Monday, November 14, 2016
– Leon Russell, a bluesy, soulful singer, who also delved into country, died on Sunday at 74 in Nashville.
Russell, who had a long career as a solo artist and sideman, had heart surgery in July and died in his sleep, according to his wife.
Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. He produced and played in sessions with Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones. Russell also released "The Union" in 2010 with Elton John as a duets album, a disc which rejuvenated his career. He had hits as a solo artist with "Tight Rope" and "Lady Blue."
Claude Russell Bridges was born April, 2, 1942 in Lawton, Okla. He started playing piano at the age of four and performed in Tulsa nightclubs. He adopted the name Leon as a teen. Russell moved in Los Angeles at the age of 16, studying guitar with James Burton, who played with Elvis Presley.
Russell played on various sessions, including Glen Campbell's 1967 album "Gentle On My Mind." He continued writing, recording, founded the Shelter Records label, which released Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Dwight Twilley Band along with forging his own solo career.
Russell released "Hank Wilson's Back! (Vol. 1)," a country disc recorded at producer Owen Bradley's barn studio in Nashville in 1973.
Following a tour with Nelson, the two had a number 1 hit in 1979 with their duet of "Heartbreak Hotel." They put out "One for the Road," a country pop rock disc in 1979.
Russell soon spent a few years touring with progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, which included Sam Bush and John Cowan. The band backed him up on tour. They released a live album in 1981, "Leon Russell& New Grass Revival: The Live Album," a disc recorded on May 15, 1980 in Pasadena, Cal.
A second Hank Wilson disc, "Hank Wilson Vol. II" came out in 1984. A third volume was out in 1998 with "Rhythm & Bluegrass: Hank Wilson, Vol. 4" in 2001 on his own label.
He released a number of albums on his own with his career on the downslide until recording the disc with Elton John.