I was on my way home yesterday, listening to the Sinatra station on XM. Jazz guitarist George Benson's cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” came on and brought back a lot of memories. While I like George Benson and have several of his CDs, I love Leon Russell.
I have never gotten over my initial crush on Russell ... it happened in about 1970, when Russell first hit the scene and I was 18. He was my alternative to the clean cut look of The Beach Boys. He had hair down to his waist, a beard and moustache, and we wore a strange-looking top hat on stage. I saw him several times in concert, somehow managing to score front row tickets on a college student’s budget.
Here’s a photo of Russell on the stage.
His “A Song for You” has been covered by everyone from The Carpenters to Elliott Yamin (American Idol contestant). Peggy Lee put it on her final album in 1972. Yeah, it’s that good.
Russell performed at the Big State Festival in College Station in October of 2007. He walks with two canes, due to knee replacements, and he’s gone completely gray, but when he sits down at the keyboard, there is still a lot of magic going on.
Here’s a photo from Big State.
Check out the 1970 CD, Leon Russell or the 1973 triple-live, Leon Live. If you are of a certain age, Russell’s songs are guaranteed to bring back a lot of memories and more than a few satisfied smiles.
Side note: Willis Alan Ramsey, my favorite singer/songwriter, cut his one and only albumn at Russell’s Oklahoma recording studio.