William Norris "Billy" Powell (June 3, 1952 – January 28, 2009) was the longtime keyboardist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Death of Billy Powell
On January 28, 2009 Powell died at his condo in Orange Park, Florida. He had called 911 just before 1 am complaining of difficulty breathing. Paramedics found him unresponsive in his bedroom still holding the phone. It is believed he had a heart attack, but an autopsy will be preformed.
Billy Powell & 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 in with the release of their first album, (pronounced ‘l?h-‘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.
Lynyrd Skynyrd-Call Me The Breeze-1987
More on next page
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.