Billy Powell, keyboard player in Lynyrd Skynyrd died in Florida at the age of 56. Bummer. Powell was a roadie for an early version Skynyrd and nudged his way into the band in 1972 by suggesting a keyboard intro for a little ditty called f-ing FREE BIRD! Sick!
I saw Skynyrd at Summerfest 2006. No one wanted to go with me. I rode the Vespa down and felt pretty good until I pulled into the Harley Lot. On the night of a Skynyrd show. Lotsa Confederate flags, beards, chewing tobacco spit and finger pointing at the dude on the red kids bike. Nice. It was the single most emasculating experience of my life. I pulled myself together and marched into the show. I broke into a jog ( I don't run) when I heard them playing "That Smell" over the fence. Awesome. The next hour was spent weaving up to be in perfect Free Bird/Encore position. I managed to wedge myself into 3rd row bleachers, center stage sharing a whiskey flask with a biker dude and his girlfriend who were BOTH crying as opening notes of the Free Bird guitar intro played. Before the encore, a roadie came out and placed a golden eagle on top of the baby grand. Then the lights went down and Southern hell broke loose. I distinctly remember Billy Powell being the first band member to walk on for the encore, soaking up the roar of the crowd. This dude was in a plane crash in 1977 that claimed the life of 1/2 the original band. He deserves to walk out first. He proudly rumbled thru the opening chords as the band took the stage. As funny and cliche and punchline as Skynyrd can be, sitting on that piano bench is not a bad place to find yourself in this crazy world.
Click here for 10 Facts About Lynyrd Skynyrd and peep the video below to see Billy Powell and Lynyrd Skynyrd in their prime.
ps: we all had matoz ball soup for lunch at the salon today. RIP Billy Powell, I raise my cup of soup to you.