Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell was found dead in his Orange Park, FL home on the morning of January 28, 2009. He was 56 years old.
The Associated Press reports that Powell called 911 shortly before 1:00 A.M. on Wednesday morning and said he was having trouble breathing.
Paramedics arrived at his home and found him unconscious. Orange Park Police Lieutenant Mark Cornett tells the Associated Press that rescue crews attempted to resuscitate him but to no avail. He was pronounced dead at 1:52 A.M.
Powell reportedly missed a doctor's appointment on Tuesday to have a cardiac evaluation and it's suspected that due to his history of heart problems that he likely died of a heart attack.
Billy started working as a roadie for Skynyrd before they heard his rendition of "Free Bird" on the piano and hired him as their full-time keyboardist. He is one of only a few band members that survived the 1977 plane crash that took the lives most of the band's original lineup. His skills on the piano can be heard in such famous Lynyrd Skynyrd songs as "Sweet Home Alabama", "Free Bird", and "What's Your Name". After the 1977 plane crash, Powell would go on to tour with a new incarnation of the band featuring original singer Ronnie Van Zant's brother Johnny Van Zant taking over vocal duties. Lynyrd Skynyrd would go on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Billboard.com reports that "as-yet-unspecified shows will be canceled due to Powell's death. Skynyrd was slated to perform Friday (Jan. 30) in Kinder, La., and the following day in Biloxi, Miss. A European tour was set to begin May 20 in Finland."
The loss of Billy Powell is truly a massive one. I personally started taking piano lessons because of this man and it breaks my heart to know that he's gone. Our hearts go out to his family and friends during this tough time.
Report by David Lowe-Bianco.