wilkeson’s fast-ass bass lines and glossed to perfection by Billy Powell’s warm Fender Rhodes and rib-tickling piano work, the LP absolutely crackled with urgency.

A rock anthem know by millions the world over, this is “Sweet Home Alabama.”


For many (myself included), the most engaging component of the Skynyrd brand — particularly on Second Helping was the unique storytelling aspect of the songs. Leading that charge, the band’s legendary frontman, the late Ronnie Van Zant. His notoriety as a master storyteller had been cemented on the group’s debut. On record #2, his distinguished reputation was enhanced further. Peppered with gritty growls and hell-raisin’ woo-hoos, Van Zant’s vivid tales were honest and pure. In terms of his lyrics, he simply couldn’t lie. Whatever Ronnie Van Zant was “selling,” I was “buying,” hook, line and sinker.

Although “Sweet Home” was (and still is) a super-hit, other Second Helping slices were (and still are) equally satisfying. A heartfelt, blues-inspired love song, “I Need You” is a gorgeous piece of work, along with “The Ballad of Curtis Loew”— the blues-driven tribute to “a black man with white curly hair and an old dobro.”

Still one the heaviest and nastiest riff-driven tracks this side of the Florida/Georgia line, “Workin’ for MCA” reveals the band’s first-hand experience of signing to a major record label, while “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” spells out Van Zant’s frustration with his newfound stardom and evaporating privacy — “I got to find a break in this action, or else I’m gonna lose my mind.”

A shot of the band in 1974.

A riveting cautionary tale of heroine use, “The Needle and the Spoon” and the dirty back porch-birthed boogie of “Swamp Music” also make for sizzling highlights. Second Helping concludes with a remake of the J.J. Cale classic, “Call Me the Breeze” — a gloriously raucous rendition that sounds like the soundtrack to a Saturday night barroom brawl.

In sum, Second Helping oozes ALL thriller and NO filler. 45 years on, it remains a timeless testament to one of rock’s most endearing bands.

Second Helping Track Listing:

Side One:
01. Sweet Home Alabama (4:43)
02. I Need You (6:55)
03. Don’t Ask Me No Questions (3:29)
04. Workin’ for MCA (4:49)

Side Two:
01. The Ballad of Curtis Loew (4:51)
02. Swamp Music (3:31)
03. The Needle and the Spoon (3:53)
04. Call Me the Breeze (5:09)

Run Time: 37:15
Release Date: April 15, 1974
Record Label: MCA

Author

Christopher Long is a celebrated author, entertainment writer, TV / radio contributor, award-winning musician, popular speaker and international missionary. Referred to once as "the rock and roll Erma Bombeck," Long is known for his conversational, common sense writing style and possessing a passion for sharing his unique perspectives on pop culture, faith and politics. Raised in Missouri's rugged Ozark Mountains and on Florida's sunny Space Coast, Long currently lives near Cocoa Beach. (AuthorChristopherLong@yahoo.com)