Billy Norris Powell
(1952 - 2009)

Billy Norris Powell

June 3, 1952

January 28, 2009

Billy, we miss you so much. You have touched so many people with your music, but more importantly with your big heart.

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.
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.
Powell remained a roadie for Skynyrd until 1972, when the band was hired to play the Bolles School prom. After setting up the band's equipment, Billy sat down at a piano in the corner of the room and began to play his own version of 'Free Bird'. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant was impressed, and invited Powell to join Lynyrd Skynyrd officially as their new keyboard player.
In 1973, Lynyrd Skynyrd was signed to MCA Records and received national exposure with the release of their first album. The band's popularity soared in 1974 with their follow-up album, Second Helping, which featured their highest-charting single, "Sweet Home Alabama". The band enjoyed great popularity over the next three years, culminating in the 1977 release of Street Survivors, which many considered to be their strongest effort to date.
However, three days after the release of Street Survivors, Skynyrd's chartered plane crashed into a forest near McComb, Mississippi. The crash took the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and both pilots. The remainder of the band suffered injuries ranging from mild to severe. Powell suffered severe facial lacerations, almost completely losing his nose but was otherwise relatively uninjured. He was the first to be released from the hospital, and 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.
Powell rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1987 for a tribute tour, and remained with the band until his death. Rest in peace Billy, you've left so much behind for us. Thank you.

Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

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Guest Book (15 entries)
Billy, your faith in Christ is all that ultimately mattered. Your piano playing in Free Bird is what I remember more than any guitar solo.
Rob Brown (Fan From the Past)
September 27th, 2015
Oh My Gosh, I didn't know until I bought
'God & Guns'last week. Prayers, love & peace to Billy's family.
Yeshua/Jesus is getting him prepared to play piano for us all when we enter into the gates of his presence.

Billy, we are so coming to see ya soon. Play on LOUD bro, 'cuz I'll be lookin' for ya there.
It's gonna so AWESOME, I am so ready!

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love the Lord." 1 Cor. 2:9

Vicki Kirk (Ol' fan)
November 21st, 2009
Will miss you terribly, but know that because you put your faith in Jesus Christ the Savior of the World, you are now in heaven with God and will live on eternally with all the rest of us believers. "He who believes in Him will never die"
Ann Mills (fan)
October 3rd, 2009
Skynyrd will always be "THE" finest band to ever put music into the air.
Terry Gelgen
Terry Gelgen (1 greatful fan)
March 9th, 2009
goodbye Billy
Massimo fulmine (Italy fan)
March 9th, 2009
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"RIP fallen bandmates & also our brother Mathew 'Matt' Harrington, whom passed 01/27/09. Matt took our brother Jim & Nancy & I to our 1st Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts @ Rich Stadium, & latest @ Darien Lake, NY w/meet & greet passes! Our fondest memories."
Brenda Harrington
August 24th, 2009
"I will always remember the first time I heard "Gimme three steps". I have been a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan ever since. Rest easy Billy!"
Terry Gelgen
March 9th, 2009
"Billy, I'll never forget you. You are a Free Bird Now. Fly on Free Bird ! God Bless you !"
March 8th, 2009
"Billys passing brings sadness to us all,but he knew Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.I know he is in Heaven."
Jim Henry
February 26th, 2009
"Thanks Billy for the great music you and Lynyrd Skynyrd put out.I grew up listening to the music and still do.Free Bird lives on."
Robert Sheline
February 21st, 2009
"I cry every time I hear Freebird played in the radio now -yet I know God is rockin-out up in Heaven! Billy lives on forever here on earth in our hearts and memories. I'm so grateful to have heard you play - you are a true legendary and Simple Man!"
Carolyn Whitescarver
February 19th, 2009
"I'll never forget you, Billy. You were truly one of a kind and your talent on the piano was beyond compare. Thank you for decades of wonderful music. I am grateful I got to meet you. Rest in peace. I love you."
Pam M
February 19th, 2009
"Fly again Free Bird , and thanks for fantastic music. We miss you Billy.... Max from Italy."
February 19th, 2009
"Fly on Freebird... One can only imagine the beautiful music that is being played in heaven right now. We miss all of you so much!!! Keep Rockin........."
Patty Oberlin
February 18th, 2009
"BILLY POWELL ON THE PIANO! Fly on free byrd!"
tim mcwhorter
February 18th, 2009


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