Leon Haywood Biography

11 February 1942, Houston, Texas, USA. This Los Angeles-based soul vocalist and keyboard player launched his career as a conventional entertainer with great success in the 60s, having over 20 singles on the US R&B charts from 1965. He listened to blues as a child and started playing piano at the age of three. In his teens, he performed with a local Houston group and accompanied blues artist Guitar Slim for some time. He relocated to Los Angeles in the early 60s and worked with saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, who arranged for him to record his first single, ‘Without A Love’, an instrumental on the small Swingin’ label. After that, he joined Sam Cooke’s band as keyboard player until the singer’s untimely death. Haywood next recorded two singles for Fantasy Records, and subsequently moved to Imperial Records, where he recorded the single ‘She’s With Her Other Love’, which made the R&B charts in 1965. He was part of two session bands organized by Los Angeles disc jockey Magnificent Montegue which issued the instrumental hits ‘Hole In The Wall’ (R&B number 5/pop Top 50, 1965) under the name of the Packers, and ‘Precious Memories’ (R&B number 31, 1967) as the Romeos. In 1967, Haywood secured his first big solo hit with the marvellous ‘It’s Got To Be Mellow’ (R&B number 21) on Decca. He played on further recording sessions with the Packers and Dyke And The Blazers, then returned to recording under his own name. He found only sporadic success, most notably with ‘It’s Got To Be Mellow’ and ‘Keep It In The Family’. After recording for Columbia Records, he moved over to MCA Records. He emerged as a star in the 70s by adeptly modifying his style to incorporate the emerging funk and disco idioms. He joined 20th Century Records in 1974 and was immediately successful, notably with the psychedelicized ‘I Want’a Do Something Freaky To You’ (R&B number 7/pop number 15, 1975), ‘Strokin’ (Pt. II)’ (R&B number 13, 1976) and ‘Party’ (R&B number 24, 1978). In 1980, Haywood revived the shuffle beat of 50s rock ‘n’ roll with the compelling ‘Don’t Push It Don’t Force It’ (R&B number 2 and US Top 50). His last R&B chart record was ‘Tenderoni’ (number 22 R&B) in 1984. In the UK, ‘Don’t Push It Don’t Force It’ was Haywood’s only chart record, going to number 12 in 1980. After a few more chart singles, for Casablanca Records and Modern Records, Haywood disappeared from the charts, but in the late 80s became associated in an executive/production capacity with the Los Angeles-based Edge label.

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

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