Leon Russell dies

Another icon of my youth, Leon Russell, passed away at age 74.  A piano player from Lawton, Oklahoma, Russell became a member of the “wrecking crew,” that set of session musicians who were responsible for most of the pop music coming out of L.A. in the early sixties, from the Beach Boys to the Mamas and the Papas and the Byrds.  From there, he started playing with British stars, of the magnitude of John Lennon, George Harrison, Joe Cocker, and Eric Clapton.  Also Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and. . .you name it.  The man knew everybody and his eclectic taste meant that he played just about everything.

He was also the main originator of the “Tulsa Sound,” with its country rock boogie-woogie shuffle that made a mark in the 1970s.  I grew up in the Tulsa area around then, and Leon was part of that silly teenaged scene on local late night TV with Mazeppa Pompazoidi (Gaylord Sartain) and Teddy Jack Eddy (Gary Busey).  I remember driving to Tulsa to hear a free concert in a park with Leon and B.B. King, one of the best concerts I’ve ever heard.

After the jump, a link to an informative obituary and a video of what he could do. [Read more…]

The Tulsa Sound

J. J. Cale died, the musician and songwriter responsible with Leon Russell for developing the so-called “Tulsa Sound.”  This was a bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, often adorned with a honky tonk piano.  The most notable exemplar of the Tulsa sound was the non-Okie Eric Clapton, but it can also be found in the numerous collaborations of Leon Russell and in groups like the Tractors.

As someone who grew up near Tulsa and went to college in Oklahoma in the 1970s, I can say this is my kind of music.  (In addition to the music, the Tulsa scene at that time included late night TV with “Mazeppa Pompazoidi,” a.k.a. Gailard Sartain, a comic genius who would later go to Hollywood for Hee Haw and other mostly bit parts unworthy of him, with Gary Busey as Teddy Jack Eddy.  Busey also went to Hollywood and had a pretty good career.  Though known for some meltdowns, he became a convert to Christianity.  Did anyone else out there stay up late for the The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting?)

After the jump:  J. J. Cale playing his most famous song and a good survey of his life and music. [Read more…]