Leon Russell has been a major force in music for more than four decades. He began playing the piano when he was just three years old. By the age of 14, he picked up a trumpet, formed his own band, lied about his age and managed to get a gig in a Tulsa nightclub. Over the next few years, he played and toured with various groups and artists that included Jerry Lee Lewis.
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In 1958, he moved to Los Angeles and shortly thereafter began working with legendary producer Phil Spector as part of the infamous "Wall of Sound." Leon quickly became a much sought after session player, recording with or writing songs for The Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Herb Alpert, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. By the early sixties, he was playing with Gary Paxton (Hollywood Argyles), Bobby "Boris" Pickett (Monster Mash/Cryptkickers) and David Gates (later of Bread.)
Russell's solo career leapt forward when Russell and Denny Cordell assembled the all-star 43-member entourage for Joe Cocker's notorious "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" American tour. Leon and his band, The Shelter People, were featured prominently on Cocker's cover of the Box Top's "The Letter," (a top 10 hit in late spring of 1970). Shortly afterward, Leon and Denny Cordell formed Shelter Records and released the first Leon Russell album. Leon continued to accept high-profile invitations for session work, playing with the Rolling Stones, Dave Mason, and Bob Dylan.
On August 1, 1971, he was featured with George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan in the "Concert For Bangladesh", at New York's Madison Square Garden. Critics still point to his "Jumpin' Jack Flash/Youngblood" medley as the highlight of the show, which helped gain large scale exposure for Russell's next 2 albums, Asylum Choir and Carney. In the process of going gold, Carney spent 35 weeks on the charts (four of them at #2) and the song "Tight Rope" hit #11.
In 1972, he recorded the three-record set "Leon Live" at the Long Beach Arena before 20,000 screaming fans.
In 1973, "Hank Wilson's Back", an album reminiscent of the country classics of his youth, went to #6 on Cash Box's country chart and began to show Leon's astonishing versatility and abilities to write, arrange and play in many musical genres.
Between 1974 and 1976, he recorded and released "Stop All That Jazz" with the Gap Band and "Will O' The Wisp", an album featuring other all-star musicians including Al Jackson, Steve Cropper, and Donald "Duck" Dunn. that album's singles included "Bluebird", (a #35 pop hit for Helen Reddy), "Back To The Island" and "Lady Blue", which hit #14 on the pop charts in the fall of 1975.
"The Best Of Leon Russell" in 1976, rose to #40 on the pop charts and became his fifth gold album.
In 1979, Leon teamed up with Willie Nelson for a rwo-record set of country standards, "One For The Road", which certified platinum. During the 80's and into the 90's, Leon toured and recorded with the New Grass Revival and Edgar Winter.
Leon continues to write, produce, and record his own material as well as play sessions with other artists in his Nashville studios. He released five albums during the 90's including "Anything Can Happen" (1992), "Blues" (1995), "Legend In My Time - Hank Wilson Volume #3" (1998), and "Face In The Crowd" (1999). EMI Records also released two compilation CD's - "Gimme Shelter" and "Retrospective" in the late nineties which highlight his legendary songs including "This Masquerade" (the first song in music history to occupy the number one spot in jazz, pop, and R&B charts), "Hummingbird", "A Song For You", "Superstar" and "Delta Lady" to name a few. A recent quote called his live performances "not just a greatest hits review," although there is always that element, but a performance where his energy and passion come out and the musical spark he creates still blazes brightly, alive and fresh promise and renewed potential."
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