Judas Priest Founder K.K. Downing Retires

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:

“Dear friends,

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.

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3 thoughts on “Judas Priest Founder K.K. Downing Retires

  1. Mark

    I agree with you in thinking that it was Tipton/Andrews/Curbishly that caused KK to walk. I seriously doubt it’s Rob, not because of what he said in the press, but the mere fact that when he left the band in the 90s, they continued without him…the two leaders of the band at that point were KK and Glenn. Now that KK is gone, that only leaves Glenn. He is the head honcho of that band now, not Rob, despite what most people think. It has long been rumored that Jayne and Glenn are an item, that could also have contributed to KK’s annoyance with the situation of the band…that and Curbishly’s questionable management. I think every fan knows Priest could be managed a lot better–from press releases, promoting, web site, etc. The state of the band has been in decline since Andrews joined their team in the late 80s.

    I don’t blame KK for leaving, and walking away with his pride. It must have been hard for him to leave, but I believe he was basically left with no choice. I wish him nothing but good luck in the future.

    1. Leather Rebel

      I also agree with this. Tipton and Andrews are an item at least on and off – I think she was referred to as Tipton´s ex-girlfriend on metalgod.com ten years ago or so but she is apparently not out of the picture. Also, Priest racked up platinum albums until 1986´s Turbo. Curbishley and Andrews took on management responsibilities in… 1987. They obviously don´t understand what the band is about, as they rejected songs and changed direction of the followup into the headbanging muppetmetal of Ram It Down and it barely reached gold status selling less than half of what Turbo or DotF sold. Not even the “return to form” Painkiller reached higher status than gold, and then Halford left because he felt confined in the band and they lost all momentum not finding a vocalist or releasing new music for over 5 years. Yeah, some great management there from the convicted armed robber Curbishley and aging groupie Andrews!

    2. Bill Field

      Well according to KK’s book, you nailed it. He even went as far as to say in a second resignation letter of sorts that he “hated” Jayne Edwards & Glenn Tipton ever since they teamed up to effectively run the band in 1985. Time softened up his feelings toward Tipton somewhat, enough that he had a short statement on the last page about “to his immense credit.. he’s done fantastically well in completing two successful albums and two successful world tours.” He went on to wish Glenn specifically as well as the rest of the band future success. It sounds like it was finished well before the statements in February of this year.


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