Aural Fixation: Leon Redbone

Do you like American music? The mysterious Leon Redbone sure does. Since his 1975 debut, Redbone has mined the legacy of jazz, country and bluegrass to create his own iconoclastic mythos. Just like the songs he plays whose specific histories have been lost to time, Redbone’s own history is a bit on the storied and unbelievable side. Allegedly hailing from Cyprus, the Canadian singer baffled many upon his emergence. Some questioned his authenticity, while others suspected him of being a put-on persona by Frank Zappa or Andy Kaufmann. As it turned out, Redbone was a character all his own.

Thanks to the simple production style of Joel Dorn, Redbone’s early records put the focus on his unusual voice and the appropriately old-timey arrangements. In keeping with his self-constructed backstory, Redbone would claim to have written songs that date back to the end of the 19th century, and blended nod-and-wink comedy with straight-faced one-liners at his live performances. When it comes to the music, though, Redbone’s versions are as essential as they come. Favorites like “My Blue Heaven” and “Shine On Harvest Moon” mixed with deep blues cuts, as well as with the occasional indiscernible original.

Despite his limited commercial success, Redbone maintains an impressive following from fans of jazz, blues and folk music. Appearances in commercials (both in person and voice) and a few particularly confounding performances on late-night television cemented Redbone’s status as a perennial enigma. Whoever he is behind those dark glasses and tailored suits, that Redbone sure knows his stuff.

Watch: Leon Redbone and clarinetist Bobby Gordon – “Some Of These Days” from On The Track (1975)

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~ by E. on February 11, 2011.

2 Responses to “Aural Fixation: Leon Redbone”

  1. I am shocked and/or appalled that this blog post makes no mention of the Mr. Belvedere theme song, nor “the stain lifter, that’s ALL.”

  2. everything Joel Dorn produced was amazing

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