KK Downing Says He Didn’t Quit Judas Priest But Was Forcibly Retired

Judas Priest co-founder and former guitarist KK Downing recently opened up about his decision to leave the band in 2011 and revealed that it wasn’t so much his decision as he was in a way tricked into doing it, and the reasons why he did it were completely hidden in the press release.

As you probably know, KK Downing co-founded the heavy metal band, Judas Priest, in 1969. The band achieved mainstream success in the ’80s and the tracks were often written by Downing, guitarist Glenn Tipton, and lead vocalist Rob Halford. However, it was around that time that Tipton had started becoming increasingly dominant in the band’s songwriting.

Thus, Downing’s role in the band started to diminish, especially when it came to a point that the majority of the setlists consisted of Tipton’s songs. The tensions continued increasing for decades and in 2011, it was announced that Downing had quit the band due to an ‘ongoing breakdown in working relationships between myself, elements of the band and management for some time.’

Although he released a memoir named ‘Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest’ in 2018, KK didn’t get into the real reason why he decided to leave. However, it was known that he wanted to reunite with Judas Priest as when Glenn Tipton announced his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 2018, Downing said that he was surprised no one called him to step into his original role as the band’s guitarist.

In his recent interview, Downing finally revealed all the details. Apparently, he decided to quit the band when he realized that their musical quality started decreasing after Glenn started having ‘too many beers before and during the concerts.’ This really annoyed Downing and the situation didn’t change although they had a conversation about it.

Then came the farewell tour, and they were all supposed to retire after that. Even though Downing wasn’t planning on joining the band initially, a friend of his convinced him that it would be a great idea to ‘complete the journey.’ Although he contacted Ian Hill and told him he’ll come for the farewell tour, and even ordered some guitar processors.

However, no one contacted him from the management to ask him whether he’ll join, and thus, Downing decided to ask Ian for the setlist. A day after he commented on the setlist, Judas Priest released a statement saying that KK Downing has decided to retire so as to look after his golf course which really pissed off the musician.

KK Downing opened up about his experience with the following words during his recent conversation with Doc Coyle:

“I kind of skirted through that period in my book, really; I didn’t really go into that much detail. No, I didn’t retire – absolutely didn’t. In 2010, things were coming to a boil; things were happening. I wasn’t happy with the previous tour because… I love Glenn and I respect him a lot, but he used to have too many beers before and during the concerts at the time. And I don’t know what was going on. We had words about it. But musically, we weren’t as footsure as I felt I wanted to be. I wasn’t really happy with that.

And it was the farewell tour. We were all retiring. That was the deal. I saw the press release, saying it was the end of the band and all of this and I don’t know. Maybe I just had some kind of breakdown, and I went, ‘You know what? Have it. Do you want it? It’s yours. Have it.’

But what actually happened was a friend of mine was really encouraging me to do the tour, and he was saying the right things, I guess: ‘You’ve been there this long. It’s just one more tour. You’ve gotta complete the journey.’ And so I started to talk to Ian over a period of about a week, saying, ‘Ian, I think maybe I’ll do it.’

I’d ordered some guitar processors from Germany to do the tour; I was gonna do it. And I was talking to Ian about doing it. And I fully expected to get a message from the management saying, ‘Are you gonna do it? Is it true you wanna do it?’ But I never heard anything. And I didn’t get the right feedback from Ian. My friend was giving me all this encouragement, but I wasn’t getting the same sort of thing back from Ian.”

He went on to say:

“Because I and Ian went to kindergarten together. We’ve been there every minute of this journey. But he wasn’t saying the things that my friend was saying. But he would have been relaying things back to camp, back to base, but they weren’t coming through. They sent a press release they were gonna release, saying, ‘We’re gonna release this tomorrow. Are you okay with the wording?’

And I said to Ian, ‘Can you e-mail me the setlist over? Let me see the setlist.’ Which he did. And I phoned him back, saying, ‘Ian, it looks great. I thought it would be all Glenn’s choices and it looks great.’ But the next morning, they sent a press release saying I retired.

So I sent in my second resignation letter saying that – this is the truth – ‘forget everything I said in my previous letter.’ Because I was trying to bail out amicably. And also knowing that those guys would have the purse strings. And I was a director of the company, and everything, and I knew I was gonna speak to ’em.

But in the second letter, I just flipped and I told the truth why I really quit three months earlier. But they still told the fans and the world that I retired to look after my golf course. No, I didn’t. I had professional managers. It had been open six years. It wasn’t true. And I hated it because I’ve had to carry this burden now with the fans thinking, ‘K.K.’s an a-hole because he deserted us. He did this to look after his golf course or retire.’ Not true.”

It can be clearly seen that the news about KK Downing quitting the band so as to pursue his career as an entrepreneur was wrong, and although it took him some years to open up about what happened behind the scenes, it seems like Judas Priest fans appreciated finally getting some clarity on why he ‘deserted’ them.