View Full Version : bassist from Lynyrd Skynyrd dead in FL hotel

07-28-2001, 11:32 PM
Lynyrd Skynyrd co-founder Wilkeson dies in Florida
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Reuters) - Leon Wilkeson, bass guitarist and founding member of rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died in a Florida hotel Friday at age 49, according to published reports.

Wilkeson was taking a break from a summer tour in a hotel in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 17 miles south of his home of Jacksonville, when he died of natural causes, Judy Van Zant Jenness, widow of band founder Ronnie Van Zant, told the Florida Times-Union.

``We're all just finding out about this ourselves,'' Van Zant Jenness told the Times-Union. ``We don't know what to do other than just to be in shock and be surprised ourselves.''

Wilkeson, who often wore outrageous hats on stage, had missed some dates in the past year or so because of illness.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, which released rock hits such as ``Freebird'' and ``Sweet Home Alabama,'' formed in Jacksonville in the late 1960s, taking their name from a high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner, who did not like long-haired students. The band reached immediate success after the release of their debut album in 1973.

Wilkeson was one of the survivors of a plane crash in Mississippi in 1977 that took the lives of two band members -- singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines -- as well as Gaines' sister, Cassie, a backup vocalist. The remaining band members went on a 10-year hiatus until a reunion tour in 1987.

The band has several dates left on their summer tour. There is no word on whether they will go on or if they will complete a studio album their label has scheduled for release next year.

Wilkeson's death, in fact throws the band's future in doubt. Under a legal agreement with Jenness, the band must contain three original members in order to retain the name. With Wilkeson's death, only guitarist Gary Rossington and pianist Billy Powell remain from their heyday. The band is estranged from former drummer Artimus Pyle and guitarist Ed King.

07-29-2001, 11:38 AM
I heard this in the radio today:(

That's really sad:(


07-29-2001, 11:54 AM
That is indeed really sad.:(


07-30-2001, 04:09 PM
*** Exam: Wilkeson died of natural causes

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) - Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson
suffered from chronic liver and lung disease and apparently died of
natural causes, a medical examiner said Sunday. The cause of death
will be officially determined after toxicological tests are
conducted, St. Johns County medical examiner Terrence Steiner said.
Those results will be available in two to three weeks. Wilkeson, a
founding member of the Southern rock band, was found dead Friday in
a Ponte Vedra Beach hotel room. The band, best known for the songs
"What's your Name?," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird," debuted in
1973 and was named after the members' high school gym teacher,
Leonard Skinner. Wilkeson survived a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi
that killed the band's founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve
Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines. Three others also died in the
crash. The group disbanded after the crash, but re-formed with
others in 1987 for a reunion tour.

07-31-2001, 01:14 AM
From cdnow:
Lynyrd Skynyrd To Continue Touring Following Bassist's Death
July 30, 2001, 9:20 am PT

Lynyrd Skynyrd
The death of Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson, 49, on Friday (July 27) won't be the final nail in the band's many coffins, according to the band's management.

Wilkeson's body was discovered in his room at a Jacksonville, Fla.-area hotel about 17 miles from his home. According to local news sources, an autopsy showed no apparent cause of death, but revealed that the hard-drinking musician suffered from serious liver and lung damage. Results of toxicology tests will take several weeks.

The notice posted by the Webmaster on the band's official Web site (www.lynyrdskynyrd.com) announced that while the first week of the next leg of its tour would be canceled, the rest of the dates will go ahead as scheduled starting Aug. 7 in Spokane, Wash. Wilkeson's replacement, if any, was not named in the post. A spokesperson for the group confirmed the information and told allstar that details would be released at a later date.

The announcement ended speculation that Lynyrd Skynyrd would not legally be able to continue. On the eve of reunion plans 10 years after the 1977 plane crash that killed bandleader Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cathy Gaines (and which almost killed Wilkeson), Van Zant's widow, Judy, initiated a legal decree stipulating that Lynyrd Skynyrd had to include co-founder Gary Rossington and at least two other original members (the front duties had been taken over by sibling replacement Johnny Van Zant).

The group's pre-crash lineup included Van Zant, Wilkeson, Rossington, current keyboardist Billy Powell, guitarist Allen Collins, Gaines, who replaced Ed King shortly before the crash, drummer Artimus Pyle, and several touring backup singers. Since forming in Jacksonville in the late 1960s, the Southern rockers had a string of hits, including "Free Bird," "Gimme Three Steps," "Sweet Home Alabama," and "That Smell."

Presumably out of the picture are Collins, who died in 1990 from complications following a 1986 car crash; King, who rejoined the reformed band in 1987, but left after an extremely bitter fall-out (and who suffers from heart disease); and Pyle, who survived the crash (and went for help and got shot by a farmer for his trouble) and who also had a "hell freezes over" falling-out with the group.

However, a loose definition of "original" can also encompass longtime pre-Pyle drummer Bob Burns, since faded into obscurity; pre-fame bassist Larry Junstrom, happily entrenched in 38 Special (led by Van Zant brother Donnie); and Rick Medlocke, who sang and played some drums on the band's first demos in 1971, and who is currently touring with the new band. Greg T. Walker also played on those demos.

Meanwhile, the announcement of the tour has met with little resistance from fans on the Web site. The fan consensus appears to be that while the flamboyant Wilkeson -- the band's most visual member with his array of hats and costumes -- will be missed, the band should carry on.

A memorial service for Wilkeson will be held Wednesday (Aug. 1) at 11 a.m. at Evergreen Cemetery on 4535 North Main Street in Jacksonville, Fla. It is open to the public. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions go to the Musician's Assistance Program at:

817 Vine Street, Suite 219
Hollywood, CA 90038

The revised tour schedule includes:

Aug. 7, Spokane, Wash., Star Theater
Aug. 9, Mountain View, Calif., Shoreline Amphitheater
Aug. 11, Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay Events Center
Aug. 13, Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheater
Aug. 15, Albuquerque, N.M., Journal Pavilion
Aug. 16, Phoenix, Celebrity Theater
Aug. 17, Camp Verde, Ariz., Cliff Castle Casino
Aug. 18, Yuma, Ariz., Quenchen Paradue Casino
Aug. 23, Jacksonville, Fla., Metropolitan Park
Aug. 24, Savannah, Ga., Fort Stewart
Aug. 25, Huntsville, Ala., Redstone Arsenal
Aug. 26, Jonesboro, Ark., ASU Convocation Center
Aug. 30, Johnson City, Tenn., Freedom Hall
Aug. 31, Birmingham, Ala., Oak Mountain Amphitheater
Sept. 1, Atlanta, Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheater
Sept. 2, Nashville, Amsouth Amphitheater
Sept. 5, Salem, Va., Salem Civic Center
Sept. 6, Virginia Beach, Va., Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Sept. 7, Bristow, Va., Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge
Sept. 9, Brookfield, Ohio, Yankee Lake
Sept. 12, Raleigh, N.C., Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Sept. 13, Charlotte, N.C., Verizon Wireless Amp.
Sept. 14, Gulfport, Miss., Grand Casino
Sept. 16, Louisville, Ky., Louisville Motor Speedway

-- Sorelle Saidmanq