Keyboard Cases and Billy Powell – From Haulin’ to Headlining


As any aficionado of classic rock can tell you, the late Billy Powell probably had more of an appreciation for a good keyboard case than most professional piano players did. Prior to him becoming the pianist for Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972, Billy Powell was a member of their road crew. For about two years, Powell was the one who helped the band with their load ins and strikes.

William Norris Powell helped to define the sound of Southern rock music throughout his years as the pianist for one of the most important bands that ever came out of Florida. The son of a United States Navy sailor, he met Leon Wilkeson, future bassist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, in elementary school. After high school, Powell began attending community college and studied music theory.

From Haulin’ Keyboard Cases to Playing Keyboards

It wasn’t until 1972 when the band discovered their roadie’s natural piano playing abilities during a rehearsal for a high school and hired him. His musical gifts were prominently featured on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1973 debut album Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd. Powell’s abilities ensured that he would not be the one hauling drum and keyboard cases anymore, as his star continued to rise with successive hits.

Now-classic songs like Freebird, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, Tuesday’s Gone, and Sweet Home Alabama helped to cement the band’s legacy as one of the most talented bands of all time. Although most Southern rock bands relied heavily on powerful guitar solos, Powell’s rich piano melodies drove songs like Freebird and Sweet Home Alabama.

The 1977 plane crash that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, vocalist Cassie Gaines, and three others temporarily stopped the music. Powell survived with minor injuries and would join up with fellow Southern rockers .38 Special for a time. After a brief stint in a band consisting of himself, Leon Wilkeson, and other local musicians, he would rejoin fellow surviving band members Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, and Leon Wilkeson as part of the Rossington-Collins band. Powell would play steadily up until the year that he died, with a widely varied resume that included stints with a Christian rock band, the reunited Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Kid Rock.

Billy Powell passed away in 2009, at the age of 56, from heart complications. His musical career spanned nearly forty years, beginning as a roadie and reaching its pinnacle as a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Powell’s contributions to American rock music continue to resonate today with the lush piano solos.


My Life as a Roadie – Weddings, Catering Halls, and Road Cases


One summer, I found myself short of funds. This was hardly an uncommon occurrence in my early 20s, and thanks to a network of roadie friends, I picked up some work hauling road cases and music equipment for a live band, one which played primarily at weddings. The front man, a strikingly good-looking “older” man (he was in his mid 30s so when I was 22, this was considered older), was the lead singer and guitar player. His wife was the other main vocalist. They fronted an eight piece band, and had gigs booked all across Long Island. It promised to be a good summer. Read More »

Scuffs, Scratches, and Dents – The Life of a Custom Road Case


Most people see the wear marks on the dusty old road case in the back of my truck and tell me that I should probably get something else to hold my car emergency kit. “It’s dirty,” they say. “It’s all beat up.” But what they don’t see is the years of memories associated with such a case. More than that, the old custom road case was specially built just for me. You don’t get rid of that. Read More »

Repurposing Old Road Cases for a New Life


As a former roadie, I have hundreds of musical recordings and books in my home. I have memorabilia gathered from countless locations across the country and across the world, mementos of moments that nobody else would deem valuable but are representative of my travels and experiences. I also have a tendency to nurture collections of random things… Read More »

Getting the Most Out of Your Road Cases


Maximizing your road case ROI

So you’re thinking of buying a new road case but you aren’t sure about the cost. After all, it can be a pretty serious investment and you want to make sure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck. How can you ensure that your road case will be worth it? Follow these tips and you can rest easy knowing that your money has been wisely invested. Read More »