Leon Russell and John McEuen

Walking back to some hotel on a midnight Nashville street, someone was yelling my name from a passing car. I had been at Kinko’s copying some PR stuff for an upcoming show, and he hollered “Hey! I just got off the road with Dad… you wanna come out to the house and visit?” I looked, and it was Leon Russell’s son. T. J.! His dad had been a friend since 1966, when we first met.


We always ‘got along’, he liked my playing… and even better, he liked me.I knew he stayed up late. At Leon’s about 45 minutes later, as I played guitar and we talked about ‘world events’ in his basement studio, Leon said “I didn’t know you played like that.. keep it going… let’s write a song.”

A few hours later we were done. Leon sang, played drums, keyboard… and I did ‘the strings’: guitars, bass, mandolin (there was a cheapo mando in the studio I borrowed), and Way Back in History was born that night. This unfortunately timeless song topic seems to apply every few years somewhere in the world. This was Leon’s take on ‘world news’, and is a cut I cherish.

I am very glad to have made this ‘basement tape’ with him.  I wish we had done more, but the sun was coming up soon, and he went to bed. I had recorded in his Tulsa house a NGDB track with Jim Ibbotson and some of the others – (Jim’s song Joshua Come Back Home to the Island – ended up on NGDB’s 1976 Symphonion Dream). 

That was great fun, bringing in some of the band – Gary Busey played drums on it, Jeff sang, Ibby guitar and vocal, Leon keys, and I played my lap steel.I had a date to open for Leon in Tampa in January 2017, but in November 2016 he passed away.

I miss him. We all do. 

John McEuen                                      June/2021