How Larry Knechtel, a Legendary Keyboardist, Died of a Heart Attack

Larry Knechtel was a Grammy award-winning keyboardist who played with some of the most famous musicians and bands in history, such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, the Beach Boys, the Doors, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Dixie Chicks. He was also a member of the soft rock band Bread, and a prominent session musician in the Los Angeles scene. He died of a heart attack at the age of 69 in 2009. This article will explore his life, career, and cause of death.

Early Life and CareerLarry Knechtel was born in Bell, California, in 1940. He started playing piano at a young age, and joined his first band, Kip Tyler and the Flips, in 1957. In 1959, he became a member of the Rebels, the backing band of instrumentalist Duane Eddy. He toured with Eddy for four years, and also worked with him in the studio.In the mid-1960s, Knechtel became part of the Wrecking Crew, a group of session musicians who worked with producer Phil Spector and created his famous “Wall of Sound”. Knechtel played keyboards, bass, guitar, and harmonica on many hit songs of the era, such as “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, “If I Can Dream” by Elvis Presley, and the Doors’ debut album. He also recorded a solo album of harmonica music under the name Larry Nelson.Grammy Award and BreadIn 1970, Knechtel won a Grammy Award for his piano arrangement of “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. He also played piano on Johnny Rivers’ hit “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”. That same year, he joined the band Bread, replacing Robb Royer. He played bass, keyboards, and guitar on their albums and singles, including the guitar solo on “The Guitar Man”. He stayed with the band until their split in 1973, and rejoined them for their comebacks and reunions.Later Years and DeathIn the late 1980s, Knechtel moved to Nashville, where he signed a solo recording contract. He released two albums, Mountain Moods and Urban Gypsy, in 1989 and 1990, respectively. He also continued to work as a session musician, playing keyboards for artists like Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, Hank Williams Jr., Elvis Costello, and the Dixie Chicks. He played on the Dixie Chicks’ Grammy-winning album Taking the Long Way, and toured with them in 2006 and 2007.In 2003, Knechtel moved to Yakima, Washington, where he lived in semi-retirement. He still performed occasionally, mostly with local blues singer and guitarist Wayman Chapman. He also played with his son Lonnie, who is also a musician.On August 20, 2009, Knechtel died at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital of an apparent heart attack, according to the Associated Press. He was 69 years old. He was survived by his wife Vickie, his son Lonnie, his daughter Shelli, his mother Edna, his brothers Don and Bob, and his three grandchildren.Legacy and TributesLarry Knechtel was widely regarded as one of the most versatile and talented keyboardists of his generation. He played on some of the most iconic songs and albums of the 20th century, and influenced many musicians who followed him. He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007, along with the other members of the Wrecking Crew.After his death, many of his former collaborators and friends paid tribute to him. The Dixie Chicks wrote on their website: “The term ‘legendary musician’ isn’t an overstatement when talking about a multi-instrumentalist who can be heard on some of music’s most legendary recordings.” Elvis Costello said: “He was a great musician and a gentleman.” Simon and Garfunkel said: “He was a brilliant musician and a wonderful man.”