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Leon Redbone

While his gravelly baritone and omnipresent fedora, dark glasses, and Groucho Marx mustache made him one of the more distinct and recognizable characters in popular music, little is known about the neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. Throughout his career, he steadfastly refused to divulge any information about his background or personal life; according to legend, Redbone's desire to protect his privacy was so intense that when he was approached by the famed producer John Hammond, the contact number he gave was not his own phone, but that of a dial-a-joke service.

Because Redbone first emerged as a performer in Toronto during the 1970s, he was believed to be Canadian, though some sources have cited his birthplace as the Greek island of Cyprus or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A Canadian magazine profile in the '80s reported that his birth name was Dickran Gobalian, though Redbone has never confirmed or denied that. Redbone's musical style was a revival of pre-World War II ragtime, jazz, and blues sounds, recalling the work of performers ranging from Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby to blackface star Emmett Miller.

Redbone first came to the attention of mainstream music fans when Bob Dylan saw him perform at the 1974 Mariposa Folk Festival in Ontario. Several months later, Dylan spoke about him in an interview with Rolling Stone. "Leon interests me," Dylan said. "I've heard he's anywhere from 25 to 60, I've been [a foot and a half from him] and I can't tell, but you gotta see him. He does old Jimmie Rodgers, then turns around and does a Robert Johnson."

Redbone landed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, and made his recording debut in 1976 with On the Track, which featured legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti as well as singer/songwriter Don McLean. His 1977 follow-up, Double Time, even reached the U.S. Top 40 charts, largely on the strength of his frequent appearances on television's Saturday Night Live.

After 1978's Champagne Charlie, Redbone began recording only sporadically; following 1981's Branch to Branch, he waited four years before re-entering the studio to cut Red to Blue. Invariably, his albums featured guest appearances from an eclectic cast of luminaries: while 1987's Christmas Island included a cameo by Dr. John, 1994's Whistling in the Wind included duets with Ringo Starr and Merle Haggard, and 2001's Any Time featured contributions from such jazz luminaries as guitarist Frank Vignola, reedman Ken Peplowski, and bassist Jay Leonhart. After a long layoff from recording, Redbone returned in 2014 with Flying By.

Despite his low profile, Redbone earned a certain measure of fame as a fixture in various television advertising campaigns, as well as frequent television appearances and his vocal cameo as a singing snowman in the 2003 movie Elf. In 2015, Redbone announced he was retiring from live performances, citing health problems. A year later, Jack White's Third Man Records released Long Way from Home, a collection of Redbone's early radio performances recorded in 1972. A documentary about the singer, Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone: The Search for Leon Redbone, is in production. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Live (The Olympia Theatre, Paris, France)

1. Sweet Mama Papa's Gettin' Mad (Live)

2. Ain't Misbehavin' (Live)

3. She's My Gal (Live)

4. Goodbye Charlie Blues (Live)

5. Up A Lazy River (Live)

6. Csardas (Live)

7. Polly Wolly Doodle (Live)

8. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone (Live)

9. Waitin' On You (Live)

10. Thinking Of Me Thinking Of You (Live)

11. Marie (Live)

12. Sugar (Live)

13. Big Time Woman (Live)

14. Love Letters In The Sand (Live)

15. Piano Interlude (Live)

16. I'm Going Home (Live)

17. Diddy Wa Diddie (Live)

18. Play Gypsy Play (Live)

19. The Whistling Colonel (Live)

20. Gotta Shake That Thing (Live)

21. So Relax (Live)

x

Track List: Any Time

1. Any Time

2. If You Knew

3. Ain't Gonna Give You None of My Jelly Roll

4. All I Do Is Dream Of You

5. Louisiana Fairytale

6. So Tired Of Livin' All Alone

7. Sitin' On Top Of The World

8. Sweet Substitute

9. Blossoms On Broadway

10. In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree

11. Sweet Lorraine

12. Moonlight Bay

13. Your Feets Too Big

x

Track List: Whistling In The Wind

1. Dancin' On Daddy's Shoes

2. When I Kissed That Girl Good-Bye

3. Bouquet of Roses

4. Truckin' 101

5. Settin' By The Fire

6. Crazy Over Dixie

7. My Little Grass Shack

8. Love Letters In The Sand

9. You're Gonna Lose Your Gal

10. If I Could Be With You

11. I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby

12. I Ain't Got Nobody

x

Track List: No Regrets

1. She Ain't Rose

2. Wild And Wicked Ways

3. She's My Gal

4. Crazy Arms

5. Long Gone Lonesome Blues

6. Somewhere Down Below The Dixon Line

7. Lazy Bones

8. It's A Lonely World

9. Another Story, Another Time, Another Place

10. You Nearly Lose Your Mind

11. Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be

12. Some Sweet Day

13. My Good Gal's Gone Blues

14. Are You Lonesome Tonight

x

Track List: Red To Blue

1. Diamonds Don't Mean A Thing

2. Lovesick Blues

3. Reaching For Someone And Not Finding Anyone There

4. Somebody Stole My Gal

5. Steal Away Blues

6. Aw You Salty Dog

7. Border Of The Quarter

8. Someday Sweetheart

9. Whose Honey Are You?

10. Living With The Blues

11. Nobody Cares If I'm Blue

12. Think Of Me Thinking Of You

x

Track List: From Branch To Branch

2. A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight

3. Sweet Mama Papa's Getting Mad

4. Step It Up And Go

5. Your Cheatin' Heart

6. Seduced

7. Why

8. My Blue Heaven

9. Extra Blues

10. When You Wish Upon A Star

11. Prairie Lullaby

x

Track List: Champagne Charlie

1. Champagne Charlie

2. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

3. Sweet Sue (Just You)

4. The One Rose (That's Left In My Heart)

5. Alabama Jubilee

6. Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)

7. Yearning (Just For You)

8. If Someone Would Only Love Me

9. I Hate A Man Like You

10. T.B. Blues

x

Track List: Double Time

1. Diddy Wa Diddie

2. Nobody's Sweetheart

3. Shine On Harvest Moon

4. Crazy Blues

5. Mississippi Delta Blues

6. Mr. Jelly Roll Baker

7. My Melancholy Baby

8. Sheik Of Araby

9. Mississippi River Blues

10. Winin' Boy Blues

11. If We Never Meet Again The Side Of Heaven

x

Track List: On The Track

1. Sweet Mama Hurry Home Or I'll Be Gone

2. Ain't Misbehavin' (I'm Savin' My Love For You)

3. My Walking Stick

4. Lazybones

5. Marie

6. Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)

7. Lulu's Back In Town

8. Some Of These Days

9. Big Time Woman

10. Haunted House

11. Polly Wolly Doodle

x

Track List: Long Way From Home

16. My Good Gal's Gone Blues

x

Track List: Sugar

1. Ghost Of The Saint Louis Blues

2. Roll Along Kentucky Moon

3. Right Or Wrong

4. Laughin' Blues

5. Breeze

6. The Whistling Colonel

7. Sugar

8. Pretty Baby

9. When I Take My Sugar To Tea

10. What You Want Me To Do

11. Messin' Around

12. So, Relax

13. 14th Street Blues

Comments

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Colt Ford @ the Tulare County Fair! Tulare CA, Check it out...Friday Sept. 16th, 2016 @ 8:00 pm. FREE CONCERT w/fair admission ($8) I can't wait to see him @ our country county fair...hope u all can spread the word & see you there hang'in round the beer booth!
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I saw him once, the best I ever saw. Less than a hundred people in the hall. Was like having friends over.
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malatub
Giddi up!
Report as inappropriate
I met Leon once strictly by accident. Leon was entering an elevator that I was exiting and I recognized him immediately saying hey Mr. Redbone I really enjoy all your appearances on Saturday Night Live and he replied in that gravelly baritone voice "Thank you very much". He had on a white suit and the usual Fedora and dark glasses. Although I never saw him in concert it was awesome to have met him. His music along with music of that bygone Era always transports me back to simpler times.
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My wife, sister-in-la w , her friend and myself saw Leon last summer at the Columbia theater, in Pottstown PA. The same theater were, "The Blob" was made. He knocked our socks off!!! He feels everything that he is singing about.����
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the reason for all the mystery in his past is because he was born in mulvane, kansas in 1941 as a woman. after a sketchy 4 yr stint as a circus trapeze artist....he found is calling as a singer in an all girl band. little know fact: has marvelous legs.
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He used to do Bud commercials. . . . f o r all you do, this Bud's for you
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the last of the troubadors, perhaps....s a w him play at an outdoor arts fest in StPete FL in the late 90s.... cool show...love hos voice and style.
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Right?
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alvarado.vil m a m a r i s o l
part 2. he was playing right there in the bar that very nite. a tiny little room. we bought tix and waited. the music was fantastic, so was the crowd. he was as charming as can be. we laffed tween songs. a camera was pulled out. he said gimme dat camera, took a picture of the crowd and handed it back. we had so much fun we immediately bought tix for the next nite. and that nite was just as good as the first! one of my fondest memories
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alvarado.vil m a m a r i s o l
oh man....20 or so years ago...is that even possible? my brother and i stopped at the Roosevelt hotel on Hollywood Blvd. in the lobby a man with dark glasses and a mustache and a fedora was picking an appetizer off a plate from a roving waiter. my brother and i looked at each other, is that? could it be? he caught us looking and his eyebrows did a quick jump off his sunglasses, he smiled as he popped the toothpick in his mouth and disappeared. we scrambled to find out if and where he was playing
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I got his first album when I was 11 years old in 1977. I still listen to it.
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spencersmith 3 9 0 1
In the late '70s, I met him once backstage at a place called PB Scott's in Blowing Rock, NC and showed him my Coon-Sanders Nighthawks Club card and he was most impressed by a 22 yr old presenting him with such...he played a 90 minute show along with his tuba player...def i n i t e l y an eccentric talent, but super musically. It remains a very memorable moment.
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Been awhile since I heard this guy... Thanks Pandora
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Shine on Harvest Moon on Saturday Night Live...been a fan ever since...
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This is really a sad one that what its supposed to be very sad. He's really good at it. :o))
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saw live in huntington beach Calif. music an cannabis was all great
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Great work........ .
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I have been trying to capture Leon's I want to be seduced for about six months now...but it only happens when I'm nap'pin or nod'din an a revere till I find a women who wouldn't mind seduce'in me.
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Roma
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jammad9.5
People would say Leon was really Frank Zappa doing another act.
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letskeepinto u c h 1
must be nice to be able in this day and age to have that kind of privacy very unusual!
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dlambert489
HOLY CRAP MR. BELVEDERE!!!
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HAS A STYLE ALL OF HIS OWN <<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>> > >
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...been playing / writing most my life. Have always loved and played his tuneage. Big influence, and always got attention! Only Leon ! Mark Fallin
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nancynel1
A great concert some yrs. ago at The Coach House in Capistrano Beach, Ca. Always liked his cool, laid back demeanor.
Report as inappropriate
My Ladyfriend and I saw im perform at the Chocolate Church in Bath, Maine in the winter of 2011. What a delightful experience! I have been a fan since the 70's, but had no idea what a grand raconteur he is until I saw him live.
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snkvch
My wife and I and another couple went to hear Leon Redbone at a small club in Lakewood Ohio. We got there about 2 hours early and saw him walk in. We bought him a drink and he spoke to us for about 20 minutes. As unique a conversation a l i s t as he is a musician. Until that night I only knew him for his singing. He is an amazing guitarist. He comes to this club every year. I cant wait to see him again.
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I like what he does to music when he arranges it around his style.
He is the real deal in music.
Loooove the voice.
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1luckytexan
Got him to sign my On the Track album cover in Dallas recently- he still tours, but by car, he was involved in the crash of a small plane once and refuses to fly.
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jmitch11154
My amazing yellow lab, Cosmo, passed in October. Last week we adopted a 3 yr old half-yello lab, half-Redbone coon hound. The Redbone is overwhelming l y dominant. He has a beautiful soul. Can you guess what his first name is?
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I sure wish he was my Uncle Leon.
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pookie12
I've been to every show he has done in the Atlanta area. He's the best when he's sober..after that he's just great.
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Even his f*rts smell sweet.
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No one does Shine On Harvest Moon like Leon!!!
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Saw him in concert at a small club in Columbia, SC many years ago ... what a marvel he is.
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chris.donahu e 9 0
Saw him on Beale Street, Memphis in 2007. The show was incredible.
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great
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The genuine article.
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Absolutely the best!
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Jake says:
I love the way he sings and the way he arranges.
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Great musician with a great sense of humor.
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glorial1949
Husband likes this artist.
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jeffrey4727
Simply elegant.
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Leon Is Boss!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !
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I have heard him live many times, especially at the Philadelphia Folk Festival where one night he was so drunk it was a miracle he finished his set. He still performed with flair and great humor. Troubled genius, carefree prankster? Damn good musician for sure.
Report as inappropriate
@ bannerbob-I loved the Golden Bear! Saw many great acts there-James Cotton, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Hoyt Axton, Dillards. Leon Redbone was playing and someone let out a "Whoop" - LR stops and says "Calm yourself...T h e r e ' s no need to get excited." Got a great laugh.
Report as inappropriate
bps48
Fun music. This guy has real style!
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I first saw and hear him in NE Pennsylvania , in a college auditorium. His voice was so unique and likeable, I've been a fan of his since then.
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joepitman
Leon is the coolest, and one very talented performer. I love his song, She ain't Rose.
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