Van Zant performed during the 1970s with his first band, The Austin Nickels Band. They later changed their name to The Johnny Van Zant Band releasing their debut solo album, No More Dirty Deals, in 1980. Original members of The Johnny Van Zant Band consisted of Johnny Van Zant on lead vocals, Robbie Gay on guitar, Danny Clausman, on bass, Erik Lundgren on lead guitar, Robbie Morris, drums and Joan Hecht (previously Joan Cusumano) and Nancy Henderson on background vocals. Van Zant released three more solo albums between 1981 and 1985, before taking a break from the music business.
He became lead vocalist for the reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987, and continues to record and perform with them today. He released another solo album, Brickyard Road, in 1990, which featured the popular title track, which was a #1 hit on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for three weeks. He also records and performs with his brother Donnie as Van Zant since 1998.
Van Zant is an avid fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He recorded a video, along with remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, that is played at every Jaguars home game on the Everbank Field video board.
According to Skynyrd's website, Van Zant was again hospitalized on August 6, 2011 at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota due to complications from a previous surgery. According to the website, Van Zant had a "surgical site" infected with cellulitus which required both hospitalization and IV/Antibiotic Treatment. He began displaying signs of a staph infection and other symptoms related to the infection. His subsequent illness resulted in a number of scheduled performances being cancelled.