Thursday, January 29, 2009

Legendary Skynyrd Keyboardist Billy Powell Passes Away

Fly on, Freebird... Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell, whose lightening fast fingers and trademark white baby grand were symbols of the great Southern Rock sound, passed away in Jacksonville, Florida yesterday at age 56.
Billy grew up a Florida boy in Jacksonville and started taking piano lessons at the Sanford Naval Academy in nearby Sanford at his mama's insistence. According to his piano teacher Madeleine Brown, he barely needed her, and was "a natural". He soon returned to Jacksonville, where he met future Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson while in High School. Soon after, he became the roadie for the band until one night in 1972, singer Ronnie Van Zant overheard him playing a version of Freebird on a piano in the corner. Ronnie was so impressed he asked him to join the band, and there he stayed for over 30 years. Billy was a pure underrated talent, a real force of nature on the keys and was often overshadowed in a band with 3 guitarists. He will be missed. There will be an empty spotlight on that white baby grand........Say hello to Ronnie, Allen, Leon, Steve and Cassie now, won't you Bill?

His death leaves Gary Rossington as the sole remaining member of the original line up of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

His standout tracks, in my opinion, include Poison Whiskey(Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-nerd), Don't Ask No Questions(Second Helping- listen to the back up piano work!), Call Me The Breeze( Second Helping-his best solo-goes from organ to piano),I Know a Little(Street Survivors-just legendary,and of course, the live version of Freebird(Gold and Platinum)

I plan on cranking the extended version of Street Survivors in your honor today, Mr. Powell.


  1. Billy had heart problems, dialed 911 complaining of breathing difficulty...when paramedics arrived, they were too late.

  2. It may be over-played but the "Sweet Home Alabama" piano solo is one of the best ever.