We don't normally do obits at Fileunderi, but Lynyrd Skynyrd was OUR band growing up and Billy Powell was THE MAN on the keyboard.
Billy met future Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson when they both attended Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville Florida, and they became close friends. Billy graduated in 1970 and attended a local Community College studying Music Theory and worked as a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd. He remained a roadie until 1972, when Skynyrd was hired to play a local prom. Billy played Free Bird on a piano in the corner after he had finished setting for the band. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant made him Skynyrds keyboardist on the spot.
The band enjoyed soaring popularity after the release of their first album in 1974, and rode the popularity through 1977 when the band's chartered plane crashed. The crash took the life of Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines,Gaines' sister Cassie and
road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Billy received severe facial cuts (almost lost his nose), but was the first released from the hospital and the only band member able to attend the funeral for those killed in the crash.
Billy passed away last night in Jacksonville Florida. He was 56.
You're a freebird now Billy.