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Leon Wilkeson
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    Just before the start of the recording sessions for their first album, he dropped out of the band to work packing ice cream.
    He was nicknamed ‘the Mad Hatter’ for wearing colorful hats onstage.
    He was married four times, divorced three times.
    He was sentenced to three months in prison for assaulting his girlfriend (1993).
    He had been arrested for driving under the influence a few months before his death.
    He rejoined Skynyrd when Ronnie Van Zant decided his replacement, Ed King, would work better as a third guitarist than a bassist.
    John Entwistle gave him a ‘Fenderbird’ bass that combined a Gibson Thunderbird’s body with a Fender Precision neck.
    He survived the plane crash that killed bandmates Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines with severe injuries, including compound fractures of his left leg and left arm, six broken ribs (one of which punctured and deflated his left lung), and extensive facial damage, including fifteen teeth knocked out.
    He suffered permanent nerve damage to his left arm, limiting its range of movement, and forcing him to hold his bass guitar close to his body and nearly vertical when he returned to playing.
    After a concert, Ed King found him on the tour bus in a pool of blood with his throat slit (1991).
    No one was ever arrested for the attack, although King and Wilkeson’s girlfriend would accuse each other of having done it.
    He was moved to tears when he overdubbed a new bassline on some live tracks by the pre-plane-crash line up for use in ‘Free Bird… The Movie’ (1996).

Credit: C. Fishel

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