Skynyrd Tour Continues As Memorial To Wilkeson
Following Tuesday's funeral of bassist Leon Wilkeson, the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynrd decided to resume their summer tour as a traveling memorial to their fallen bandmate. The trek will resumeFollowing Tuesday's funeral of bassist Leon Wilkeson, the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynrd decided to resume their summer tour as a traveling memorial to their fallen bandmate. The trek will resume Aug. 11 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas with Ean Evans, who has subbed for Wilkeson in the past, handling bass chores.
"Leon would have wanted it this way," Skynyrd pianist Billy Powell said in a statement. "I met Leon in third grade and we've been buddies ever since. This is a huge loss to us personally and as a band. Being on stage has always been a safe haven to us and performing these songs is our therapy."
As previously reported, Wilkeson died in his sleep last week. A Florida medical examiner announced that the bassist was apparently suffering from chronic liver and lung disease and likely died of natural causes. Toxicological results due in a few weeks are expected to confirm the report.
A public memorial was held yesterday (Aug. 1) at the Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, Fla. Wilkeson's family has requested that memorial contributions be made to the Musician's Assistance Program (817 Vine St., Suite 219; Hollywood, CA., 90038).
"We're treating the remainder of this tour as a traveling memorial and tribute to Leon," Johnny Van Zant explained in the statement. "Not everyone could make it to Jacksonville to say goodbye. We're playing these shows in his honor."
Formed in 1966, Lynyrd Skynyrd first suffered tragedy in 1977 when the band's chartered plane crashed outside of Gillsburg, Miss., killing singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister, back-up vocalist Cassie Gaines, and three other associates of the band. Following a reunion in 1987 with Van Zant's brother Johnny singing, founding guitarist Allen Collins died of complications from pneumonia following a car accident the year prior that left him paralyzed.
"Leon's death was, and is, a shock," founding guitarist Gary Rossington added. "Lynyrd Skynyrd is a band of survivors, though. It was hard to pick back up and play again as Lynyrd Skynyrd in the '80s, and it's hard now. But that's what we're all about."
The Lynyrd Skynyrd tour is currently scheduled to last through mid-September, and the band hopes to reschedule eight shows that were canceled in the wake of Wilkeson's death. For more information, visit the band's official Web site.