There hasn’t been much love lost between Judas Priest and longtime guitarist K.K. Downing since they parted ways back in 2011. But hopeful noises are being made by both sides about a reunion to perform together when the band receives its Musical Excellence Award at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 5 in Los Angeles.
“If we are eligible to play, I think it would be a great night all around,” Downing, who launched a new band called K.K.’s Priest last year, tells Billboard via email from England, where he’s currently writing new material. “It would be especially great to allow everyone the opportunity to experience and see and hear the sound and music of the classic Judas Priest one more time.”
Frontman Rob Halford previously told Billboard that “I’m very pleased for everybody. There’s no bitterness. There’s no angst. There’s not that kind of stuff that’s lingering. If there is you have to push all that away. You have to push it to the side and just understand and accept and respect this wonderful opportunity and what it represents in terms of recognition and a celebration.”
In addition to Downing, the award will also be presented to former drummers Les Binks (1977-79) and the late Dave Holland (1979-89), along with current members Ian Hill, Scott Travis and Glenn Tipton, the latter of whom is battling Parkinson’s disease but still writes and records with the band and plays encores at occasional shows.
Downing, who played on every Priest album from its debut, Rocka Rolla, in 1974, to A Touch of Evil: Live in 2009, left the band in 2011 due to “an ongoing breakdown in working relationships between myself and elements of the band and management for some time.” He did, however, express disappointment that he wasn’t asked to return when Tipton retired from regular touring during early 2018. The guitarist documented some of his grievances in his 2018 memoir, Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest, while K.K.’s Priest — which released its debut album, Sermons of the Sinner, last October — stakes his claim to the Judas Priest legacy.
“The reason why it’s K.K.’s Priest is I couldn’t leave anything behind — my heritage, my legacy, who I am,” Downing said at the time. “Getting in that band was like winning the lottery for me. It meant the world to me. And I worked all my life building the name and the reputation and the mark of Judas Priest, and I was loyal to Judas Priest. I was asked to do a lot of things but, no, Judas Priest was my life. So I have the license to call this K.K.’s Priest.”
Now, however, Downing is nothing but thrilled to see the band — which he calls “my devotion and life’s work” — get a Rock Hall honor that many fans and observers have felt is a long time coming. “It feels very good to have the recognition for a lifetime of work,” he says. “We eventually were awarded a Grammy (in 2010), and now with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, I think it is fair to say the journey feels very complete. We succeeded because of our love for the music and our appreciation for each other’s ability and perseverance. We traversed the evolutionary road to music as we know it today, and hopefully the contribution of our style and brand of what we do has given many others much enjoyment and the inspiration for themselves to pick up the instruments and continue from where we leave the stage.”
Judas Priest has been on the Rock Hall ballot three times and placed sixth in this year’s fan voting. It will be one of two acts receiving the Musical Excellence Award, joining the production team of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The ceremony will, as usual, be filmed by HBO for broadcast later in the year.