The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #37150   Message #517467
Posted By: ddw
29-Jul-01 - 11:05 PM
Thread Name: Leon Redbone question
Subject: RE: Leon Redbone question
Leon was a regular at Campbell's Coffee House, the Hamilton, Ont. folk club where I hung out from about 1972 to '74 and stories about him abounded.

A couple of people said Leon had told them he was from New Orleans and that he was independently wealthy — just did the music thing for fun. I asked him once where he was from and he ignored me. Asked him again a few weeks later and he just said Toronto.

There was also an aporyphal story about an incident on Toronto Island when the Mariposa Folk Festival was held there. That tale had it that Bob Dylan slipped ashore unannounced, found Leon and offered to produce records of him. Leon supposedly asked "Will they be 78s?" and refused to talk about it further when he was told no.

One person told me the game to find out anything about him got so intense that people started going through his guitar case while he was on stage, looking for any clue about him.They found nothing.

Each time he performed in Toronto, somebody would give him a ride home. He always asked to be let out of the car at a different location. One night, the "detectives" decided to really work at it. One car drove Leon to where he asked to be let out while another followed at a distance, to see where he would go when he thought nobody was watching. Leon got out of the car, walked a couple of blocks and went into an apartment building. The tail car people thought, aha, and started to circle the block. After the first turn they hit a one-way street that ran back past the apartment building. They turned onto it, only to find Leon coming out the back door and walking past them in the opposite direction. By they time they circled the block again, he had disappeared. Apparently they thought they could find out at least what neighborhood he lived in, but on subsequent rides home he never went anywhere near that area.

There was speculation for a while that he was really some kind of high-powered exec who did the Redbone character as a lark. That might have been shored up a bit by his commercial work, but to my knowledge nobody ever blew his cover if that's what he was up to.

In any event, Leon was quite a character and a fine talent — I always thought he was having as much fun creating his own myth as other people were trying to figure it out.