Just before Judas priest is to head out on their final world tour, guitarist KK Downing has decided to retire from the band.

Judas priest fans got a bit of a shock today when they woke up to find that one of the bands founding members has decided to retire just months before they set out on their farewell tour. KK Downing announced early today that he was inf act leaving the band.

I can't see Downing retiring for no reason, especially with just one more chance for Priest fans to see them all together one last time.  Maybe years on the road and in the studio finally got to him.  This is the official statement from the Judas Priest website:

It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that K.K. Downing has formally retired from the band and will therefore not be joining them on their forthcoming EPITAPH Tour. The band respect his decision and naturally all wish him well.

The tour will go on as planned and current Epitaph guitarist Richie Faulkner will be taking Downing's spot on the upcoming summer tour.  This is a bit odd since the band was also working on new material in the studio.  It just won't be the same Priest without Downing and Tipton on double axe.  He will certainly be missed among rock and metal lovers everywhere.

To read the complete press release about KK Downing's retirement click here.