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Billy powell--Musical career

Billy powell--Musical career

Billy returned to Jacksonville where he enrolled at Bishop Kenny High School. It was here that he met Leon Wilkeson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The two soon became close friends. When he graduated in 1970, he enrolled briefly in a community college, majoring in Music Theory. Around this time he found work as a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Powell remained a roadie for Skynyrd until 1972, when the band was hired to play the Bolles School prom. After setting up the band's equipment, Billy sat down at a piano in the corner of the room and began to play his own version of 'Free Bird'. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was impressed, and invited Powell to join Lynyrd Skynyrd officially as their new keyboard player.

In 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd was signed to MCA Records and received national exposure with the release of their first album, (pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd). The bands popularity soared in 1974 with their follow-up album, Second Helping, which featured their highest-charting single, "Sweet Home Alabama". The band enjoyed great popularity over the next three years, culminating in the 1977 release of Street Survivors, which many considered to be their strongest effort to date.

However, three days after the release of Street Survivors, Skynyrd's chartered plane crashed into a forest near McComb, Mississippi. The crash took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. The remainder of the band suffered injuries ranging from mild to severe. Powell suffered severe facial lacerations, almost completely losing his nose but was otherwise relatively uninjured. He was the first to be released from the hospital, and the only member able to attend the funerals of his fallen bandmates.

During the time between the plane crash and the Lynyrd Skynyrd reunion in 1987, Powell briefly joined a Christian rock band named Vision. His keyboard playing was often spotlighted in Vision concerts. Powell also spoke during the concerts about his newly found faith in Jesus Christ.

Powell rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987 for a tribute tour, and remained with the band until his death. Guitarist Gary Rossington is the only member from the classic lineup who continues to record and perform with the reunited band today.

His son Brandon Powell is a guitarist in the Jacksonville based rock band Syntenic.


On Tuesday January 27, 2009, Powell missed an appointment with his physician for a cardiac evaluation. On Wednesday January 28, 2009, Powell died at his condominium in Orange Park, Florida. He had telephoned 9-1-1 just before 1 a.m. complaining of difficulty breathing. Paramedics found him unresponsive in his bedroom still holding the phone. A heart attack is suspected. Orange Park Police reported Powell had a history of heart trouble, and that his cardiologist would sign the death certificate, negating the need for an autopsy.


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