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Billy Powell

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Biography

William Norris “Billy” Powell (June 3, 1952 – January 28, 2009) was an American musician. He was the longtime keyboardist of Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, from 1970 until his death in 2009.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Powell grew up in a military family (his father was in the U.S. Navy) and spent several years of his childhood living in Italy where his father was stationed. After his father died of cancer in 1960, he moved with his family back to the United States and settled in Jacksonville, Florida. His mother enrolled him at the Sanford Naval Academy in Sanford, Florida. While at Sanford, Billy’s interest in music began to grow and he began taking piano lessons from a local teacher named Madeleine Brown. She swore he did not need her, claiming that Billy was a natural and picked things up well on his own.
Musical career

Billy returned to Jacksonville where he enrolled at Bishop Kenny High School. It was here that he met Leon Wilkeson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The two soon became close friends. When he graduated in 1970, he enrolled briefly in a community college, majoring in Music Theory. Around this time he found work as a roadie for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Billy remained a member of the Skynyrd crew for two years (which included, amongst the grittier shows, highlights such as Skynyrd landing a support slot for Leslie West’s “Mountain”) In his second year with them, 1972, Skynyrd played one particular gig, a show at the Bolles school prom.

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