Dickran Goballan, better known as Leon Redbone, died last Thursday from complications related to dementia. He was 69. He was certainly one of the more distinctive performers, with his gravelly voice, Panama hat, and dark glasses, but under all the trappings he was a great guitarist and a man who had a great love for music from an earlier era. I can’t claim to be an expert on him, since I only had one of his albums (1988’s No Regrets), but I just loved the way he sang and his choice of material. Here are ten videos that I offer as a tribute to a fine musician and a real character.
- “Laughing Blues, Polly Wolly Doodle, Auld Lang Syne” Johnny Carson loved Leon and had him on The Tonight Show on a few occasions, including one year on New Year’s Eve. You might recognize some of the musicians backing him, including Doc Severinsen on trumpet, Tommy Newsom on clarinet, Ross Tompkins on piano, and Ed Shaughnessy on drums. Johnny calls him over after the first couple of songs and asked him to do “Auld Lang Syne.” Since Leon wasn’t sure of the words, Merv Griffin, who was a guest that night, prompted his way through it.
- “Marie” Leon made an appearance on a show called Wylde Rice (about which I know next to nothing) in 1980 and played this. I dedicate it to our Fearless Leader, Marie Moody aka Xmas Dolly, who has been dealing with life and hasn’t joined us in a few weeks. We love you, Marie, and hope you come home soon.
- 1982 Budweiser beer commercial You know me and commercials…
- “Shine On, Harvest Moon” Before I had heard Leon for myself, an acquaintance mentioned that she had seen this weird guy singing this one. The first time I saw him on a TV show, he sang this, and I knew who my acquaintance was talking about.
- “Champagne Charlie” Title track from his 1978 album.
- Theme to Mr. Belvedere You know me and TV themes… From the 1985-1990 series that starred Christopher Hewett, Bob Uecker and Ilene Graff.
- “Ain’t Misbehavin'” The “Fats” Waller classic.
- “Are You Lonesome Tonight” A favorite of mine from No Regrets. I think I like his version better than Elvis’s. Don’t kill me.
- “Mr. & Mrs. Used To Be” Also from No Regrets, a duet with Lori Lynn Smith. Their voices are perfect together.
- “Frosty The Snowman” From his 1987 album Christmas Island, a duet with Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John. I’ve played this a couple of times before, mostly at Christmas. I first heard it when I was out of town on business and feeling down. It cheered me right up.
Fare thee well, Leon Redbone. YouTube has a channel dedicated to his music (which has been renamed the “Leon Redbone Tribute Channel” since Thursday) that has all of his recorded music available for streaming.
That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for June 3, 2019.