General News

Leon Wilkeson, Skynyrd co-founder, dies

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Jul 30, 2001 | 8:28am EDT

"Freebird" no more.

Leon Wilkeson, bass guitarist and co-founder of legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died at the age 49 in a Florida hotel on Friday, according to published reports.

Judy Van Zant Jenness, the widow of Skynyrd co-founder Ronnie Van Zant, told the Florida Times-Union that Wilkeson died of natural causes while taking a break from a current tour. Wilkeson was staying in a hotel 17 miles south of his Jacksonville home at Ponte Vedra Beach, when he passed away.

Three other orignal band members, including Van Zant, died in a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi, a crash that Wilkeson survived. Skynyrd formed in the late 1960s and achieved instantaneous success with the release of their initial album.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is still beloved by fans worldwide, and hits such as "Freebird" and "Sweet Home Alabama" are staples of classic rock radio station programming.

There is no word whether the tour will continue or if the current band members will return to the studio to finish an album due out next year.

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