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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

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My 1st concert at the Richmond Coliseum in 1972 . . . then the Beacon Theater in Hopewell in 2014. You still got it, Brother. Thank you, Leon!
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My 1st concert at the Richmond Coliseum in 1972 . . . then the Beacon Theater in Hopewell in 2014. You still got it, Brother. Thank you, Leon!
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PUT THE hook IN ME with mad dogs IN englishmen
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I love you Leon...thats the cool thing. You can belong to us all individually in our own minds! Yeah...youre mine, Mosat...
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samanthas.mo m 8
He is Amazing. Seeing him 6 times in April. His shows are awesome and his band is fantastic!!! !
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cmw521
Just saw him last week on Long Island. One of the best shows I have attended in years! Two hours of very energetic music. First time I had seen him since Anaheim Stadium, 1970.
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chris-smith3
Just saw him a few days ago in DC. Didn't care for his band and the up-tempo arrangement of the songs for the first half of the show. But then the band left and Leon was solo on the piano. Perfect.
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Looking forward to Sunday February 15th in Tarrytown.
Singing sweet love songs♡
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glenn26057
Sweet Baby Jane, one of the greatest songs of all time
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Carney. My fav of all time. Also like tight rope.
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nice to know Leon was the highest paid rock n roller in 2014, keep em on the ropes Leon
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emcdaniel719
Saw him in Houston Monday night. Was great to see he's still truckin'. So glad I made it. He's such a talented man!
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I'm jealous of Dailey....he came close to where I live, but I couldn't go see him. I was terribly disappointed , but my husband recorded a show of him that was on PBS for me (still wasn't the same). Have a good tome bigley!
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Going to his show in Austin TX tonight can't wait I have seen him several times always puts on a great show
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definitely like Leon, but Joe Cocker does this better(delta lady)
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He's still good in concert seen him a few years ago. Rock on
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Goen back to the islands.lets go baby girl
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baldwin-moti o n
blue eyed boy.. got one.. love the song........ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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My favorite song of Leon Russell's : All.
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I had the pleasure of seeing Leon last year at Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.. One of the Greatest concerts I've seen.. I also shook his hand.. Awesome artist !
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kevin-burns9
Leon Russell true profession/u l t i m a t e vocals awesome.pkb
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Made my year. Beacon ny
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williamcaubl e
I've watched Leon go from a long-haired boogie woogie piano man to a white-maned long hair boogie woogie piano man and what a journey. Last time Leon was at the Bachannal in San Diego. back when Johnny Winter was coming to San Diego seems like twice a year! Intimate venue, masters of the speed blues jam.
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kevin-burns9
Carry on a true damn rocker /great gem pkb
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chris-smith3
Leon, you and your music are a treasure. The melancholy of Carney continues to touch me.
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I Could have seen you at Jonathan's in Ogunqiut Maine. I regret not doin it. Yours Bob. PS, will you come back?
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I wanna go back to the Island
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I seen Leon at club beny Morgan NJ ask him he s the best thanks d jones
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jarrettwest
Jumpin Jack flash...stol e the show at Harrison's concert for Bangladesh.. . a n d yes at Lisner Auditorium, the best place
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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.
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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!
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When I was a kid I wanted to grow up and be Leon Russell, but I wasn't cool enough.
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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.♥¤♡♥♡¤♥¤ ; - ) ; - ) ; - ) ; - )
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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.
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This is one of the best songs of all time. It sure brings back good memories!
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Just saw Leon in Pittsburgh last weekend, fabulous show, better than ever. The music is timeless along with Leon. Luv him forever!
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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.
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tiffaboo096
love Leon from my unencumbered Atlanta days with Bess and Arnold.
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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.
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tim2505
AT THE TOP OF THE LIST!
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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
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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
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Leon had a cool interpretati o n . Many of Dylan's songs could be made funky southern groovy type renditions.
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The Master of Space and Time! Leon is timeless!!
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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.
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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?
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nik_dangr
Mad Dogs and Englishmen at Lisner Auditorium, George Washing University, 1970. Seating capacity 1,490. Doesn't get much better than that.
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dpetronchak
Welcome to Kauai!! You are such an icon and legend in our time!! Enjoy your stay with much ALOHA!!!
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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
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Noiraigue
He was boogiein' hard in Charlotte last year!
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