Leslie West Biography

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Leslie Weinstein, 22 October 1945, Forest Hills, New York, USA. West, who from an early age suffered from a glandular disorder that affected his weight, began his rock ‘n’ roll career as a member of the Vagrants, a mid-60s hard rock grouping who released several singles to little commercial recognition. In 1969 he formed Mountain with bass player Felix Pappalardi. Together they would go on to create some of the most timeless power blues compositions of the period, notably ‘Mississippi Queen’, drawn from their first album, 1970’s Climbing!. Their third gig was in front of nearly half a million people at the previous year’s Woodstock Festival, and they went on to release three more albums (two of which went gold). After Pappalardi’s defection in 1971, West put together a three-piece with Jack Bruce and Mountain’s Corky Laing on drums, recording as West, Bruce And Laing. Mountain re-formed for two further albums following Bruce’s departure, but West took the hint and turned solo (having released his first such set in 1969, produced by Pappalardi, which served as a catalyst to the formation of Mountain). Forming the Leslie West Band, he released The Great Fatsby (1975) and The Leslie West Band (1976), the latter pairing him with Mick Jones of Foreigner.

West then retired from music to sort out various substance addictions, before re-forming Mountain in 1985 with Laing and bass player Mark Clarke. The trio split up shortly after touring throughout Europe, and West returned to his solo career. He also made his screen debut in The Money Pit, as the lead singer of a cross-dressing rock band, Lana And The Cheap Girls. Theme (1988) reunited West with Bruce, while Alligator (1989) saw him working with bass player Stanley Clarke and vocalist Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde. He also appeared on two I.R.S. compilations of guitar virtuosos, Guitar Speak and Night Of The Guitars (also a tour). He went on to work as musical director with DJ Howard Stern, and through him was introduced to comedian Sam Kinison (leading to West arranging the latter’s version of ‘Wild Thing’). After appearing on four cuts on Billy Joel’s River Of Dreams, West returned to the studio and the rock scene with his first album in over four years, Dodgin’ The Dirt. With the backing of Steve Hunter (guitar, ex-Lou Reed; Peter Gabriel), Kevin Neal (drums, ex-Pat Travers) and Randy Coven (bass), the album proved an honest attempt to re-establish himself within what West considered to be his natural market. West then joined Laing and Noel Redding in a re-formed Mountain, recording two tracks for 1995’s Over The Top compilation. He resumed working with Laing as Mountain in the new millennium, touring extensively and releasing the studio album Mystic Fire. He continued to work as a solo artist during this time, releasing albums for the Blues Bureau, Lightyear and Voiceprint labels.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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