Biography by Jason Ankeny:
While his gravelly baritone and omnipresent fedora, dark glasses and Groucho Marx moustache made him one of the more distinct and recognizable characters in popular music, little is known about the neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. Throughout his career, he steadfastly refused to divulge any information about his background or personal life; according to legend, Redbone’s desire to protect his privacy was so intense that when he was approached by the famed producer John Hammond, the contact number he gave was not his own phone, but that of a Dial-A-Joke service.
Because Redbone first emerged as a performer in Toronto during the 1970s, he was believed to be Canadian; his work, a revival of pre-World War II ragtime, jazz and blues sounds, recalled the work of performers ranging from Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby to blackface star Emmett Miller. He made his recording debut in 1976 with On the Track, which featured legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti as well as singer/songwriter Don McLean; his 1977 follow-up Double Time even reached the U.S. Top 40 charts, largely on the strength of his frequent appearances on television’s “Saturday Night Live.”
AMG Review by Lindsay Planer:
Leon Redbone followed up his debut long-player On the Track (1975) with Double Time (1977), an equally enchanting, if not somewhat eclectic blend, of jazz, folk, blues and pop standards — all in Redbone’s undeniably distinct throaty baritone. While the tunes may be familiar, these renderings are steeped in the artist’s unique sensibilities. The results are uniformly ingenious and commence with a New Orleans ragtime flavored interpretation of Blind Boy Blake’s dirty “Diddy Wa Diddie” blues. Augmenting Redbone’s acoustic guitar is an extended cast of session stalwarts and a host of other musical notables — such as Milt Hinton (bass), Jonathan Dorn (tuba), Vic Dickenson (trombone) and Jo Jones (drums). Don McLean (banjo) sits in, supplying his criminally underutilized instrumental versatility on the endearing revamp of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Mississippi Delta Blues.” The decidedly demented reading of “Sheik of Araby” is nothing short of inspired insanity. Redbone incorporates a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins-esque persona belting out a variety of hoots, snorts, howls and hob-gobbles set behind a hot-steppin’ fret board flurry à la Django Reinhardt. Among the album’s most affective numbers is a cover of a second Rodgers’ penned and similarly titled “Mississippi River Blues.” This is one of the more intimately emotive performances on the record and features another jazz legend, Yusef Lateef (soprano sax) — who provides a sweet understated counterbalance to Redbone’s dogged delivery. The track is likewise enhanced with the additional textures of the orally generated “throat tromnet” [read: a cross between a trombone and trumpet] contrasting his lyrical yodels and warbles. Also worthy of mention is the languid ragtime of the Jelly Roll Morton classic “Winin’ Boy Blues.” Bob Greene’s ramblin’ piano inflections aptly complement the vocals — which have been electronically manipulated to reproduce a sound likened to that of a vintage victrola. Rounding out the stack is the sublimely reverent “If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven.” The backing harmonies are courtesy of the incomparable Dixie Hummingbirds whose rich blend oozes from behind the minimalist lead and acoustic piano accompaniment. Potential enthusiasts are well served to begin their discovery of Leon Redbone here.
and this from an astute amazon.com customer:
These great old songs regain all their appeal thanks not only to Leon Redbone’s intrinsic talent but also to his always fresh, sometimes “tongue-in-cheek”, even irreverent approach towards choice material he genuinely loves and understands. Listen to him whistling through Mamie Smith’s 1920 “Crazy Blues” before conjuring a swing jazz depiction of country singer Jimmie Rodgers (“Mississippi Delta Blues”) before finding his way through pistol shots (!) on the wonderfully double-entendre “Mr. Jelly Roll Baker” (a Jelly Roll Morton composition). He can also be delightfully tender, but never maudlin, on tunes like “My Melancholy Baby” (a 1912 composition made famous by Judy Garland in the aforementioned “A Star Is Born”).
Leon Redbone – Double Time
Label: Warner Bros
from vinyl, over-cleaned by someone | mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 50mb
direct links in comments.
and you can get Leon Redbone – On the Track at Sugar Plum Fairy.
Once you hear that album and this, I’m sure you’ll be a convert and you’ll have to go and get the rest of his records from his official site
on disreputable sources, I have this information:
AKA Dickran Gobalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Vaudevillian with mysterious background