The Band Will Make Its Final World Tour Without K.K. – What Really Happened?
In late April 2011 when Judas Priest announced that Ken “K.K.” Downing was “retiring” from the band just before kicking off their final world tour, it came as a huge shock to most heavy metal fans. The reasons given for the retirement in the official Judas Priest announcement are somewhat vague. Downing clarified his position in two statements through his own web site. Downing said in his first statement on April 21 2011:
It is with much regret that I will not be with you this summer. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your concerns about my health. Please rest assured that I am O.K.
There has been an ongoing breakdown in working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s management for some time.
Therefore I have decided to step down rather than to tour with negative sentiments as I feel that this would be a deception to you, our cherished fans.
However I would urge you to please support the Priest as I have no doubt that it will be a show not to be missed.”
Downing the lead guitarist, who developed the band with the lone remaining founder, bassist Ian Hill, must have been going through some personal hell we can only imagine. I don’t know the dynamics of the interpersonal relationships within the band to know for sure what “ongoing breakdown” was occurring. Only people within the Priest family would have that definitive knowledge and they are not talking – yet.
To walk away from the band you developed and nourished for over forty years must be painful. K.K. is taking the high road here not saying who in management or which band mate(s) lead him to make this choice.
So I’ll do some conjecturing here. It does not take a rocket scientist to know it was not drummer Scott Travis, who although is a member of the band, is more likely a paid employee without full shares of royalties and publishing rights. Rob Halford’s reaction to Downing’s statement leads me to believe it is not him and Ian Hill is just too quiet. This leaves guitarist Glenn Tipton and Priest managers Bill Curbishley and Jayne Andrews as the possible breakdown sources that K.K. alludes to. Time will tell if it was really about money, ego or some other inequity that was taking place.
For Judas Priest fans hoping to see them in concert it is truly unfortunate. Despite what Rob Halford says, that Judas Priest is not just one person, it is the whole experience, I believe each individual is crucial to Judas Priest. Without Downing’s participation it is not really Judas Priest. Judas Priest’s Epitaph World Tour will go on this year, but it won’t be the same without K.K. – ask any Priest fan who has previously seen the band perform live.
Priest carried on without lead singer Rob Halford who left the band in 1993. They found a suitable replacement in Tim “Ripper” Owens who became their lead singer from 1996-2003, until Halford returned to the band.
So it is really no surprise that the band will again forge ahead, this time without their founder, co-lead guitarist and one of their main song writers, Downing.
Maybe K.K. really wanted to retire. I don’t think so. When you are a professional musician you want, no- you need to be playing music and preferably performing in front of an appreciative audience, which Judas Priest developed and maintained over a four decade period.
I know a lot of people are hoping K.K. will one day return to Judas Priest. Whatever K.K. decides to do in the future, I’m sure all Judas Priest fans wish him success and a happy life.
Judas Priest in their prime Live 1978 Beyond The Realms of Death, not the greatest quality- but what a performance.