This Day In Music 02.04.2016
Leon Russell, the ultimate rock & roll session man, turns 72 today
Two years later, he settled in Los Angeles, studying guitar under the legendary James Burton and appearing on sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell. As a member of Spector's renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the '60s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High".
In 1967, Russell built his own recording studio, teaming with guitarist Marc Benno, to record the acclaimed Look Inside the Asylum Choir LP. While touring with Delaney & Bonnie, he scored his first commercial success hit as a songwriter with Joe Cocker's "Delta Lady," for his 1969 album, Joe Cocker!
In 1970, upon founding his own Shelter Records imprint, he also organized Cocker's legendary Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour.
After the subsequent tour film, he issued a self-titled solo LP which included the first recording of A Song For You.
In 1971 appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh following sessions for B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. After touring with the Rolling Stones, increasingly focused on his solo career, reached the #2 spot with 1972's LP Carney, scoring his first pop hit with the single "Tight Rope."
In 1975 Russell made it into the Top 40 Hits with Lady Blue on his, fourth Gold Album, Will O' the Wisp.
In June of 1975, Russell married singer Mary McCreary; the following year the couple collaborated on The Wedding Album, issued through his newly formed Paradise Records label. Also in 1976, the Russell-penned "This Masquerade" earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson.
In 1979 Russell teamed with Willie Nelson for 1979's Willie and Leon and he then spent the next two years touring with his bluegrass band, the New Grass Revival, issuing a live LP in 1981. After Hank Wilson's 1984 Vol.2 and Solid State, Russell spent the remainder of the decade largely outside of music and did not resurface until issuing the Bruce Hornsby-produced Anything Can Happen in 1992. Another long period of relative inactivity followed prior to the 1998 release of Hank Wilson Vol.3: Legend in My Time. Face in the Crowd appeared one year later. Moving into the new century, Russell issued Moonlight & Love Songs, an album of cover songs, in 2002, followed by Angel in Disguise five years later in 2007. A trio of releases, Almost Piano, Bad Country and In Your Dreams appeared in 2008.
Russell's years in the wilderness ended in 2010 when long-time admirer Elton John contacted the pianist about recording a duet album. Produced by T-Bone Burnett, the 2010 album The Union was greeted by strong reviews and sales, reviving Russell's career in a single stroke.
After playing a joint tour with John, Russell returned to the road on his own and eventually got around to recording a solo comeback called Life Journey, which appeared in April 2014.
Russell was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2011. In June, 2011, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.