Leslie West

Last updated

Leslie West
Leslie west-2.jpg
West live at the Florida Theatre in 2008.
Background information
Birth nameLeslie Weinstein
Born (1945-10-22) October 22, 1945 (age 73)
New York City, United States
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Instruments
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1965–present
Labels
Associated acts

Leslie West (born Leslie Weinstein; October 22, 1945) is an American rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. He is best known as a founding member of the hard rock band Mountain.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.

Mountain is an American hard rock band that formed on Long Island, New York in 1969. Originally comprising vocalist and guitarist Leslie West, bassist and vocalist Felix Pappalardi, keyboardist Steve Knight and drummer N. D. Smart, the band broke up in 1972 and has reunited frequently since 1973, remaining active as of November 28, 2009. Best known for their cowbell-tinged song "Mississippi Queen", as well as for their performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, Mountain is one of many bands to be commonly credited as having influenced the development of heavy metal music in the 1970s. The group's musical style primarily consisted of hard rock, blues rock and heavy metal.

Contents

Life and career

Early years: 1945-1973

West was born in New York City, to a Jewish family. He grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in East Meadow, New York, Forest Hills, New York and Lawrence, New York. [1] After his parents divorced, he changed his surname to West. His musical career began with the Vagrants, an R&B/blue-eyed soul-rock band influenced by the likes of the Rascals that was one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of the New York metropolitan area itself (as opposed to the Bohemian Greenwich Village scene of artists, poets and affiliates of the Beat Generation, which produced bands like The Fugs and The Velvet Underground). The Vagrants had two minor hits in the Eastern US: 1966's "I Can't Make a Friend" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect" the following year.

Hackensack, New Jersey City in Bergen County, New Jersey, U.S.

Hackensack is a city in Bergen County in New Jersey, United States, and serves as its county seat. The area was officially named New Barbadoes Township until 1921, but it was informally known as Hackensack since at least the 18th century. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population was 43,010, reflecting an increase of 333 (+0.8%) from the 42,677 counted in the 2000 Census, which had, in turn, increased by 5,628 (+15.2%) from the 37,049 counted in the 1990 Census.

East Meadow, New York Hamlet and census-designated place in New York, United States

East Meadow is a hamlet and census-designated place (CDP) in Nassau County, New York, United States. East Meadow is an unincorporated area in the Town of Hempstead.

Forest Hills, Queens Neighborhood of Queens in New York City

Forest Hills is a mostly residential neighborhood in the central portion of the borough of Queens in New York City. The north, east, and south boundaries are the Long Island Expressway (LIE), Grand Central Parkway, and Union Turnpike, respectively. Google Maps shows the western boundary running roughly along 102nd Street, 67th Avenue, and the Long Island Rail Road's former Rockaway Beach Branch; while the Encyclopedia of New York City defines the western boundary as Junction Boulevard and the former Rockaway Beach Branch. The area was originally referred to as "Whitepot".

Some of the Vagrants' recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream on their album Disraeli Gears . In 1969, West and Pappalardi formed the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, which was also the title of West's debut solo album. Rolling Stone identified the band as a "louder version of Cream". [2] With Steve Knight on keyboards and original drummer N. D. Smart, the band appeared on the second day of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969 starting an 11-song set at 9 pm.

Felix Pappalardi American musician

Felix A. Pappalardi Jr. was an American music producer, songwriter, vocalist, and bassist. He is best known to the public as the bassist and vocalist of the band Mountain, whose song "Mississippi Queen" peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has become a classic rock radio staple. Originating in the eclectic music scene in New York's Greenwich Village, he became closely attached to the British power trio Cream, writing, arranging, and producing for their second album Disraeli Gears. As a producer for Atlantic Records, he worked on several projects with guitarist Leslie West; in 1969 their partnership evolved into the band Mountain. The band lasted less than five years, but their work influenced the first generation of heavy metal and hard rock music. Pappalardi continued to work as a producer, session musician, and songwriter until he was shot and killed by his wife Gail Collins in 1983.

Cream (band) 1960s British rock supergroup

Cream were a British rock band formed in London in 1966. The group consisted of lead vocalist/bassist Jack Bruce, guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker. The group's third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world's first platinum-selling double album. The band is widely regarded as the world's first successful supergroup. In their career, they sold more than 15 million records worldwide. Their music included songs based on traditional blues such as "Crossroads" and "Spoonful", and modern blues such as "Born Under a Bad Sign", as well as more current material such as "Strange Brew", "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and "Toad".

<i>Disraeli Gears</i> 1967 studio album by Cream

Disraeli Gears is the second studio album by the British rock band Cream. It was released in November 1967 and went on to reach No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart. It was also the group's American breakthrough, becoming a massive seller in 1968, and reaching No. 4 on the American charts. The album was No. 1 for two weeks on the Australian album chart and was listed as the No. 1 album of 1968 by Cash Box in the year-end album chart in the United States. The album features the two singles "Strange Brew" and "Sunshine of Your Love," as well as their respective B-sides "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and "SWLABR."

The band's original incarnation saw West and Pappalardi sharing vocal duties and playing guitar and bass, respectively. New drummer Corky Laing joined the band shortly after Woodstock. They had success with "Mississippi Queen", which reached No. 21 on the Billboard charts and No. 4 in Canada. It was followed by the Jack Bruce-penned "Theme For an Imaginary Western". Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal. [3]

Corky Laing Canadian musician

Laurence Mustard "Corky" Laing is a Canadian rock drummer, best known as a longtime member of pioneering American hard rock band Mountain.,

Mississippi Queen song by Mountain

"Mississippi Queen" is a song by the American rock band Mountain. Considered a rock classic, it was their most successful single, reaching number 21 in the Billboard Hot 100 record chart in 1970. The song is included on the group's debut album and several live recordings have been issued. "Mississippi Queen" has been recorded by several artists, including W.A.S.P., Sam Kinison, Amanda Ayala, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Ozzy Osbourne, the latter of whom had a hit with the song in 2005.

The Billboard charts tabulate the relative weekly popularity of songs and albums in the United States and elsewhere. The results are published in Billboard magazine. Billboard biz, the online extension of the Billboard charts, provides additional weekly charts. There are also Year End charts. The charts may be dedicated to specific genre such as R&B, country or rock, or they may cover all genres. The charts can be ranked according to sales, streams or airplay, and for main song charts such as the Hot 100 song chart, all three pools of data are used to compile the charts. For the Billboard 200 album chart, streams and track sales are included in addition to album sales.

After Pappalardi left Mountain to concentrate on various production projects, West and Laing produced two studio albums and a live release with Cream bassist Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. West, along with keyboard player Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears, recorded with The Who during the March 1971 Who's Next New York sessions. Tracks included a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It," and early versions of "Love Ain't For Keepin'" and The Who's signature track "Won't Get Fooled Again". Though the tracks were not originally included on the album (recording restarted in England a few months later without West or Kooper), they appear as bonus tracks on the 1995 and 2003 reissues of Who's Next and on the 1998 reissue of Odds & Sods .

Jack Bruce Scottish musician, bassist of Cream

John Symon Asher Bruce was a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter known primarily for his contributions to the British supergroup Cream, which also included the guitarist-singer Eric Clapton and the drummer Ginger Baker. In March 2011 Rolling Stone readers selected him as the eighth greatest bass guitarist of all time. "Most musicians would have a very hard time distinguishing themselves if they wound up in a band with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker," the magazine said at the time, "but Jack Bruce was so gifted on the bass that he did it with ease."

West, Bruce and Laing American band

West, Bruce & Laing (WBL) were a blues rock power trio super-group formed in 1972 by Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing. The band released two studio albums, Why Dontcha (1972) and Whatever Turns You On (1973), during their active tenure. Their disbanding was officially announced in early 1974 prior to the release of their third and last album, Live 'n' Kickin'.

Al Kooper American songwriter, record producer and musician

Al Kooper is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, providing studio support for Bob Dylan when he went electric in 1965, and bringing together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills to record the Super Session album. In the 1970's he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums. He's also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live.

Reforming Mountain: 1973-2000

Mountain reformed in 1973 only to break up again in late 1974. West had acting roles in Family Honor (1973) and The Money Pit (1986).

<i>The Money Pit</i> 1986 film by Richard Benjamin

The Money Pit is a 1986 American comedy film directed by Richard Benjamin starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as a couple who attempt to renovate a recently purchased house. It was filmed in New York City and Lattingtown, New York, and was co-executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

West also played guitar for the track "Bo Diddley Jam" on Bo Diddley's 1976 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. Since 1981, the group Mountain has continued to reform, tour and record on a regular basis. Leslie West teamed up with Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame, to co-write and play guitar on the song "Hang Me Out To Dry" from the Gillan album ToolBox, released in Europe in 1991. Leslie West and Joe Bonamassa recorded Warren Haynes' "If Heartaches Were Nickels" together. West released it on Guitarded (2005), and Bonamassa on A New Day Yesterday (2000). In May 1987, West played the band leader in a series of late night pilot shows for Howard Stern on the FOX network. He taped a total of five shows with Stern, which never aired. Stern went on to form a new show dubbed the Channel 9 show without Leslie. West continues to make occasional appearances on radio, notably on Howard Stern's radio show. [2]

Twenty-first century

West contributed the music and co-wrote the lyrics to the song "Immortal" on Clutch's 2001 album Pure Rock Fury , which was a reworked cover of the song "Baby I'm Down" from West's first album. In 2005 he contributed to Ozzy Osbourne's Under Cover album, performing guitar on a remake of "Mississippi Queen". In addition to fronting Mountain, West continued to record and perform on his own. His solo album, entitled Blue Me, was released in 2006 on the Blues Bureau International label. West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. [4] In 2007, Mountain released Masters of War on Big Rack Records, an album featuring 12 Bob Dylan covers that saw Ozzy Osbourne providing guest vocals on a rendition of the title track.

West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, New York (August 15, 2009). Over 15,000 people were present and the couple walked through a bridge of guitars held by Levon Helm, Larry Taylor and Corky Laing among others. West now lives in New Jersey. [5] On June 20, 2011, West had his lower right leg amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. [6] West made his first public appearance after his surgery on August 13, 2011. [7] In 2014, West was a guest performer on Eli Cook's album, Primitive Son. [8] His 2015 album, Soundcheck, peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart. [9]

Equipment

West is renowned for helping popularize the Gibson Les Paul Jr. guitar with P-90 pickups, along with the use of Sunn Amplifiers, to create a tone which became his trademark sound. [10]

Guitars

Photo of an Electra Plexiglass guitar of the type West used for slide guitar during the 1970s. This guitar was often mistaken for the nearly identical Dan Armstrong from which it was copied Electra guitar.JPG
Photo of an Electra Plexiglass guitar of the type West used for slide guitar during the 1970s. This guitar was often mistaken for the nearly identical Dan Armstrong from which it was copied

West frequently used two Les Paul Juniors, one "TV Yellow" and the other a sunburst. [10] West also used a modified Gibson Flying V, with the neck pickup removed (he used the hole for an ashtray) and a P-90 pickup fitted at the bridge position, West also had a two-pickup Flying V which he used after the Flying V with the ash tray broke (serial number 906965). West also used a plexiglass Electra guitar, which is a Japanese copy of the better known Ampeg made Dan Armstrong guitar, for slide.

West also played a Westone Pantera guitar. From 1977 to 1982, he used a signature on-board effects MPC model guitar, created by the Japanese company Electra. [10] He currently uses a signature model from Dean Guitars, the USA Soltero Leslie West Signature model, [10] fitted with a custom-designed Dean pickup called "Mountain of Tone." Based on an endorsing contract in the Seventies, West played British made Burns guitars. West has also long favored "headless" guitars, and can be seen playing them on some of the videos he has appeared in. In an interview segment on "Night of the Guitars – Live!" West stated that he had narrowed his commonly played instruments down to two: an off-the-shelf Steinberger and a Kramer with DiMarzio pickups.

Amplifiers

In 2005, West received a sponsorship with Carlsbro amplifiers, and could frequently be seen playing through "Carlsbro 50 Top" valve heads. His studio amplifier is a Marshall JMP. Live, he used Marshall JCM 900s. He started endorsing and using Budda Amplification in 2008. [10] He was also associated with Sunn amplifiers, and used a Sunn Coliseum PA head, when it was shipped to him by accident. He claims that this is the amp that gave him his signature sound in this Gibson Interview with West.

The Sunn amplifiers that West used were of the late 1960s era and were not factory stock. The 4-channel amplifier heads' preamps were wired as cascading preamps to 1 channel, out to the amp's power section. That's what produced the long compressed sustain and distorted overdrive of the great Mountain sound that he is well known for. This is years before Mesa Boogie Amplifiers with a similar idea got their amps on the world stage, but Boogies do have their own sound comparatively.

Leslie West currently uses Blackstar amps

Effects

West uses octaver, chorus and delay effects.

Discography

For his work with Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing, see their pages.

YearAlbumPeak chart positions
US US
Blues
UK
1969 Mountain 72
1975 The Great Fatsby 168
1976 The Leslie West Band
1988 Theme
1989 Alligator
1989Night of the Guitar- Live!
1993Live
1994Dodgin' the Dirt
1999As Phat as it Gets
2003Blues to Die For
2005Guitarded
2005Got Blooze
2006Blue Me
2011Unusual Suspects [11] [12] 4153
2013 Still Climbing 1981
2015Soundcheck2

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<i>Climbing!</i> 1970 studio album by Mountain

Climbing!, also known as Mountain Climbing!, is the official debut studio album by American blues rock band Mountain, released on March 7, 1970, by Windfall Records.

<i>Nantucket Sleighride</i> (album) 1971 studio album by Mountain

Nantucket Sleighride is the second album by the American hard rock band Mountain.

<i>Flowers of Evil</i> (album) 1971 studio album with included live material by Mountain

Flowers of Evil is the third album by American hard rock band Mountain. It was a part studio album, with the second side of the original album consisting of live material recorded on June 27, 1971 at the Fillmore East in New York City (partial).

<i>Live: The Road Goes Ever On</i> 1972 live album by Mountain

Live: The Road Goes Ever On is the first live album by American hard rock band Mountain. Released on April 24, 1972 by Windfall Records, it contains four tracks from three shows in August 1969, December 1971 and January 1972. The album was produced by the band's bassist and second vocalist Felix Pappalardi, while the artwork was created by his wife and collaborator Gail Collins. The Road Goes Ever On takes its name from J. R. R. Tolkien's 1937 novel The Hobbit.

<i>Twin Peaks</i> (album) 1974 live album by Mountain

Twin Peaks is the second live album by American hard rock band Mountain. Released in February 1974 by Columbia and Windfall Records, it contains recordings from the band's performance at Koseinenkin Hall in Osaka, Japan on August 30, 1973. The album was produced by the band's bassist and second vocalist Felix Pappalardi, while the artwork was created by his wife and collaborator Gail Collins. It was Mountain's first release since returning after a year-long hiatus.

<i>The Best of Mountain</i> 1973 greatest hits album by Mountain

The Best of Mountain is the first compilation by American hard rock band Mountain. It consists of material recorded throughout 1970-1971, culled from their first three LPs. On April 15, 2003, the album was remastered and reissued in an expanded edition with new liner notes and four bonus tracks, two of which are taken from Leslie West's first solo album, 1969's Felix Pappalardi-produced Mountain, the project which eventually led to the formation of the band.

The Vagrants

The Vagrants were an American, Long Island-based rock and blue-eyed soul group from the 1960s. The group was composed of Peter Sabatino on vocals, harmonica, and tambourine, Leslie West on vocals and guitar, Larry West on vocals and bass guitar, Jerry Storch on organ, and Roger Mansour on drums.

<i>Mountain</i> (Leslie West album) 1969 studio album by Leslie West

Mountain is the debut album by American rock guitarist and vocalist Leslie West, released in July 1969 by Windfall Records.

<i>Go for Your Life</i> (album) 1985 studio album by Mountain

Go for Your Life is a studio album released in 1985 by Mountain.

<i>Avalanche</i> (Mountain album) 1974 studio album by Mountain

Avalanche is a 1974 album by Mountain. It featured the return of drummer Corky Laing, it was the band's only recording with guitarist David Perry, and the final album to feature bassist/producer Felix Pappalardi.

<i>Mystic Fire</i> 2002 studio album by Mountain

Mystic Fire is a 2002 album by Mountain.

References

  1. Fischler, Marcelle S. "Nascent Hall of Fame to Welcome First Honorees"., The New York Times , October 15, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2007. "Dee Snider of Stony Brook, the shock-rocker from the 1980s heavy metal band Twisted Sister, known for his defiant metal anthem We're Not Gonna Take It, and Leslie West of the band Mountain, who grew up in East Meadow, Lawrence and Forest Hills, are also being inducted..."
  2. 1 2 Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, p674, Mountain, Rolling Stone Press, U.S., 2001. The group's name is widely believed to have been inspired by West's then-considerable physical bulk, although he subsequently lost a lot of weight. Initially the group did not feature a keyboardist, but one was later added to the band to keep them from seeming like a Cream imitation.
  3. Ingham, Chris (2002). The Book of Metal. Thunder's Mouth Press. p. 204. ISBN   978-1-56025-419-5.
  4. "Long Island Music Hall of Fame | Preserving & Celebrating the Long Island musical heritage". Limusichalloffame.org. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
  5. [ dead link ]
  6. "Rock guitarist Leslie West's lower leg amputated". Reuters. June 21, 2011. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  7. "Bman's Blues Report: Leslie West is Back – 1st Public Appearance". Bmansbluesreport.com. November 6, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  8. "Primitive Son - Eli Cook | Credits". AllMusic . Retrieved January 4, 2016.
  9. "Leslie West | Awards". AllMusic . October 22, 1945. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Gress, Jesse (July 2009). "10 Things You Gotta Do To Play Like Leslie West". Guitar Player . 43 (7): 78–86.
  11. "Chart Log UK : Chart Date : 08.10.2011". Zobbel.de. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
  12. "Bman's Blues Report: Unusual Suspects – Leslie West – New release review". Bmansbluesreport.com. September 22, 2011. Retrieved July 17, 2014.