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Leon Russell

The ultimate rock & roll session man, Leon Russell's long and storied career includes collaborations with a virtual who's-who of music icons spanning from Jerry Lee Lewis to Phil Spector to the Rolling Stones. A similar eclecticism and scope also surfaced in his solo work, which couched his charmingly gravelly voice in a rustic yet rich swamp pop fusion of country, blues, and gospel. Born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942, in Lawton, Oklahoma, he began studying classical piano at age three, a decade later adopting the trumpet and forming his first band. At 14, Russell lied about his age to land a gig at a Tulsa nightclub, playing behind Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks before touring in support of Jerry Lee Lewis. Two years later, he settled in Los Angeles, studying guitar under the legendary James Burton and appearing on sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell. As a member of Spector's renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the '60s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner's monumental "River Deep, Mountain High"; other hits bearing his input include the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Gary Lewis & the Playboys' "This Diamond Ring," and Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey."

In 1967, Russell built his own recording studio, teaming with guitarist Marc Benno to record the acclaimed Look Inside the Asylum Choir LP. While touring with Delaney & Bonnie, he scored his first songwriting hit with Joe Cocker's reading of "Delta Lady," and in 1970, upon founding his own Shelter Records imprint, he also organized Cocker's legendary Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. After the subsequent tour film earned Russell his first real mainstream attention, he issued a self-titled solo LP, and in 1971 appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh following sessions for B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. After touring with the Rolling Stones, Russell increasingly focused on his solo career, reaching the number two spot with 1972's Carney and scoring his first pop hit with the single "Tight Rope." While the success of 1973's three-LP set Leon Live further established his reputation as a top concert draw, response to the country-inspired studio effort Hank Wilson's Back was considerably more lukewarm, as was the reception afforded to 1974's Stop All That Jazz. 1975's Will O' the Wisp, however, restored his commercial luster, thanks in large part to the lovely single "Lady Blue."

In June of 1975, Russell married singer Mary McCreary; the following year the couple collaborated on The Wedding Album, issued through his newly formed Paradise Records label. Also in 1976, the Russell-penned "This Masquerade" earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson. Russell and McCreary reunited for 1977's Make Love to the Music, and upon completing the solo Americana, Russell teamed with Willie Nelson for 1979's Willie & Leon. He then spent the next two years touring with his bluegrass band, the New Grass Revival, issuing a live LP in 1981; although Paradise shut down later that year, the label was reactivated for 1984's Hank Wilson, Vol. 2 and Solid State. Russell spent the remainder of the decade largely outside of music and did not resurface until issuing the Bruce Hornsby-produced Anything Can Happen in 1992. The album appeared to little fanfare, however, and another long period of relative inactivity followed prior to the 1998 release of Hank Wilson, Vol. 3: Legend in My Time. Face in the Crowd appeared a year later. Moving into the new century, Russell issued Moonlight & Love Songs, an album of cover songs, in 2002, followed by Angel in Disguise five years later in 2007. A trio of releases, Almost Piano, Bad Country, and In Your Dreams appeared in 2008.

Russell's years in the wilderness ended in 2010 when long-time admirer Elton John contacted the pianist about recording a duet album. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the 2010 album The Union was greeted by strong reviews and sales, reviving Russell's career in a single stroke. After playing a joint tour with John, Russell returned to the road on his own and eventually got around to recording a solo comeback called Life Journey, which appeared in April 2014. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I seen Leon at club beny Morgan NJ ask him he s the best thanks d jones
jarrettwest
Jumpin Jack flash...stol e the show at Harrison's concert for Bangladesh.. . a n d yes at Lisner Auditorium, the best place
nik_dangr
Saw him leading the Mad Dogs with Joe Cocker at Lisner Auditorium. Cats, dogs, children, beautiful women and a bunch of great musicians. A real magic show.
Leon Russell has always been soothing to my soul! Nothing has changed. I am so grateful that Leon, you have stepped back up into what you do so well. I saw you in concert with Elton John and I was so thrilled! Thanks for your return. You have such soul and talent! Missed you!
When I was a kid I wanted to grow up and be Leon Russell, but I wasn't cool enough.
Leon Russell takes my breath away.me and my sister Faye qlways party with Leon and Mary.everyti m e we get the chance slacker & Pandora music heloed me relive some beautful memories and listen to the best MUSIC we coyld listen to.thanks guys, god bless us all.♥¤♡♥♡¤♥¤ ; - ) ; - ) ; - ) ; - )
One of the best pop songwriters of our time...not a bad song on his Greatest Hits album. Good to see his career revived...al w a y s had a soft spot for Song for You.
This is one of the best songs of all time. It sure brings back good memories!
Just saw Leon in Pittsburgh last weekend, fabulous show, better than ever. The music is timeless along with Leon. Luv him forever!
gconnor29
Leon, been to every one of your Albany, NY appearances. Hope to meet you one day. Love your style and your music, Almost as much as my wife, Maureen does.
tiffaboo096
love Leon from my unencumbered Atlanta days with Bess and Arnold.
nik_dangr
Saw him with Joe Cocker & Mad Dogs at Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, seating capacity about 1,500. Small stage packed with talent.
tim2505
AT THE TOP OF THE LIST!
leon is one of my favs since i was 13 yrs old n 1971..last saw him in Pittsburgh 2 yrs ago,,,love him just the same..his music is WONDERFUL... m a k e s my heart sing...and cry,,,love ya leon
Leon, master of both space and time. Saw him several times in the 70's, HUGE venues, RFK stadium in the summer, must have been 72-75 time frame....got to meet him five year ago at a small venue in Springfield, VA.
The music was always spectacular. . . s o m e h o w , he and I both got way OLDER. It is very nice to see him make this well deserved new recognition. . . a n d thanks to Elton John for helping out!
Thanks Leon, the music still ROCKS. Give me a shout out next time you are in town, we will host a BBQ
Leon had a cool interpretati o n . Many of Dylan's songs could be made funky southern groovy type renditions.
The Master of Space and Time! Leon is timeless!!
akmenius
Loved him since "Roll away the stone" in1970. Finally saw him live a couple years ago in Winston Salem. He's an old man, like me now, but still love him.
cindyloo1946
Leon Russell takes me back to the best times of my life - the 1970's - I'd go back just to experience all the amazing music and good times with great friends who are mostly still great friends, only older; but the music doesn't get any older, does it?
nik_dangr
Mad Dogs and Englishmen at Lisner Auditorium, George Washing University, 1970. Seating capacity 1,490. Doesn't get much better than that.
dpetronchak
Welcome to Kauai!! You are such an icon and legend in our time!! Enjoy your stay with much ALOHA!!!
dianelh2o
Introduced to Leon's unique music & voice by my hubby, have been a fan ever since. We look forward to seeing Leon at his upcoming gig at the Couch House in Oct, 2013. Waiting 4 U. Diane
Noiraigue
He was boogiein' hard in Charlotte last year!
I saw Leon in 1979. He rocked jumpin jack flash on the guitar standing on top of the piano. Have loved him ever since.
I see him still getting it in small venues all over the US
Leon was fabulous @Bluegrass Underground http://www.y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = Y W f n Y 0 0 _ T i g
saw him with harrison & preston (concert for bangladesh) he did one of his best Yougblood tore it up on that piano!!
gonna see him LIVE 333 feet below ground at PBS program taping at @http://www. b l u e g r a s s u n d e r g r o u n d . c o m / on March 9th 2013..can't wait!
always BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITES ever since I went to his concert in Dallas back in '72 . Great concert . So glad he's finally getting some credit that's so so so over due. Love ya Leon
kvons1
OUT IN THE WOODS-----on e of his best (opinion)
saw him in the 70's with Billy Preston and company ,in Honolulu, had the whole arena on their feet , wow what a show !!
lstrinkle
my favorite artist-the depth of emotion and presence, plus incredible virtuosity and integrity of spirit make Leon's live performances unforgettabl e .
saw a show about a month ago on cape cod...small venue...mayb e 400 people...out r a g e o u s band!
riverman172
Manhattan island serenade is my favorite lr tune. Who cares? Me.
who writes this stuff? dylan wrote mr tambourine man, marvin gaye and tammi tirrel .did river deep mt high. i don't know anything about today's music, but this I remember. love leon too.
someone said , if you scroll up Elton rescued Leon I think not. Do your homework
franknadel
LEON IS A PART OF ROCK AND ROLL HISTORY
AS HIS BLUE GRASS, HIS VOICE IS CLASSIC, AND SO IS HIS PIANO PLAYING. I CAN GO ON AND ON.
LEON, THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!! ! ! !
It's all over now baby blue is Bob Dylan. Leon liked singing his songs.
Sweet Emily was definitely written by Leon. I do know this he's been around for a long time. He helped people like Tom Petty & many more get their start in the music industry. Masquerade was sang by Ray Charles Leon wrote that one too. He did a lot of behind the scenes. Seen he several times loved everyone of them.
I've enjoyed Leon from the Mad Dogs days through to last year when I saw him in concert at Bumbershoot. He isn't getting around to well any more but he can still boogie on the piano and I enjoyed his singing.
slkilleb
To elliotts - pretty sure most people won't know what song you were listening to 10 minutes ago
I'm pretty sure this is not by Mr. Russell. It's a Bob Dylan song!!
An American treasure to be sure...keep the faith brother!!!!!
When I listen to this song, it takes back to a very good place in my life. This album made a believer out of me. Leon is so gifted an artist, I am happy to see that he is now getting the recognition that he has worked a lifetime for, and I hope that the world will always listen. Thank you Mr.Russell.
An American treasure of blues, soul, and gospel!
watch HBO's documentary The Union if you want to see more of this great musician . Elton John was just showing the appreciation we all feel for Leon's work.
Leon and Marc Beno were the Asylum choir. great stuff. BUT Pandora has no knowledge of that name. I can't get a station..... .
fldrake
Leon Russell: Hank Wilson is outstanding. You just don't get any better than Leon Russell..... . ? ? ? ? H e was later on rescued by...Elton John??!!! What is THAT? Wellll...... . . . . A l l right, I guess. Long Live Musika, Si!



Ferhat_Liste n s
xqsmemr
I lived down the street from his Tulsa studio, been listening to his music since I was in high school , he comes to Tulsa every year for his birthday and puts on one hell of a show, saw him and Cocker once .awsome
smokeyfan100 0
I've been listening to Leon's superb & one of a kind music since 1970. he is one of my most favorite artists of all time. Always did his own thing, which I highly admire & thank him for. Stranger in a Strange land is on of my favorites by Leon.Thanks for the all beautiful music Leon! And I'm wonderfully glad that the music industry finally wised up & gave you the acknowledgem e n t you deserved years ago...last year.
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