K. K. Downing

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K. K. Downing
K. K. Downing.jpg
Downing performing with Judas Priest in 1984.
Background information
Birth name Kenneth Downing Jr.
Born (1951-10-27) 27 October 1951 (age 66)
West Bromwich, Staffordshire,
Genres Heavy metal, hard rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1968–2012
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Judas Priest, Queensryche, Violent Storm, K.K. Downing's Steel Mill
Website kkdowning.net

Kenneth "K. K." Downing Jr. (born 27 October 1951) is an English guitarist and songwriter, and one of the founder members of the British heavy metal band Judas Priest.

Early life and career[edit]

Downing was born in West Bromwich. He was kicked out of his home at 15 and dropped out of school soon afterward.[1]In the late 1960s, Downing discovered rock music and the guitar. He is a mostly self-taught guitarist.[2] "He was heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix, whom he was 'very quick to recognise as the future'".[2] He was also influenced by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Eric Clapton.[3] Downing played on every Judas Priest album from Rocka Rolla to A Touch of Evil: Live.

Downing started his first band between the age of 17 and 18 with his second cousin Brian Badhams on bass guitar (now with The Elkie Brooks Band) and drummer Martin Philips. The trio "mainly jammed a few Cream songs and a few 12-bar blues". Downing played guitar with the band after winning a coin toss with his cousin Brian "in his bedroom to see who would play guitar or bass".[2]

Prior to joining Judas Priest, Downing went to catering college and worked as trainee chef at the Lyttelton Arms in Hagley.[4]

Playing style and technique[edit]

K. K. Downing in 1980

Downing has an aggressive, rock-influenced guitar style featuring solos and dual leads with fellow Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton.[5] His solos remained of this style for most of his career, but he incorporated various techniques into his playing over the years. As opposed to Tipton, his solos tended to incorporate a more raw, rough-edged sound, making use of techniques such as pinch harmonics, dive bombs, and tremolo picking, and often focus on speed, technical accuracy and melody. From Stained Class onward, Tipton came to be increasingly dominant in Judas Priest's songwriting, particularly on the more commercial tracks while Downing's role in the band started to diminish, especially as the former's songs comprised the vast majority of live setlists after 1980. In 1978, Tipton began to incorporate tapping into his playing, which Downing began to use as well. By 1990, both guitarists started to use the complex technique of sweep-picking, which can be notably heard on the title track of their 1990 album Painkiller. Both have continuously used these techniques ever since.

In Judas Priest's early years, Downing made common use of the wah-wah pedal, but began to limit his use of it in the late '70s. He had abandoned use of it by the mid-'80s, but saved it for live performances of the songs that originally featured it. The only time since then that he renewed use of it was in 1996, when vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens joined the band, and they began to experiment with their music more than before. One of these experimentations was the renewal of wah-wah in Downing's playing, which can be heard on their 1997 album Jugulator. This experimentation was taken further on their next album with Owens, 2001's Demolition, but was once more abandoned when the band's former vocalist, Rob Halford, returned to the band. However, Downing used a wah-wah pedal on his last few tours with the band.

Leaving Judas Priest[edit]

Downing officially left Judas Priest on 20 April 2011. An official press release was issued by the band. In an interview with online music publication Guitarhoo!, Downing spoke about his leaving the band: "There had been an on-going breakdown in working relationships between myself, elements of the band and management for some time." Downing stated that there were at least "21 reasons" why he decided to quit but refused to go into specific detail about them.[6] In a 2016 interview, Downing elaborated on his decision to leave Judas Priest, saying that he wasn't happy with the band's live performance and thought it could've been better.[7] The band had since continued with Richie Faulkner as Downing's replacement.[8]

Within the wake of Glenn Tipton's announcement of his Parkinson's disease diagnosis and his self-imposed retirement from touring in February 2018,[9] Downing issued a statement saying that he was "shocked and stunned" that he wasn't approached to rejoin Judas Priest and that he was "officially and legally still a member of Judas Priest", despite not being present in the band. He then said that he now knows more clearly that he made the right choice to leave when he did and that his time in the band and value in terms of crafting the band's legacy "was and is unappreciated by more than one member." He reached out to the fans telling them that the decision to not approach him "was not a financial one."[10]

In March 2018, bassist Ian Hill responded to Downing's statement, explaining why he wasn't approached to rejoin the band, "He retired seven years ago and he made it clear at the time that he didn't wanna come back. So I'm surprised that he's saying that he was surprised that he wasn't asked. I think we all thought he probably would have been surprised if we had asked him. So I don't know."[11] Rob Halford said that Downing made the decision to retire and was "emphatic about retiring and never coming back."[12]

During a press conference prior to Judas Priest's performance at the 2018 edition of Hellfest in June, Hill said that Downing may have "played a bit of mischief" regarding the statement he made. He then gave another reason why the band did not approach him, "It's also two albums down the road since Nostradamus, which is the last one he played on, and is he gonna be prepared to play music from the new album, which he probably would not. And on top of that, he's gonna have to learn Glenn's parts too. So it's all reasons why we didn't. Apart from that, he's been retired for nearly eight years. He hasn't since set foot on stage as far as I know, so he's hardly at the peak of his game at the moment. So, yeah, I wasn't quite sure where he was coming from with that — I really don't."[13]

Musical side projects[edit]

In 2012, Downing was approached by Cleopatra Records to partake on the album, Who Are You? An All Star Tribute to the Who, a tribute album to the band The Who. Downing accepted the offer and performed guitar on the opening track, "Eminence Front", along with musicians John Wetton and Derek Sherinian. The album was released on 2 October 2012. Downing on participating on the record, "(I) feel honoured to pay tribute to such a great band".[2] In addition, Downing has also guested on albums by other bands including Queensryche and Violent Storm.

K.K. Downing's Steel Mill is his personal artistic website, formed late 2006 www.KKDowning.net.

K.K.Downing autobiography - "Heavy Duty - Days and Nights In Judas Priest" will be published in 18th of September 2018.

In 2018, Downing, along with former Judas Priest members Tim "Ripper" Owens and Les Binks, and Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera were featured in a cover version of the popular song "Beyond the Realms of Death", fronted by guitarist Paul Crook's band Devilstar, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Judas Priest's 1978 album Stained Class.[14]


Downing's first own house was a "tiny semi in Bloxwich". He has lived in Los Angeles and Florida and still owns a home in Spain, but his main abode since 1985[15] remains Astbury Hall in Shropshire, England. It is in a very secluded area so he can (as stated in a 2007 interview) "really turn up [his] Marshalls really loud".[16] Astbury Hall is also home to "one of England's finest championship golf courses",[attribution needed][17] a course created by Downing himself and where he has held publicized charity events.[18] Sarah Lissimore, his former girlfriend, mounted a legal challenge for half of Downing's Shropshire estate. This was based on his assertion, "I'd bet you'd love to be lady of this Manor, wouldn't you?" The High Court rejected the notion that this assertion could give rise to proprietary estoppel in favour of Lissimore.[19]

In December 2013, it was announced that Downing would be teaming up with property development finance provider Regentsmead, and golfer Darren Clarke, to help build luxury residential developments on Downing's Astbury estate.[20][21]

In October 2017, Downing's stately home and golf course fell into administration due to difficult trading conditions and "unsustainable pressure" on capital and was placed under the control of FRP Advisory. It was put up for sale for £10 million ($13,471,010.00) while around 20 staff members have all been retained. FRP Advisory stated that after years of successful management as a popular leisure pursuits business, recent tougher economic times in the corporate hospitality market had put unsustainable pressure on the estate's cash flow under its current financial structure. They added that the appointment of administrators provided the cushion needed to allow the business to continue trading while a marketing process was commenced. Downing had hoped to host The Open Championship on the estate's golf course.[22]

Due to the circumstances surrounding his failed golf resort investment, Downing had to put a share of his royalty rights for 136 Judas Priest songs for sale which is said to generate between $340,000 (£252,393.90) and $400,000 (£296,934.00) per year. Joint administrator Alastair Massey called the songs "a unique investment opportunity" from one of the "driving influences" of Judas Priest's success.[23]

Recognition and honors[edit]

Downing was ranked 23 on rock magazine Hit Parader's list of 100 greatest metal guitarists.


Downing has many guitars, among them:

  • 1964 Gibson Flying V Limited Edition with Gibson PAF pickups (one out of 200)
  • 1970 Gibson Flying V with Maestro vibrato bar (number 233 out of 500)
  • 1969 Fender Stratocaster (White) with left-handed neck
  • 1970–71 Fender Stratocaster (Sunburst)
  • Custom Hamer Vector, Vector KK and KK Mini V guitars
    • Hamer Flying V: Issued to KK during the World Vengeance Tour, Hamer would release the KK Downing Flying V for public sale in 1984, ending in 1985. KK's V featured a Floyd Rose Tremolo and a single Dimarzio humbucker.[24]
    • Hamer Mini V: KK owned a number of mini v's beginning in 1986 with a red and white one. He would go on to acquire a blue and black one in the tours to follow. Loosely based on the Hamer Scepter V, the Mini V sported a single dimarzio pickup and a Kahler Tremolo.
  • ESP Custom V guitar
  • Judas Priest Special V Handmade by Daniel R. Johnson (K. K.'s former touring guitar tech).
  • KxK Custom Shop V K. K. Downing Model 2 guitar.
  • Ovation Elite series Acoustic
  • Since the 90s, K.K. has regularly used EMG 81/85 pickups in a lot of his guitars.

Amplifiers and effects

  • Digitech 1101 Preamp
  • Marshall 9100 Power Amplifier.
  • Marshall JMP-1 Preamp
  • Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
  • Rocktron Piranha Preamp
  • Scholz Rockman Sustainer
  • Marshall JMP Non master volume heads
  • [MXR] Distortion +[25]


  1. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d "K.K. Downing Interview". Guitarhoo!. Guitarhoo.com. 5 December 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "K.K. Downing Interview – Fave 5 Reviews". Guitarhoo!. Guitarhoo.com. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Matt Cooper and Dave Tindall (3 November 2009). "interview with KK Downing". Golf365. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Judas Priest Info Pages – K.K. – Glenn Profile Archived 14 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "K.K. Downing". guitarhoo.com. Retrieved 4 December 2012. 
  7. ^ "K.K. DOWNING: What It Would Take For Me To Return To JUDAS PRIEST". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  8. ^ Michaels, Sean. "Last rites: KK Downing quits Judas Priest just before farewell tour". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  9. ^ Snapes, Laura (2018-02-12). "Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton diagnosed with Parkinson's disease". Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  10. ^ "K.K. DOWNING Is 'Shocked And Stunned' He Wasn't Asked To Rejoin JUDAS PRIEST". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 27 February 2018. 
  11. ^ "IAN HILL Explains Why JUDAS PRIEST Didn't Ask K.K. DOWNING To Rejoin Band". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 5 March 2018. 
  12. ^ Elias, Paty. "Interview with Rob Halford of Judas Priest who talks about new 'Firepower' album and setting the record straight". blogs.dailynews.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018. 
  13. ^ "IAN HILL Lists Reasons K.K. DOWNING Wasn't Asked To Rejoin JUDAS PRIEST". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 26 June 2018. 
  14. ^ "Ex-JUDAS PRIEST Members K.K. DOWNING, TIM 'RIPPER' OWENS, LES BINKS: Teaser For DEVILSTAR's Cover Of 'Beyond The Realms Of Death'". Blabbermouth.net. Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  15. ^ "Metal merchant swinging irons". Shropshire Magazine. Archived from the original on 18 May 2014. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "About.com: Heavy Metal". Archived from the original on 22 July 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  17. ^ "The Astbury". Astburyhall.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  18. ^ "KK Downing holds charity golf day at Astbury Hall, Bridgnorth, for the Lord's Taveners. " Shropshire Star". Shropshirestar.com. 16 September 2010. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  19. ^ "England and Wales High Court (Chancery Division) Decisions". Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  20. ^ "Rocker KK Downing bids to bring top golf contests to Shropshire " Shropshire Star". Shropshirestar.com. 11 January 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  21. ^ Dominic Walsh (10 January 2014). "City Diary: high priest of golf gets a partner". The Times. Retrieved 2014-05-18. 
  22. ^ Jones, Tamlyn. "£10million stately home and golf course owned by Judas Priest rocker has gone into administration". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 11 October 2017. 
  23. ^ Deriso, Nick. "KK DOWNING IS SELLING HIS SHARE OF JUDAS PRIEST'S CATALOG". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 17 May 2018. 
  24. ^ KKDowningSteelMill (2016-01-26), K.K.Downing´s "Toys In The Attic Vol. 2", retrieved 2016-03-02 
  25. ^ Cooper, Adam (2004). "K.K. Downing's 2004 Judas Priest Guitar Rig" Archived 18 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. GuitarGeek.Com.

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