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Goodbye Leon Russell… John McEuen Shares a Memory of the Late, Great Rock ‘n’ Roller

leon russell capitol theater
Russell at the Capitol Theater in 2013

In his 50 year career, Grammy winning singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John McEuen has had the chance to play with many of the greatest musicians of our time, both solo and with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which he helped start in the 1960s.

To honor Leon Russell, who passed two days ago at the age of 74, McEuen shared a memory of the legendary artist.

Read the tribute below, and head HERE for more pictures and to see the original post.

On the road around ‘76, I called Leon’s house/studio the night we were playing Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom to arrange for NGDB to drop in to record a cut there (Ibby’s “Joshua Come Back Home To The Island”)… and with him. Cain’s was the place in Tulsa to play, and had seen everyone from Bob Wills to the then current, now nostalgic, rock acts.  I asked the club manager how they knew when they’d had a good show.

“We count the teeth on the floor when the show’s over,”  he said.

At 2:30 a.m., Leon showed up in his basement studio to lay down a piano track  and finish our basic track; never charged us a nickel. His Tulsa mansion was unforgettable, a huge old Southern type of house suitable for the “Master of Space and Time,” as he then called himself.  And a master he was, “all knowing,” proven to me when directed to the visitors’ phone: a nice red wooden British phone booth with a payphone. Leon knew musicians well.

The session’s drummer, nicknamed Teddy Jack Eddie, was really good, and happy to contribute. After the sessions he went back to being Gary Busey, and headed in to Buddy Holly’s persona. (I ran in to Busey a year later in Austin, and he WAS Buddy Holly)

Cool as ever, Leon has crossed my path every year or so somewhere, always asking me to sit in on his sets. Like sitting in with Willie Nelson, the notes are many and the music great to be part of, and his songs are all a part of American music history.

-John McEuen

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