By John McEuen

In Leon Russell’s hometown of Tulsa, we were playing Bob Wills’s favorite club: historic Cain’s Ballroom. The place in Tulsa to play, Cain’s had seen everyone in music.

In the office collecting our money, I asked the club manager how they knew when they’d had a good show. “We count the teeth on the floor when the show’s over,” he said. It looked like there would be a lot of teeth that sold out night. Seeing I noticed a couple of shotguns leaning against the wall, he added,
“yeah.. they’re loaded, ready to go. No one be messin’ with us.”

That kind of cracked me up, and I left quickly for Leon’s house.

Pre-show I’d called Leon to arrange for NGDB to drop in after the show to record a track in his basement studio that was like being in L.A.

Only Ibby came with me.

His Tulsa mansion was unforgettable, a huge old Southern type suitable for the “Master of Space and Time,” as he calls himself. A master he is, “all knowing”, proven when a phone call needed to me made. Leon directed me to the visitors’ phone : a nice red wooden British phone booth with a payphone. Leon knew musicians well.


Around 2:30 a.m. Leon showed to lay down a piano and percussion track and help finish our basic (Ibby’s “Joshua Come Back Home To The Island”). The session’s drummer, nicknamed Teddy Jack Eddie, was great. After the sessions, he went back to a Buddy Holly’s persona and being Gary Busey, well before his movie came out. (I ran in to Busey a year later in Austin, and he WAS Buddy Holly). Leon never charged us a nickel.

Always cool as ever, Leon has crossed my path often somewhere, always asking me to sit in on his sets. Like sitting in with Willie Nelson the music is great to be part of, and his songs and piano a part of American music history. It is still hard to believe when told I am a part of that. .

I felt good in this group and setting, feeling accepted as legit, and we all cut a great track. Could not figure why Jeff and Jimmie didn’t come, but wish they had.

Leon Russell performs in Ontario. (Herald News photo by Alejandro Cano)

Leon Russell performs in Ontario. (Herald News photo by Alejandro Cano)

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