Billy Powell, Keyboardist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dies at 56


I just got through watching Kid Rock’s Grammy performance and midway through it he paid his respects to Lynard Skynad keyboard player Bill Powell.  Somehow his passing in January escaped me. Oh my — so young, so young. RIP.

Here is the Associated Press Obituary as it appeared in the NY Times.

Published: January 29, 2009

ORANGE PARK, Fla., Jan. 28 (AP) — Billy Powell, a keyboardist for the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Wednesday at his home here, in northeast Florida. He was 56.

He called 911 around 1 a.m. on Wednesday to report trouble breathing, the Orange Park police said, and died despite rescue efforts. Mr. Powell had a history of heart problems, and a heart attack is suspected.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was formed in the mid-1960s by a group of high school students in Jacksonville, Fla., who named their band for a physical-education teacher they disliked: Leonard Skinner. Mr. Powell, originally a roadie for the band, joined as a playing member in 1972, according to the band’s Web site. In 1973 the band released its first album, “Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.”

The group became one of the South’s most popular and gained national fame with hits like “Free Bird,” “What’s Your Name” and especially “Sweet Home Alabama,” which reached the Top 10 on the national charts in 1974.

The band was devastated on Oct. 20, 1977, when its chartered plane crashed in a swamp near McComb, Miss. Six people died: the lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant; the guitarist Steve Gaines; his sister, the vocalist Cassie Gaines; and an assistant road manager, the pilot and the co-pilot. Mr. Powell was among the survivors.

Two years after the accident, Mr. Powell and three fellow members — Allen Collins, Gary Rossington and Leon Wilkeson — formed the Rossington-Collins Band. It broke up in 1982.

Mr. Powell was on hand again in 1991 when a revived version of the band released a new album, “Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991,” and started a tour in Baton Rouge, La., where the band was headed in 1977 when the plane crashed. Fans who kept their tickets from the canceled 1977 concert were admitted free.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Published in: on February 8, 2009 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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