Artist Details

Leon Wilkeson

Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Leon Wilkeson was able to dodge death two times (while on tour with the band), but proved not as lucky a third time. Born on April 2, 1952 in Jacksonville, FL, Leon Russell Wilkeson became a major Beatles fan just as he grew into his teens, as he sought to learn the bass in order to copy his favorite member of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney. Dropping out of his school band to focus on learning the bass, it wasn't long before a 14-year-old Wilkeson was approached by a fellow student, who told him that her brother was searching for a bassist in his band. The girl's brother turned out to be Ronnie VanZant, and soon after, Wilkeson signed on with VanZant's local group, the Collegiates. But due to plummeting school grades, Wilkeson had to drop out of the group at the behest of his parents. It wasn't long, however, before Wilkeson found himself in another local group, the King James Version, as he began to study the "lead bass style" of such accomplished players as Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones, Jefferson Airplane's Jack Cassidy, the Animals' Chas Chandler, and the Allman Brothers' Berry Oakley. By the early '70s, word was out that Wilkeson was fast becoming on of Jacksonville's top bassists, and when old friend VanZant's new band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, found themselves without a bassist, Wilkeson got the gig.