Heavy metal legends Judas Priest have been rocked by news that guitarist and founding member Ken ‘KK’ Downing has quit the band.
The shock departure came as the band prepared for their Epitaph tour, which is being advertised as their last.
They play Wolverhampton Civic Hall on July 21.
West Bromwich-born Downing, aged 59, lives at Astbury Hall in Staffordshire, and was a founder member of the band in 1968.
The reason for his departure was not revealed but a replacement has already been found to allow the tour to go ahead.
A statement from the band read: “It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that KK Downing has formally retired from the band.
‘‘Fate stepped in and delivered the perfect replacement – 31-year-old British guitarist Richie Faulkner.
‘‘He has blended into the band perfectly and is a great talent who is going to help set the stage on fire.’’
Londoner Faulkner has toured with the likes of Iron Maiden, Motley Crue and Thunder and played with the Lauren Harris Band and Metalworks.
Judas Priest have said Epitaph will be their final tour, but they will continue recording, with a new album due for release next year.
The tour begins in Holland on June 7.