Monday, August 26, 2019

Tin Pan Allez Vous: Leon Redbone 70

Let's continue with the backend of these two consecutives, celebrating what would have been a milestone birthday for a recently-departed iconoclast of all.
He almost made it, too. Passed away on May 30, just a couple of months shy of 70.
We bullshit a lot on here about how whatever artist I have up on whatever day is so totally unique and stands apart from everyone else. Today we have the real thing.
Today we feature someone so totally individuated and out there, that a whole lot of people have spent the last 50 years since he hit convinced he was some sort of scam or impostor, or even another musician whom they speculated had "faked their own death" and "become" this guy.
The (alleged) truth is that he was born in Cyprus seven decades ago this day, and his family moved to Toronto, Canada in the early 1960s to escape the violence around the always-boiling Greece/Cyprus dispute.
He learned the guitar and began performing around Toronto as a wholly invented persona, throwing things back to music that long preceded the Rock sounds then exploding out of 100,000,000 Marshall stacked amplifiers.
The ubiquitously mysterious Panama hat and the shades only fed the myth, once he began to get noticed across the border in the US.
He began to record in the mid 1970s -- no songs written after the 1930s -- and was one of the first musical guests ever to perform on Saturday Night Live.
Then he was in a beer commercial, and his cult was cemented forever. His profile exploded and more endorsements and records followed.
Eventually, a few years ago, he retired from performing, having almost singlehandedly kept all those old-timey tunes alive into the 21st Century.
Another thing is important to note. This guy's neo-Vaudevillian schtick concealed a manifestly evident reality: that he was and is one of the most shit-hot guitar players of our lifetimes.
Like I said, he jussssst missed getting to 70, but we are gathered here today anyway, to pay homage to the entirely unusual and highly entertaining character the world knew as Leon Redbone. 
So much for the babbling screed; now let's get to the music we need. This was recorded by an intrepid -- if somewhat technically challenged -- sound engineer who worked the board for this show.
Despite its strange issues -- he failed to capture the between-song patter, but got every note of the astonishing music -- it's an almost definitive document, dating as it does from the period when Leon was really blowing up in the public consciousness of the time.
Leon Redbone
Cotati Cabaret
Cotati, CA USA

early set:
01 She's My Gal
02 Desert Blues (Big Chief Buffalo Nickel)
03 A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight
04 Hard Luck Blues
05 Shine On Harvest Moon
06 Diddy Wah Diddy
07 Big Time Woman
08 My Blue Heaven
09 If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven
10 The Gang's All Here
11 CC Rider

late set:
01 Marie
02 I Ain't Got Nobody
03 The Sheik of Araby
04 Big Time Woman
05 Your Cheatin' Heart
06 Diddy Wah Diddy
07 My Blue Heaven
08 Sweet Sue
09 Seduced
10 Champagne Charlie
11 If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven
12 Sári Barabás interlude: When a Bird Flies from Branch to Branch
13 unidentified title: "Every Morning When the Sun Comes Up"

Total time: 1:26:00

Leon Redbone - vocals, guitar, harmonica & percussion
Jonathan Dorn - tuba
Peter Ecklund - cornet
John Tomassie - drums
occasionally joined by unidentified players; possibly members of openers, the Rhythm Rowdies:
Tricia Berkow (Tricia Michaels) - piano & vocals
Gordy Ohliger - banjo & vocals
Peter Berkow - harmonica & vocals

soundboard master cassettes of both sets;
late set's thoroughly erroneous title/tag info corrected by EN, August 2019
I will be right back in 48 hours to finish out August with another milestone b'day -- this one's underrated but essential -- featuring a wild and classic bootleg plus a hidden-in-plain-sight Easter Egg you won't wanna miss.
Don't you dare miss out on this tremendous voyage into the modern antiquity of Leon Redbone, though... when he strapped it on, you knew it couldn't be nuthin' but a hot time in the old town tonight.--J.
8.26.1949 - 5.30.2019

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