JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner says that the band's Parkinson's disease-stricken axeman Glenn Tipton is a hero" whose "tenacity" and songwriting style made PRIEST what it is.
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's more than five years ago — after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier — but announced in early 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of PRIEST's latest album, "Firepower". He was replaced by "Firepower" album producer Andy Sneap, who is also known for his work in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT. Tipton occasionally joins PRIEST onstage for its encores, performing "Metal Gods", "Breaking The Law" and "Living After Midnight".
Richie recalled when he first learned about Tipton's illness during an appearance on the latest installment of Dean Delray's "Let There Be Talk" podcast. He said (hear audio below): "It was during the 'Redeemer Of Souls' tour that he got diagnosed — maybe, actually, a bit before. So, after the 'Epitaph' tour, but before the 'Redeemer Of Souls' tour he got diagnosed, and they told him that he had it for quite a few years before that, but he didn't know. He kept it quiet [after that], which is his business… He chose to go and check it out and they told him that it was the onset Parkinson's, and he told us. But he was able to do the 'Redeemer Of Souls' tour."
According to Faulkner, PRIEST "had to change the set slightly" on the "Redeemer" tour in order to accommodate Glenn. "Some things we couldn't do; some things we had to adapt slightly," he said. "[It was because of] his motor skills. I think I'm right about that. I know it must be frustrating — he knows what he wants to do in his mind, but the physical aspect… You know what I mean? And we actually started off the 'Redeemer Of Souls' tour, we didn't do 'Painkiller', we didn't do 'Electric Eye' — there's a few songs we didn't do. Halfway through the tour — I think we were in Australia somewhere — we started to do it. He warmed up — he got the strength back, and he was, like, 'I wanna do it.' But when it came to the rehearsals for the 'Firepower' tour, he pushed it right to the end. He was in rehearsals, he was trying his best, and it got to the point… I mean, it takes a big man. Glenn's a proud man. He's been at the top of his game for 50 years, and to admit anything like that is a big move. And he sat us all down and he said, 'Guys, I'm not gonna be able to do this tour.' And it was a bit of an emotional moment, as you can imagine; there were some tears."
Richie went on to say that it's heartbreaking for PRIEST to tour the world knowing that Glenn is unable to be with his bandmates.
"He's an influential guitar player; he's a great friend; he's a hero," Faulkner said. "And it's incredibly sad, obviously, and it must be incredibly frustrating for him. He says, to see us out on the road and he's not there with us, it's incredibly tough for him…
"He's a fighter, man," he continued. "Glenn's one of those types of personalities, I don't think PRIEST would be PRIEST without him — his tenacity and the way he writes music, the way he plays guitar and the personality that he is. As I said, he's a great friend; he's a hero. Just watching him and learning from him, without Glenn, it wouldn't be the same band."
Bassist Ian Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Singer Rob Halford joined the group in 1973 and Tipton signed on in 1974. Rob left PRIEST in the early 1990s to form his own band, then returned to PRIEST in 2003. Founding guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the band in 2011, and was replaced by Faulkner.