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Leon Russell (born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma) is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and guitarist. Russell attended Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.Read More...
Known as a session musician and artist in his own right, Russell has played with artists as varied as Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector and The Rolling Stones. With a solo career spanning the genres of rock, blues, and gospel, Russell began his musical career at 14, lying about his age to land a gig playing backup at a Tulsa nightclub to play with Ronnie Hawkins behind Jerry Lee Lewis. Two years later, after settling in Los Angeles, he studied guitar with James Burton, and worked sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell.
After becoming a part of Phil Spector's studio group, Russell played backup on many of the most popular hits of the 1960s, including The Byrds, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and Herb Alpert. He also served as Snuff Garrett's assistant on numerous productions. Russell built his own recording studio in 1967, and recorded his first LP, Look Inside the Asylum Choir, in a collaboration with Marc Benno.
His first songwriting hit was Joe Cocker's 1970 cover of "Delta Lady", and Russell went on to organise Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Shortly thereafter, Russell released another solo album, Leon Russell, which included the original version of the popular "A Song for You". Also in 1970, Russell played piano on Dave Mason's album, Alone Together (notably, on the song "Sad and Deep as You").
During the 60's and 70's, Russell had a large mansion home in Tulsa near Woodward Park and was much an attraction for teenagers growing up in Tulsa. He also owned the infamous Church Recording Studio on 3rd street there, a meeting place for Russell and many friends. The Church Studio is now owned by Glen Mitchell and one-time Russell studio engineer Steve Ripley of the country band The Tractors. Russell still records there frequently.
Russell also owned a large home on Grand Lake, in northeast Oklahoma. It stills stands near Dripping Springs, remodeled now, but a fond reminder of the days gone by for the now-grown kids in Oklahoma. At one time, it stood to be one of the largest homes on the lake. The home is now owned by Tulsa chiropractor and Leon Russell enthusiast Dr. F.J. Huskey. The home still contains the famous dining room table and chairs made from church pews from his Church Studio. On the property stands a private recording studio that has seen many famous names, including members of The Beatles.
In 1971, Russell appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh (performing a memorable medley of the songs "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Young Blood"), after recording sessions with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, and went on to tour with the Rolling Stones. After focusing increasingly on his solo career, his album Carney reached #2 on the charts, although the two following albums were not received as well.
During the 70's, Russell continued to pop in occasionally and perform in Tulsa at the Paradise Club and other noted music spots around town. He surprised his fans one night performing with Flash Eddy and the Eclectics at the Paradise.
His 1975 album Will O'the Wisp was fairly commercially successful, as was its single "Lady Blue". Gailard Sartain, fondly remembered by Tulsans as Mezeppa Pompazoidi (a Saturday night movie host, joined many times by Gary Busey), did the artwork for Russell's Will 'O the Wisp LP cover.
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- LyricsHow many days has it been
Since I was born?
How many days
'Til I die?
Do I know any ways?
- LyricsI've been so many places
In my life and time
I've sung a lot of songs
I've made some bad rhymes
I've acted out my life in stages
- LyricsI'm up on the tight wire
One side's ice and one is fire
It's a circus game
With you and me
I'm up on the tight rope
- LyricsWell, I'm goin' down, goin down a hard road
Just don't know, don't know where I've been
But I think I've been a-walkin', I'm a-walkin' 'round in circles
Can't even find a friend
Woah, my love, my love, she is not waiting
- LyricsWoman of the country
Now, I found you
Longing in your soft
And fertile delta
And I whisper sighs
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