Lynyrd Skynyrd Bassist, 49, Dies
The legendary band's bassist and original member, Leon Wilkeson, 49, suffered from chronic liver and lung disease and apparently died on Friday of natural causes, a St. Augustine, Fla., medical examiner said on Sunday. The cause of death will be officially determined after toxicological tests are conducted, St. Johns County medical examiner Terrence Steiner said. Those results will be available in two to three weeks. Wilkeson was found dead Friday in a Ponte Vedra Beach hotel room, some 17 miles away from his home in Jacksonville. He was taking a break from a summer tour, Judy Van Zant Jenness, widow of band founder Ronnie Van Zant, told the Florida Times-Union. Lynyrd Skynyrd, a Southern rock band, was best known for the songs "What's Your Name?," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Freebird." The group debuted in 1973 and was named after the members' high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner. Wilkeson survived a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that took the lives of the band's founder Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines and three others. The band disbanded after the crash, but regrouped with new members 10 years later for a reunion tour.
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