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Leon Redbone

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.

Early Career

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.

Later Career

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.

Redbone prefers performing live to recording. As his career has continued, he has left successively longer periods between albums. He has released only 14 albums in 25 years, three of them live albums. He has toured extensively, usually in the eastern US and England, often appearing at small venues and folk, jazz, or blues festivals.

Throughout his entire career, his music and style has changed little. His dedication to his specific type of music and his consistency in his choice of songs, and manner of performing, are remarkable and largely unheard-of in contemporary music. A listener will hear little difference in his voice, guitar- playing, or arrangements between his first album in 1976, and his 2001 album, Anytime.

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Genius Guide to Jazz

The Leon Redbone Suite for Guitar and Genius in B-Flat. Part I

Read "The Leon Redbone Suite for Guitar and Genius in B-Flat. Part I" reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald, Genius

I. Prelude If anyone ever decides to get together a Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse for the Current State of American Pop Culture, I get dibs on Pestilence. Or possibly Death, depending on which one is likeliest to get more leg. And I invite Leon Redbone to saddle up next to me as we cut a bloody swath through the barren and useless hinterlands of creatively bankrupt reality TV, soulless and bland corporate top 40 music, hyper-accelerated fads ...

Album Review

Leon Redbone: Any Time

Read "Any Time" reviewed by Alan Jones

Do you remember the first time you heard Leon Redbone? I was six years old, elbows at the edge of my parents’ bed, hands propping up my chin. Saturday Night Live was an occasional family ritual. At such a simple age I was partial to Mr. Bill, Land Shark, and of course, the musical guests. I remember when they announced Leon Redbone (was it Buck Henry? Charles Grodin?). Leon had all the facets of a common cartoon character; the gag ...

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