Billy made his way from being a Skynyrd roadie to a member of the band after lead singer Ronnie Van Zant heard him playing his own take on “Free Bird” on the piano. From that moment on, Billy became a fixture in the group.
Billy used his “gifted hands” to bring riveting piano parts to songs such as “Free Bird,” as well as “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and countless others. There was something about Billy and his playing that always drew people in, something that guitarist Gary Rossington explained in an interview with Guitar World a few months after Billy passed away in 2009.
“People love to hear a good piano player any time, whether it’s Liberacei or Billy Powell…Billy really did it,” he said.
Gary said it was fun to look out at their crowds whenever Billy would play, because they would be completely mesmerized. He said their reactions proved just how talented Billy really was:
“It was fun to see our crowds, they’re all crazy rednecks and drinkin’ beer and stuff. But when he played a solo or did it all alone…people, you’d see these guys just lookin’ and just enjoyin’ it cause it was so good, ya know? It was just so different.”
Gary hit the nail right on the head. Billy worked magic on those keys, and Skynyrd Nation was never able to get enough.
You can watch Gary’s full interview by clicking here. Once you’re done, enjoy watching the video below of Billy playing an improv solo.
Rest in peace Billy…we miss you.