Leon Russell is a Hall of Fame inductee, Grammy Award nominee for Song of the Year in 1977, and a musician who has played with musicians as diverse as Herb Alpert and Frank Sinatra, and counts among his friends Willie Nelson, Elton John, and George Harrison.
Reading Leon Russell's musical biography is a matrix of styles and icons; really, it is impossible to plot him in one spot or space in musical history.
He started his career with J.J. Cale, as a teenager playing in Oklahoma clubs, and migrated west where he played keyboards, guitar, and xylophone on hit songs for Jan & Dean, Ray Charles, and Joe Cocker, as part of the "Wrecking Crew," a backup band the subject of a recent documentary.
But, as our recent conversation found, he may be a prolific musician, but is a man of few words.
Source Weekly: In the mid-60s, you played with both The Byrds and Herb Alpert. I love both, but those are vastly different sounds. How much do you feel like your sound affects a band, or how much does the band's sound change your playing style?
Leon Russell: I rarely have that much influence on a band. I never played with anyone like Herb Alpert. He was a great teacher and influence for me.
SW: Okay, well, what do you think is lost, what is gained by playing in so many different bands, but not necessarily being primarily associated with any single one?
LR: I'm not aware of losing anything playing with a band.
SW: Well, okay. Maybe asked differently, if you had to choose to be part of one band that you have played with, which would it be?
LR: The best part.
SW: Let's try a different topic perhaps. Can we talk about your beard? It is truly amazing! How long have you had that? What would it take for you to shave it off?
LR: I can't remember what happened yesterday. I have it primarily because I hate to shave. If I was going to remove it, I would have to have some sharp scissors and a good razor.
SW: Fair enough. Let's see. You seem to have a strong relationship with Willie Nelson and Elton John. That seems like quite a stretch of personality types. What does that say about you?
LR: Both of them are very strong spirits and in general, just good people. I would say that is what attracts my interest in them. I don't really think of them as "personality types."
SW: Alright. How about last question. Do you prefer recording or performing?
LR: Both arenas are fun for me. I couldn't say I like one more than the other.
7 pm, Monday, April 20
Tower Theater, 835 NW Wall St.
$36 - $58