Leon Redbone is a noted American guitarist and singer, known for his stylized performances of early jazz and blues songs.
Redbone usually performs old and often largely unknown songs from vaudeville and minstrel shows of the 1910s and '20s. He sings with a full, expressive baritone, often mumbling incoherently or yodelling. His guitar technique is excellent, with a quick, jaunty bounce.
Leon Redbone first became known as a performer in the early 1970s in the Toronto area, playing in clubs, and hanging around the university. After meeting Bob Dylan at the Mariposa Folk Festival, Dylan became impressed with Redbone's talent and mentioned him in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Redbone himself was profiled in Rolling Stone before ever releasing an album.
One story has it that at this time Redbone was approached by the legendary producer John Hammond to record an album. According to rumour, he gave Hammond the number of a dial-a-joke service rather than give out his own number.
Redbone suddenly came upon the national scene with his first album, On The Track, and an appearance on Saturday Night Live, both in 1976. Leon Redbone immediately established a strong presence through his music. His style of performance appeared before the public in full bloom, and has remained remarkably consistent ever since.
Leon Redbone quickly settled into a comfortable medium level of fame. He managed to keep his career on the national radar through a combination of critically-acclaimed albums, continual live appearances, occasional interviews, and a few television appearances. He performed on Saturday Night Live a total of three times, and also on The Tonight Show on occasion. Also, he has been easily recognized by casual listeners in a handful of commercial jingles and television theme songs.