FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Leon Redbone, the legendary folk/jazz/roots performer has retired from both public appearances and recording. 5/19/15

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone: The Search for Leon Redbone is a documentary on the fabulous and elusive singer-guitar player, Mr. Leon Redbone. This, however, is a 5-minute promo for the proposed film.

Leon Redbone has Retired from Performing and Recording 

Leon Redbone, the legendary folk/jazz/roots performer has retired from both public appearances and recording. A spokesman for the artist noted, “We share the sadness and disappointment sure to be experienced by his many fans and friends and hope they understand that his health has been a matter of concern for some time.  It has become too challenging for him to continue the full range of professional activities.”
Redbone’s career has spanned over four decades and began with his earliest performances on the folk festival and club circuit.  His numerous appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live and other outlets catalyzed his rise to international recognition.  Over the ensuing years he has appeared throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Japan and released thirteen albums of his unique music, a panoply of early music styles that he delivered with his singular laconic idiosyncratic style.
A Long Way Home, a collection of solo performances, both live and studio, dating from 1972, documenting the dawn of Redbone’s professional career, will be released by Nashville’s Third Man Records as a double album n the near future.
A true champion of early American ragtime, blues and jazz, Leon Redbone has spent a lifetime preserving that musical tradition while exposing successive generations to a rich musical heritage of which they might not otherwise have become aware.  In this regard, his efforts have been lauded by numerous notables including Lovin’ Spoonful founder John Sebastian who has stated, “I find Leon Redbone to be one of our national treasurers.”  Blues and folk veteran John Hammond succinctly commented, “Leon is the real deal.”

Photo credit: Jim Shea 

Leon Redbone - Sunday Breakfast with John Platt - 2014 Radio Interview 

9.2.14 at 8:43pm by John Platt

Is Leon Redbone lazy or just laid back? It's a question worth asking, since it took him 13 years to put out his most recent album, ironically titled Flying By. When he came to WFUV recently, I did ask, but I'm not sure he answered it (or any of my questions) directly, but he laughed a lot and let us know a little about what appeals to him in a song. He also gave us a couple of tunes in Studio A, accompanied by the incomparable Vince Giordano on tuba and upright bass.


Leon Redbone flies high with new album 'Flying By' 

Asked why it’s been such a long time between the release of his last album Any Time and the new Flying By, Leon Redbone smiles and answers, in trademark laconic manner, “Things take time.”

"I get distracted,” he adds, considering his activities since Any Time’s 2001 appearance, these including plenty of live performances, and in the last year or so, planning for Flying By.

That’s not to suggest that the planning and production of Leon Redbone albums are long drawn-out affairs. But the singular pre-World War II ragtime, jazz, blues and Vaudeville stylist is ever-careful when it comes to choosing his material, and in the case of Flying By, also had a hurricane to contend with.

“We started recording at Water Music in New Jersey—and then they went under water!” says Redbone’s longtime producer Beryl Handler, recalling the deleterious effects of Hurricane Sandy.

"Then we found a place in the Poconos—of all places!” Handler continues. “Red Rock Recording is a great studio, and all the guys came out there.”

The musicians included Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks, whose leader Giordano is a Redbone studio regular. Two tracks with big band arrangements were done at New York’s MSR Studios.

“It was all very haphazard because we were totally discombobulated--and it takes a long time when you haven’t been in the studio for so long,” says Handler.

She notes that Giordano really wanted to cut “Wanna Go Back Again Blues,” which they knew from Duke Ellington’s recording. Redbone revives another jazz immortal via Jelly Roll Morton’s “Mr. Jelly Lord.”

“He was an amazing piano player and songwriter and singer—and what a character!” says Redone. He further singles out Irving Berlin’s “But Where Are You,” which closes the album.

“That particular song, as far as I’m concerned, is his best work,” says Redbone. “But almost no one’s heard it.”

In fact, “But Where Are You” was sung In the 1936 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie classic Follow the Fleet by Harriet Hilliard—of later Ozzy & Harriet TV sitcom fame.

“I just happened to come across it one day—and once you hear it, you can’t forget it,” says Redbone.

“The amazing thing is that it’s an extremely simple melody--which is the best,” he informs. “You get way more out of a simple melody than something that’s very complicated, and there’s a whole sentiment expressed in that simple melody, with heart and sincerity.”

Sentimentality in music, suggests Redbone, has “evaporated.”

“It’s just noise volume level, with no sentimentality at all,” he says of contemporary music. “It didn’t get better over the years, which is unfortunate. Maybe a slight jog in the planets might make it get better!”

He runs his hand across his neck in a slicing motion and adds, “It’s just flatlining.”

So on Flying By, Redbone revives the music of another legendary artist--the now largely forgotten 1920s-‘30s jazz and blues singer Lee Morse.

“She was a unique individual—everything about her was unique,” says Redbone, who opens Flying By with Morse’s “Just You and I” and also performs her “Main Street.”

Morse, notes Handler, called her band Her Bluegrass Boys long before the term was defined and popularized.

“Songwriters would submit songs to her because she could cover any range,” says Handler.

Redbone notes that like Berlin’s “But Where are You,” “you hear [a Morse] recording one time and it stays with you.”

So much so, apparently, that Redbone took a trip to Rochester, N.Y., to visit the grave of Morse, who died in 1954 at age 57--and was buried without a marker.

“There was snow on the ground, and I knew they might take a dim view if we started shoveling things in a cemetery,” Redbone says wryly. “I’ve seen it happen.”

But he adds that the reporter he was with went on to organize funding for a headstone for Morse.

More recently, Redbone, who has been seen and heard on TV and film since first appearing on Saturday Night Live during its 1975 debut season, sang “When You Wish Upon a Star” on the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s 2010 film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and appeared on the soundtrack of Boardwalk Empire episodes.

But his main activity now is to promote Flying By, which is out on August Records--his label since 1984--and features whimsical cover artwork by his daughter Blake Redbone Mayer.

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