Lynyrd Skynyrd Bassist Leon Wilkeson Dead at 49

Bassist Leon Wilkeson, a founding member of legendary Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Friday (July 27) in his sleep at a hotel in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., near Jacksonville. He was 49. Wilkeson suffered from chronic liver and lung disease and apparently died of natural causes, St. Johns County medical examiner Terrence Steiner told The Associated Press Sunday (July 29). The cause of death will be determined officially after toxicological tests are conducted. Those results will be available in two to three weeks. The bassist survived a 1977 plane crash in Mississippi that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines and background singer Cassie Gaines. The group disbanded after the crash but re-formed in 1987 with Wilkeson and others in the lineup. The band was on tour this summer and on a brief break between shows at the time of Wilkeson’s death. 07/30/01