Lost Classics! Leon Redbone

Photo by Art Meripol

One guy from the 1970s who seems to be unfairly forgotten is Leon Redbone.  One could make a strong case that a large part of his current anonymity is his own fault – after all, when he was “hot” Leon made it very hard to know anything about him.  We saw Leon in Beaumont, Texas, in the late 1970s … he skulked backstage and we went in a few minutes later to do an interview.

Although he was cordial and polite, Leon didn’t have much to say – at least anything we could understand.  He muttered incomprehensible answers to our questions, talking about Romanian comic books and arcane musical styles.  He did mention that one of his influences was Emmitt Miller, a minstrel show performer of the 1920s who often performed his songs in blackface.  Onstage, Redbone was great: he is an expert guitar player, and at one point he performed an intricate piece with a handkerchief draped over the frets of his guitar.  Always a polite young man (we think he was young), he tipped his hat to the audience and sought out friendly faces with a flashlight.  He sings, he plays, and he does trumpet sounds with his mouth – and he’s done about 15 albums this way.

Redbone skulked onto the scene in 1975 with On The Track, a pretty good album from Warner Bros. with artwork featuring that company’s smart-ass singing and dancing frog (there was no WB television network back then, just that one cartoon with the frog).   Over the years Redbone has appeared on TV shows and commercials, puts out albums sporadically and continues to perform in small venues.  He’s as mysterious now as he was back then, and I guess that is the way he likes it.  These three songs are from On The Track, the ticks and pops are free.

MP3: “Polly Wolly Doodle”

MP3: “Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)”

MP3: “My Walking Stick”

Leon Redbone official website (good luck finding out anything here)

Art Meripol’s Concert Photography Blog

Leon Redbone on “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson”

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