It wasn’t the only memorable concert that Leon was part of. "The Concert for Bangla Desh." The benefit concert put together by George Harrison led to both George and John Lennon playing on Leon’s solo album.
His music career of started at a very early age. Russell, born in Lawton, Oklahoma, began as a nightclub piano player in Oklahoma at the age of 14, also backing touring artists when they came to town. Jerry Lee Lewis was so impressed with Russell that he hired Russell and his band for two years of tours.
Soon after that in 1959, at an age when his piers were still in high school, Leon moved to Los Angeles and got work as a studio musician and played back up for a host of superstars. He and his very good friend from back home, Glen Campbell were part of the famed studio musicians that came to be known as The Wrecking Crew. This group played on more hit records than anyone in the history of music. Among those that the backed up were The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Mams and the Pappas, The Grassroots, Harry Nilsson, and The Monkees. That is just a small part of the long list of artists who owned a great deal of their music being a hit to this amazing group. In addition, Russell produced and played on recording sessions for Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and of course Joe Cocker.
Aside from my memory of the Mad Dogs Tour, there was another concert that took place that was part of what could be the greatest radio contest ever. WIBG had a free concert that featured Leon Russell. The catch was that in order to get a ticket you had to listen to WIBG to get the clues as to where the concert was being held. It kept people glued to the radio. After all Leon Russell was selected by Billboard Magazine as the top concert attraction in the world in 1973.
During the last show I witnessed by Leon it was noted that he really didn’t look well. While his performance was still great, he had trouble getting around. Despite that, before his peaceful death, he was planning on going out on tour next January. Music was his driving force.