Skip to main content

The Phenomenal Billy Powell

Billy Powell died today at his home in Florida. Around the age of eight, his mother signed him up for piano lessons, but his piano teacher said he did not need her. In high school, Billy met Leon Wilkerson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Powell was first hired as a roadie for the band. One day, in 1972, as the band was sitting up to play a school prom, after his duties were finished, Powell sat down at a piano in the corner of the stage and began playing his own version of Free Bird. Immediately, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was impressed and invited Powell to join the group at its new keyboard player. The rest was history.

Three days after the release of its later release, Street Survivors, an airplane Lynyrd Skynyrd had chartered crashed into a forest near McComb, Mississippi. The crash killed Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Powell walked away from the crash with severe facial lacerations, almost completely losing his nose, but was otherwise relatively uninjured. He was 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. Lynyrd Skynyrd reunited in 1987. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

Just before 1:00 a.m. this morning, Billy Powell dialed 911 from his condo in Orange Park, Florida, complaining of difficulty in breathing. Paramedics found him unresponsive in his bedroom still holding the phone. He was pronounced dead at 1:52 a.m. The official cause was listed as a heart attack. Powell had a history of heart trouble.

Billy Powell was unduplicable. As a piano player myself, I drooled at his playing. In my mind, he was THE best! Skynyrd was known for its triple guitars, horns and female background singers, but Billy Powell was the icing on the cake. He caused Lynyrd Skynyrd to be 'Honky Tonk," because he was all that and more! His phenominal playing breathed an endless life into those songs that will remain forever etched in the hearts of southern rock lovers.

Fly Free as Bird Billy Powell! You earned your wings!


Popular posts from this blog

The Tornado at Beaty Swamps

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 1933, Beatty Swamps, TN ( also known as Bethsaida), a small rural community located in Overton County, Tennessee, approximately 6.7 miles from Livingston, was struck by an F4 tornado that completely devastated the community. The funnel, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of a mile wide, destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every single resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.

There have been tornadoes that have gained greater notoriety, such as the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, but never has a tornado affected a community as completely as the one that struck Beatty Swamps.

According to the National Weather Service, it had been a humid evening in the rural Cumberland Plateau community. In nearby Allardt, the temperature that Tuesday afternoon had climaxed at 82 degrees, a warmer-than-normal reading for early May. …

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close atte…

Long Live The Goat Man

(This photo was made in the 1950's as the Goat Man passed through my town)
Charles McCartney was born on July 6, 1901. In 1915, at age 14, he ran away from his family's Iowa farm. He eventually wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Great Depression wiped them out. About the same time, he experienced a religious awakening. A man on a mission, he hitched up his team of goats to a wagon and took to the open road with his wife and son. His wife made goatskin clothes for him and his son to wear as a gimmick during their travels, but she quickly grew tired of the road and returned to Iowa, taking their son with her.

Charles McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too because he rarely took a bath. You take a fellow who looks like a goat, travels around with goats, eats with goats, lies down among goats and smells like a goat and it won't be long before peop…