Leon Russell is a legendary musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has been performing his gospel-infused southern boogie piano rock, blues, and country music for over 50 years.
Leon’s songwriting credits include A Song For You, This Masquerade, Delta Lady, Hummingbird Rainbow In Your Eyes, Lady Blue, Back To The Island. Tight Rope, Bluebird, Magic Mirror, Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Ballad Of A Soldier, One More Love Song, Stranger In A Strange Land co-written with Don Preston, Superstar co-written with Bonnie Bramlett, and Shootout On The Plantation and Roll Away The Stone both co-written with Greg Dempsey.
After graduating from high school in 1959, Leon left Tulsa for Los Angeles where he became a highly sought session musician, arranger and producer in the 1960’s. He played on hit records by The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, The Monkees, The Ronettes and many others. He played on and arranged the number one hit, This Diamond Ring, for Gary Lewis and The Playboys in 1965 and co-wrote Everybody Loves A Clown and She’s Just My Style.
Joe Cocker had a hit with Delta Lady in 1969 from his second album, “Joe Cocker!”, which Leon also co-produced and arranged. Leon’s standard A Song For You along with Hummingbird, and Delta Lady were from his 1970 album, “Leon Russell”, which was released on Shelter Records which he founded with partner Denny Cordell. A Song For You is a classic and has been recorded by dozens of artists including Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, Michael Buble, Willie Nelson, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilrera, Neil Diamond, and Simply Red.
B.B. King had a hit single from his 1970 album “Indianola Mississippi Seeds” with Hummingbird which Leon also played on. B.B. also recorded it with John Mayer for his 2005 birthday celebration album “80”. Karen Carpenter sang This Masquerade, A Song For You, and Superstar which was a #2 hit for The Carpenters in 1971. Superstar has also been recorded by Rita Coolidge, Cher, Peggy Lee, Vicki Carr, Luther Vandross, Ruben Studdard, Sonic Youth, and The Motels among many others. George Benson’s recording of This Masquerade won the Grammy Award for Best Record of The Year in 1977 and was the only song with vocals on his triple Platinum album, “Breezin’”.
Leon had his own chart success with his recordings of Tight Rope charting at #11 in 1972, Bluebird at #14 in 1975 and Slipping Into Christmas at #4 on the Billboard Christmas chart in 1972.
Leon was the bandleader for Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ tour in 1970. He performed with George Harrison and Friends at the Concert For Bangladesh in New York in 1971. He also toured with Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Revere’s Raiders, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter, The New Grass Revival, Willie Nelson, and Sir Elton John.
Leon and Elton’s duet album “The Union”, produced by TBone Burnett, was released in October 2010. Leon wrote the first single from the album, If It Wasn’t For Bad, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
Leon was honored by the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame as the first recipient of the Award for Musical Excellence in March 2011.