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Author Topic: The Leon Russell Thread  (Read 8907 times)

J.J. Blair

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The Leon Russell Thread
« on: March 02, 2005, 09:19:40 pm »

Now that we know that Terry has an association with the Master of Space and Time, let's hear about it!

BTW, for those of you my age or younger who have no idea what a ginormous rock star Leon was in the '70s, he was the top grossing act of 1973, at a time when there was a LOT of competition for that title.  His failure to appear on the so called "classic rock" that can't play anything besides "Stairway to Freebird", is a crime.  It goes to show that radio is still a stoolie for the big labels.  And the fact is that Shelter Records is not distributed by a major, hence nobody is getting hookers for some Clear Channel program director the way they do to keep selling copies of Fleetwood Mac Rumors or Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.

My life changed one night in Chicago as a teenager, when I heard WXRT play "Out In the Woods."  With its mutant Jim Keltner jungle rhythm and Chamberlain sound effects, I thought that had to be the coolest fucking thing I ever heard.  One of the greatest songwriters of our time, and a true musical and studio genius.  He was also part of the famed L.A. 'Wrecking Crew' of the '60s, playing on most of Phil Spector's productions, and records for everybody from the Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra.

Gary Klaff had told me a story about visiting him one time, and one wall of his house had a semi backed up to it, with all the recording gear set up in the semi as his studio.  He explained to Gary that when he got in his car and drove away from Merry Clayton, ending their relationship, he regretted all the gear that he left behind.  He made his studio in a truck so that if he ever has to up and leave a women again, he's  taking his gear with him!  

OK, Terry ... dish!
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Brian Roth

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2005, 11:41:05 pm »

I have some "peripherial" contacts with Leon beginning in the 70's on through the 90's.  Leon purchased an old church building in Tulsa ca 9172 or so, and built a pretty elaborate studio for the times.  When I was first there, it had an API desk and a 3M 16 track (M56, IIRC).  I taught some weekend recording classes at the church.  Leon had built a second room on a lakefront property in the Tulsa area so wasn't around very much.  However, the nearby houses adjoining the church held the various offices for Shelter records.

Steve Ripley, a friend/client from Stillwater, OK eventually ended up working for Leon when he moved back to CA.  Steve then moved on to other projects, including manufacturing the stereo Ripley guitar.

In the late 80's, Steve moved back to OK and bought the old Church, which had by then become an MCI room.  In the early 90's, Steve got a contract with Arista for what became "The Tractors" album and gutted the place, installing a Neve 8068 desk (ex. Power Station) and a Studer A800 along with a ton of nice mics and outboards.  During that project, Leon appeared and decided the couch in the CR sucked, so he went to a local store and bought a new one for Steve!

Plenty of other war stories form Tulsa, but I'll stop there!

Bri

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2005, 10:07:11 am »

I've a laserdisc of him on the JC Mad dogs Englishman tour. I was a bit turned off.
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Calfee Jones

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2005, 12:05:36 pm »

I can't leave it like that  Crying or Very Sad

The Mad Dogs and Englishmen record was a big influence on me. And Leon was THE MAN playing piano and guitar, and those innovative arrangements! And what about the Concert for Bangledesh?

I always loved his southern gospel piano style. So many good things...
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J.J. Blair

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2005, 02:44:41 pm »

The whole Maddogs and Englishmen sound was Leon, not to mention that 'Delta Lady' is his song.  You can also hear his imprint all over Clapton's "Blues Power".
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

compasspnt

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2005, 01:35:45 pm »

I am concocting an answer concerning the great Leon, but just haven't had time to write it yet.  This will come soon.
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David Kulka

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2005, 10:17:41 pm »

I'm suprised that no one has mentioned Leon Russell's 40-track Stephens tape machine!  I never met the man or participated in any of his sessions, but people were always talking about his amazing Stephens, which may have been the only one of its kind.  I wonder if he still owns it?
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compasspnt

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2005, 11:17:45 pm »

David Kulka wrote on Fri, 04 March 2005 22:17

I'm suprised that no one has mentioned Leon Russell's 40-track Stephens tape machine!  I never met the man or participated in any of his sessions, but people were always talking about his amazing Stephens, which may have been the only one of its kind.  I wonder if he still owns it?


Actually this was mentioned briefly in the strange, other-worldly gear thread.  He brought this thing in one time...it was very strange, I thought.  Very small, also.  But people who use them love the sound.  RT Baker had one, too.
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Brian Roth

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2005, 02:06:09 am »

I've had a couple of contacts with John Stephens over the years, including one local studio in my area which bought a used 24 track, and this room in the LA area which purchased a new Stephens 24 track machine:

http://www.rothtech.org/m77/m77.html

While I was working on the latter project, John Stephens made several "house calls" and we at least became acquainted.  His multitrack design was extrememly advanced for the time...two motors (one per reel) with no pinch roller/capstan.  The transport control circuitry was exceptionally simple compared to, say, an Ampex ATR-100.

John's biggest claim to fame was his 2" 40 track, and as Terry has mentioned, Roy Thomas Baker owned one in a road case.  The biggest "hit" from that machine was Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".

Leon also bought a 40 track and had it coupled into a Helios desk (with a fire-engine-red color scheme).  I recently found a pic of that Helios desk as it travelled through Tulsa at Steve Ripley's studio (the original "church" that Leon built), but I misplaced the link to the pix.

John Stephens had some serious legal difficulties, but is now back in biz:

http://www.stephenselectronics.com/

Bri



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J.J. Blair

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2005, 06:26:13 am »

Is John still in LA?  It would be a dream if there were somebody other than Corky Tanassee to work on 3M machines.  Of all the flakes in the tech business, that guy takes the cake.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

russrags

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2005, 09:29:47 am »

Hey JJ,

I know a lot of stories as I've done tons of recording with Leon in Nashville. Probably getting close to 200 songs, 18 of them with The Nashville Symphony and guests Edgar Winter, Jim Price, Bruce Hornsby & Louie Shelton.  You should hear what Mike Lawler and I did with him just a couple weeks ago .. wow !!!

Here's a pic of the Stephens 40-track.  
This one is serial #2 .. Leon also has serial #1

enjoy,

Russ
http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-russragsdale

index.php/fa/746/0/
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Tim Halligan

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2005, 10:27:51 am »

Isn't that some kind of heresy to have the Stephens next to a pile of DA-88's?

Cheers,
Tim
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russrags

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2005, 11:05:45 am »

This is an archiving station I set up.
I've gone through Leon's tape vault, which consists of over 10,000 2" 40-track 15 ips tapes.  Much of it is recorded rehearsals, but there are some real gems in there too.

A lot of the reels had to be baked, some were transferred to DA-88 digital backups .. other more important material is in Pro Tools now.

Believe me Leon owns about 4 of every piece of current gear as well as all the old stuff.

Russ
http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-russragsdale
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J.J. Blair

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2005, 02:27:39 pm »

Russ, that machine is amazing looking.  My friend used to have a 2" 16 trk. suitcase model, and they told me that they would go visit John in jail so he could tell them how to fix it.  LOL!

Lucky man, getting to work with Leon.  First song I ever taught myself on piano was "A Song for You", because I figured it would help me get in this chick's pants.  

It worked.

I remember a few years ago on Leon's website, he was selling an API console, some ratty old couch and a tractor.  I thought it was an interesting grouping.  Personally, I'd kill to get that red Helios.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Brian Roth

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Re: The Leon Russell Thread
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2005, 07:19:06 pm »

J.J., I'll try to remember to ask Ripley who he sold that red Helios to.  Awhile back I poked around in it when it was sitting in the main room at the Church.

Bri

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