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Leon Russell
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Leon Russell

Leon Russell, born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma, is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Known mostly as a session musician, Russell has played with artists as varied as Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector and The Rolling Stones. With a solo career spanning the genres of rock, blues, and gospel, Russell began his musical career at 14, lying about his age to land a gig playing backup at a Tulsa nightclut to play with Ronnie Hawkins behind Jerry Lee Lewis. Two years later, after settling in Los Angeles, he studied guitar with James Burton, and worked sessions with Dorsey Burnette and Glen Campbell.

After becoming a part of Phil Spector's studio group, Russell played backup on many of the most popular hits of the 1960s, including The Byrds, Gary Lewis, and Herb Alpert. Russell built his own recording studio in 1967, and recorded his first LP, Look Inside the Asylum Choir, in a collaboration with Marc Benno. His first songwriting hit was Joe Cocker's 1970 cover of "Delta Lady", and Russell went on to organise Cocker's ''Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour. Shortly thereafter, Russell released another solo album.

In 1971, Russell appeared at George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh, after recording sessions with B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, and went on to tour with the Rolling Stones. After focusing increasingly on his solo career, his album Carny reached #2 on the charts, although the two following albums were not received as well. His 1975 album Will O'the Wisp was fairly commercially successful, as was its single "Lady Blue"

Later that year, Russell married Mary McCreary, the two collaborated on The Wedding Album in 1976, and Russell penned "This Masquerade", which earned a Grammy Award for George Benson. In 1977, Russell and McCreary reuinted for another album, and in 1979 Russell worked on a collaboration with Willie Nelson. He then spent the next two years touring with The New Grass Revival, and released two more albums with Paradise before the label folded. For several years, he stayed largely out of the music spotlight, releasing Anything Can Happen in 1992, and then releasing two more albums in 1998 and 1999. Russell continues touring, often on nostalgia tours, sometimes with Willie Nelson.