December 22 saw the death of Leslie West, the singing guitarist born in in New York City as Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945. While best remembered for his time in Mountain (1969–1972, 1973–1974, 1981–1985, 1992–1998, 2001–2010), West also had a prolific solo career and played with The Vagrants (1964-1969 with his brother, Larry West) and former Cream bassist Jack Bruce in the Mountain-offshoot West, Bruce and Laing (1972-1974).
Leslie West’s Mountain played at the original Woodstock festival in 1969 (during the second day along with Country Joe McDonald, Keef Hartley Band, Santana, Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane), with their hit song “Mississippi Queen” later covered by BTO, Ozzy Osbourne, W.A.S.P., Metal Church, Dave Grohl and others. In 1971, Leslie West also recorded parts for The Who’s “Who’s Next”, appearing on tracks that can be heard on re-issues of the album.
“I didn’t play fast — I only used the first and the third finger on the fingering hand,” West said. “So I worked on my tone all the time. I wanted to have the greatest, biggest tone, and I wanted vibrato like somebody who plays violin in a hundred-piece orchestra.” “I’m not a great guitarist, technically,” West admitted. “But you know why people remember me? If you take a hundred players and put them in a room, 98 or 99 of ’em are gonna sound the same. The one who plays different,” he said, “that’s the one you’re going to remember.”
West had suffered from health issues during the last few years of his life, according to his publicist, suffering a heart attack and ultimately passing away from cardiac arrest at his home in Daytona, Florida. West struggled with his weight for most of his life, and also battled various health problems, such as bladder cancer in the early 2000s. West had continued to record and perform throughout his life, however, despite having his lower right leg amputated following diabetes complications in 2011. Leslie West is survived by his wife, Jenni Maurer, whom he married onstage at Woodstock in 2009.
Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi wrote: “So sad to hear the news of Leslie West’s passing. He was a great guitar player and his band Mountain were one of the first band that Sabbath supported on our early tour of America. We struck up a great relationship on that tour – they were a really good band and Leslie’s playing and sound was just superb and he was a great singer too! When they came to the UK to tour he brought a gift of a similar Gibson to what he used on stage ….he was a really nice guy and will be sadly missed. RIP”. Others commenting on the death included Dee Snider, Slash, Ace Frehley and Manowar’s Joey DeMaio, who wrote: “One of the greatest guitar players, singers, and songwriters in the world; inspiration to many of us! Now he will be reunited with one of the greatest bass players of all time, Felix Pappalardi. RIP, Leslie.”
Having grown up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and at various places in New York, Leslie changed his surname to West after his parents divorced. When he was 8, his mother had bought Leslie a ukulele. His uncle was a writer for television and Leslie thus got the opportunity to watch Elvis Presley’s first ever TV performance on the Stage Show in 1956. Soon after, Leslie got a Fender Stratocaster for his bar mitzvah and performed “Heartbreak Hotel” himself.
Leslie West began his musical career in teenage garage rock band The Vagrants, a blue-eyed soul/R&B group influenced by the Rascals. The Vagrants saw The Beatles perform live in the summer of 1964 and were soon learning songs by The Ventures, Rolling Stones, and James Brown.
The Vagrants had two minor hits, 1966’s “I Can’t Make a Friend” and a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect”. In total, The Vagrants released six singles, the first being “Oh Those Eyes” b/w “You’re Too Young” in 1965. The single gained the attention of the directors of “Disk-O-Tek Holiday”, a Beach Party film with live music. The Vagrants was thus asked to perform in the movie.
The Vagrants appeared regularly at The Action House, a rock club on Long Island, appearing with the likes of Vanilla Fudge, The Rascals, The Illusions and Billy Joel’s group The Hassles. The Vagrants often performed the theme from “Exodus” and powerful covers of “Gimme Some Lovin’” (The Spencer Davis Group), “Hold On I’m Comin'” (Sam and Dave), and other Motown hits.
The Vagrants were eventually signed to the Vanguard label, recording their first minor hit “I Can’t Make a Friend” (b/w “Young Blues”) and the 1966 promo single “The Final Hour” b/w “Your Hasty Heart”. Record producer Felix Pappalardi (Cream, The Youngbloods, etc.) got the group to sign with Atco Records, next scoring a minor hit with a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” in 1967, first released as the B-side of “I Love, Love You (Yes I Do)”. Aretha Franklin had a major hit with “Respect” at the time and the Vagrants even got to sing “Respect” with Aretha on Jerry Blavat’s TV show. Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group later included The Vagrant’s version of “Respect” on “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968”, the original 1972 garage rock compilation.
The Vagrants released two further singles in 1967: “And When It’s Over” b/w “I Don’t Need Your Loving” (produced by George “Shadow” Morton of The Shangri-Las fame, also Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly) and “A Sunny Summer Rain” b/w “Beside The Sea”, the latter produced and co-written by Felix Pappalardi. Felix A. Pappalardi Jr. (1939-1983) had released a single as a solo artist in 1966 but mostly worked as a producer and session musician (appearing on releases by Fred Neil and Tom Paxton in 1964, also appearing on releases by Tom Rush and Tim Rose), with songwriting credits on albums by Cream, Richie Havens, The Youngbloods and Buffy Sainte-Marie. His wife (and eventual murderer), Gail Collins, also wrote the Cream hit “Strange Brew” with Eric Clapton.
Leslie West himself was not credited for composing any of the material released by The Vagrants. A compilation of the group’s singles (with the exception of the songs off the very first 7″) was eventually issued as “The Great Lost Album” in 1987, with Leslie and Larry West credited as Leslie and Larry Weinstein. Further compilations followed in 1996 and 2008, both called “I Can’t Make A Friend” but with slightly different track listings. These latter compilations did feature “Your Nasty Heart” and the songs from their first single, but lacked “My Babe” and sometimes both “I Love, Love You (Yes I Do)” and “Beside The Sea”.
The compilation released by Light In The Attic is supposedly the best but the 1996 release by “Southern Sound” (the name of the label that released their first single) does include an otherwise unreleased cover of “Satisfaction”, which was a popular live number. Bohemian Vendetta was another psychedelic garage rock band from Long Island, New York. Active from 1966-1968, they copied The Vagrant’s version of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on their 1968 album, resulting in The Vagrants’ version remaining unreleased for decades.
In 1969, Leslie West left The Vagrants and went on to record his solo album debut, “Mountain”, with the help of Felix Pappalardi (producer, bass and vocals) and drummer Norman ”N.D.” Smart II, formerly of The Remains, Kangaroo, and Bo Grumpus, a band whose sole 1968 album “Before The War” was produced by Pappalardi. Following the departure of N.D. Smart, the other four members of Bo Grumpus continued as “Jolliver Arkansaw”, releasing an album called “Home” in 1969. Again produced by Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West provided lead guitar on the track “Gray Afternoon”.
Identified by Rolling Stone magazine as a “louder version of Cream” (whose 1967 album “Disraeli Gears” had been produced by Pappalardi), the power trio format was modified by the arrival of Steve Knight (ex-The Devil’s Anvil, whose 1967 album “Hard Rock from the Middle East” had been produced by Pappalardi) on keyboards in time for Mountain’s performance at 1969’s Woodstock Festival. The 40th Anniversary Edition of the “Woodstock” movie features performances of “Beside The Sea” and “Southbound Train”. By that point, Mountain had turned into a band rather than a solo project, something soon solidified by the arrival of drummer Corky Laing.
Leslie West had written “Because You Are My Friend” for his solo debut and he was also co-credited (with Pappalardi and others) for the “Mountain” tracks “Blood of the Sun”, “Long Red”, “Blind Man”, “Dreams of Milk and Honey”, “Storyteller Man”, “Look to the Wind”, and “Southbound Train”. Norman Landsberg co-composed four tracks and played Hammond organ on three. In early 1969, Leslie West had formed a trio with Landsberg (keyboards, bass) and drummer Ken Janick, who both left to form Hammer after Pappalardi rejected demos they’d recorded with West. The album featured two tracks credited only to Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins (“Better Watch Out” and “Baby, I’m Down”), and a cover of “This Wheel’s on Fire” by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko of The Band.
In 2001, Clutch covered “Baby I’m Down” on their album “Pure Rock Fury”. Using a different arrangement and altered lyrics, they called the song “Immortal” and invited Leslie West to add a guitar solo to the track. The following year, West recorded “Immortal” for the Mountain album “Mystic Fire”. In addition, the 2002 album “On Fire” by Swedish stoner rock band Spiritual Beggars included a cover of “Blood of The Sun” as a Japanese bonus track.
Canadian drummer Laurence “Corky” Laing (ex-The Ink Spots and Energy, another group produced by Pappalardi) joined Mountain in time for “Climbing!” (March 1970), the album featuring “Mississippi Queen”. Ozzy Osbourne’s 2005 album “Under Cover” later featured Leslie West performing a guitar solo on Ozzy’s cover of “Mississippi Queen”. Reaching #21 in the Billboard Hot 100, the original single was written by West, Laing, Pappalardi, and David Rea. Felix Pappalardi had produced Rea’s 1969 debut album, “Maverick Child”. Leslie West also provided lead guitar on that album, appearing along with Pappalardi and Corky Laing on the concluding cover of Robert Johnson’s 1937 blues classic “Hellhound On My Trail”. The song had previously been covered by Peter Green‘s Fleetwood Mac and would later be taken on by Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley, among others. In addition to solo work as a singer/songwriter, Rea recorded with Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, and Fairport Convention.
Mountain were influenced by Cream, something made even more obvious by including “Theme for an Imaginary Western”, a Pappalardi sung track written by former Cream frontman Jack Bruce and his lyricist Pete Brown. Brown had previously formed The First Real Poetry Band with John McLaughlin (later with The Tony Williams Lifetime, Miles Davis, and The Mahavishnu Orchestra), who on his 1969 solo debut “Extrapolation” would name “Pete the Poet” after him. “Theme for an Imaginary Western” was first released on “Songs for a Tailor” (1969), the Jack Bruce solo debut produced by Pappalardi. Jack Bruce, of course, would soon play with West and Laing.
Other notable tracks on “Climbing!” included “Never in My Life” (West, Laing, Pappalardi, Gail Collins) and “For Yasgur’s Farm” (Collins, Gardos, Laing, Pappalardi, Rea, Gary Ship), a song previously performed at the Woodstock Festival as “Who Am I But You And The Sun”. Max Yasgur was, of course, the owner of the 600-acre dairy farm where the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held in 1969. Leslie West was credited as sole composer of “To My Friend” but he was also co-credited for “Mississippi Queen”, “Never in My Life”, “Silver Paper” and “Sittin’ on a Rainbow”. There was again also two songs by Pappalardi and his wife, “The Laird” and “Boys in the Band”.
“Nantucket Sleighride” (January 1971) was recorded in the middle of a hectic touring schedule. A phrase invented by some late 19th-century journalist, a “Nantucket sleighride” refers to the dragging of a whaleboat by a harpooned whale. Nantucket, Massachusetts, was the center of the American whaling industry. Owen Coffin, to whom the the title track was dedicated, was a seaman on the whaler Essex, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820. In the aftermath, Coffin was shot and eaten by his shipmates. Written by Pappalardi and Collins, “Nantucket Sleighride (to Owen Coffin)” was later covered by the British heavy metal band Quartz in 1980.
Regardless, the album was another excellent release with highlights such as “Don’t Look Around” (by West, Sue Palmer, Pappalardi, and Gail Collins), “You Can’t Get Away” (West, Collins, Laing), “The Animal Trainer and the Toad” (West, Palmer), “The Great Train Robbery” (West, Laing, Pappalardi, Collins) and the Pappalardi/Collins composition “Travellin’ in the Dark (To E.M.P.)”. The latter had previously been included on 1968’s “Before the War,” the Pappalardi produced album by psychedelic folk outfit Bo Grumpus, featuring original Mountain drummer N.D. Smart.
Released in August of 1971, “Who’s Next” was recorded by The Who between April and June of the same year. In March, The Who had started recording at New York’s Record Plant Studios, joined by guests Al Kooper (Hammond organ), Ken Ascher (piano) and Leslie West on guitar. After returning to Britain, engineer Glyn Johns decided that it would be better to re-record the material from scratch. He did first make safety copies of the Record Plant material, however, and Leslie West’s lead guitar parts from the Record Plant sessions were eventually released. He can be heard on “Baby, Don’t You Do It” (a Holland-Dozier-Holland composition first recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1964), an early “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and the electric version of Pete Townshend’s “Love Ain’t for Keeping”. Though the tracks were not originally included on the album, they appear as bonus tracks on the 1995 and 2003 reissues of “Who’s Next” and on the 1998 reissue of “Odds & Sods”.
As mentioned, David Rea (1946-2011) was co-credited for several songs recorded by Mountain, most notably “Mississippi Queen” but also “For Yasgur’s Farm” and “Flowers of Evil”. “By The Grace Of God”, his third solo album, was released by Capitol Records in September of 1971. Again produced by Felix Pappalardi, several tracks featured Corky Laing, including “Here We Go” on which Leslie West appeared on guitar and vocals along with David Rea.
Mountain themselves released a cover of Chuck Berry’s 1956 hit single “Roll Over Beethoven” as a promotional single in 1971, with the Pappalardi/Collins original “Crossroader” as the B-side. This version of “Roll Over Beethoven” would later be added as a bonus track on re-issues of “Nantucket Sleighride” but “Crossroader” was also included on Mountain’s next album.
The final album by the original Mountain, “Flowers of Evil,” was released in November of 1971. One side had studio material while the other featured music recorded live. An odd concept in retrospect, mixing studio and live material had, of course, previously been done on Cream’s seminal “Wheels of Fire” and “Goodbye” albums. Partly a concept album about drug abuse in Vietnam, “Flowers of Evil” was a phrase borrowed from Charles Baudelaire and the English translation of his “Les Fleurs du mal” (1857), a volume of poetry dealing with themes of decadence and eroticism.
Of the new material, Leslie West was only co-credited (with Pappalardi and David Rea) for the title track. He was also credited for the guitar solo portion of the 25 minute medley “Dream Sequence”, built around “Dreams of Milk and Honey” off the “Mountain” album.
Released in April 1972, “Live: The Road Goes Ever On” was a compilation of Mountain material recorded in concert between August 1969 and January 1972. With a title borrowed from Tolkien’s 1937 novel “The Hobbit”, the artwork was created by Gail Collins while her husband, Felix Pappalardi, produced the album after the band had broken up.
Interestingly, the live version of “Long Red” included here has one of the most sampled drum breaks in the history of hip hop. The break and West’s banter with the audience had supposedly been sampled in over 600 songs as of 2017! A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, ASAP Rocky, De La Soul, Eminem, Ghostface Killah, Ice-T, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nas, Ludacris, and Kendrick Lamar has released songs featuring this drum break by N. D. Smart, as has Lana Del Rey and Mariah Carey.
The album spawned one single in July 1972, the Leslie West composition “Waiting to Take You Away” that had also been recorded during their Woodstock performance. The 2018 re-issue added a 20 minute version of T-Bone Walker’s 1947 blues classic “Stormy Monday”, a song also famously extended by The Allman Brothers Band on their 1971 live double album “At Fillmore East”.
“Key West” was composed by Bobby Keys, Felix Pappalardi, Jim Price, and Leslie West. It was included on the sole solo album by saxophone player Bobby Keys, a self-titled record released in 1972. In addition to members of Mountain, the record featured players like Jack Bruce, Klaus Voormann, Jim Gordon, Ringo Starr, Dave Mason, George Harrison, and Nicky Hopkins. Much like Hopkins, Bobby Keys (1943-2014) toured extensively (1970–1973, 1981–2014) with The Rolling Stones. Keys started touring at fifteen, going on the road with Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee before becoming a prolific session musican on albums by The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, B. B. King, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Donovan, Dr. John, Faces, Harry Nilsson, Humble Pie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Graham Nash, and Delaney, Bonnie & Friends.
Mylon was a southern rock gospel group named after their lead singer, Mylon LeFevre. Leslie West provided slide guitar on his cover of Carl Perkins’s 1956 rockabilly classic “Blue Suede Shoes” off of 1972’s “Over The Influence”, an album produced by Allen Toussaint that also featured Dr. John. Mylon’s 1971 album “Holy Smoke” had been produced by Felix Pappalardi and featured him, Laing and West on a cover of their “Silver Paper”, first recorded by Mountain on “Climbing!”.
Following his third solo album, Jack Bruce joined Leslie West and Corky Laing after Felix Pappalardi left Mountain, a result of heroin use and Pappalardi’s wish to stop touring. They agreed to work together in January 1972, when Mountain’s “Flowers of Evil” tour reached London. Steve Knight, meanwhile, abandoned rock music entirely and returned to playing jazz.
West, Bruce and Laing released their debut album, “Why Dontcha”, in November 1972 and it reached #26 on the Billboard chart. Another studio album, “Whatever Turns You On” (July 1973), and a live record was recorded before Jack Bruce bowed out. Their disbanding was made official in early 1974, just before the release of “Live ‘n’ Kickin'”. West and Laing then briefly continued as Leslie West’s Wild West Show, with special guest Mitch Ryder, guitarist Peter Baron and bassist Tom Robb.
Interestingly, of the four extended tracks on the trio’s final live album, only “The Doctor” was lifted from their previous studio albums. “The Doctor” had received heavy FM radio airplay upon the debut album’s release. All songs on it were credited to all three band members (sometimes with Pete Brown or Sue Palmer), with the exception of “Third Degree”. Written by Eddie Boyd and Willie Dixon, “Third Degree” had first been released as an Eddie Boyd single on Chess Records in 1953. The song was also re-recorded for “7936 South Rhodes”, the 1968 album by Eddie Boyd with Peter Green‘s Fleetwood Mac. Leslie West provided lead vocals on “Why Dontcha”, “The Doctor”, “Shake Ma Thing (Rollin’ Jack)”, “While You Sleep”, and “Love Is Worth the Blues”. “Out into the Fields” was a track that Jack Bruce would continue to perform following the trio’s breakup.
Less commercially successful, “Whatever Turns You On” reached #87 on the Billboard U.S. album chart. With the songs again written by the band, four of them assisted by Pete Brown, Leslie West handled the vocals on “Backfire”, “Token”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine”, “Slow Blues”, and “Dirty Shoes”.
“It was a very, very dark time”, noted Corky Laing. “New York meant coke, England meant heroin, because that’s where the best quality was.” […] “This heroin connection of Jack’s said that her business connections would pay me $250,000 if they could ship heroin back in the drums.”
In addition to an eight minute version of live staple “The Doctor”, “Live ‘n’ Kickin'” featured a 13 minute cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire” (sounding alot like the debut’s “Love is Worth the Blues”), the Cream classic “Politician” and “Powerhouse Sod”, a previously unreleased song that Jack Bruce had performed in solo concerts as early as 1971.
In 2009, Leslie West billed a tour as West, Bruce Jr. and Laing, with the son of Jack Bruce (who’d die in 2014), Malcolm, on bass. Malcolm Bruce has also played with Ginger Baker‘s son, Kofi.
In the meantime, Pappalardi had produced the self-titled debut album by Bedlam (released August 1973), a band formed in late 1972 by future Rainbow/Black Sabbath drummer Cozy Powell (ex-The Jeff Beck Group), singer Frank Aiello and the Ball brothers, Dave and Danny, both of whom Powell had also played with in Big Bertha and The Ace Kefford Stand. That same year, in August 1973, Leslie West re-united with Pappalardi and reformed Mountain with otherwise new musicians, resulting in the 1974 releases of a double live album, “Twin Peaks,” and the studio album “Avalanche”. Months later, the group again imploded and Leslie West resumed his solo career.
“Twin Peaks” (February 1974) had been recorded in Osaka, Japan, on August 30, 1973, with keyboard playing guitarist Bob Mann (ex-Dreams, the jazz-rock group featuring John Abercrombie, The Brecker Brothers and Billy Cobham) and drummer Allan Schwartzberg (ex-Dreams and Cross Country) who’d later play on records by Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, Kiss and Peter Gabriel.
Both had been replaced by the time of the following studio album, by a returning Corky Laing and rhythm guitarist David Perry respectively. “Avalanche” (July 1974) featured one composition credited to Leslie West, “Alisan”, and three where he was co-credited: “You Better Believe It”, “Back Where I Belong” (both w/ Laing) and “I Love to See You Fly” (West, Pappalardi, Collins).
The final Mountain album to feature Felix Pappalardi also had several compositions by him and Gail Collins, and another Rolling Stones cover in the form of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. The whole thing also opened with a cover, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Dave “Curlee” Williams, James Faye “Roy” Hall) first recorded by Big Maybelle in 1955 (a session conducted and arranged by Quincy Jones), as made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis on Sun Records in 1957. “Thumbsucker” (Pappalardi, Collins) was later covered by Spiritual Beggars, the stoner rock band that also covered “Blood of The Sun”. This one was included as a bonus track on their 2016 album “Sunrise to Sundown”.
“The Great Fatsby” (1975), Leslie West’s second solo album (not counting “Mountain” as a Mountain album), was released in March 1975. Making a point of how “fat” Leslie West was, the album title also alluded to “The Great Gatsby”, the 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Again joined by Corky Laing on drums, the album also featured numerous session musicians, including Mick Jagger on rhythm guitar. Jagger and Keith Richards were co-credited with West, Laing and Sandra Palmer for “High Roller” but the album also featured a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women”. Actually, most of the material were cover songs: “House of the Rising Sun”, “Don’t Burn Me” by Paul Kelly (1972) and Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” (1967), to name but three. Leslie West also covered the Free classic “Little Bit of Love” and “Doctor Love”, a song written by Andy Fraser for his post-Free band Sharks. The only other songs credited to West himself were “I’m Gonna Love You Thru the Night” (Laing, West), “If I Still Had You” (Ira Stone, Maxine Stone, West) and the solo composition “ESP”.
Leslie West also produced, sang, and played guitar on the self-titled album by Dana Valery, her American album debut of 1975. Valery was an Italian-born South African-reared singer, actress, and television performer who’d begun her entertainment industry career aged 16. She’d released her first album in South Africa back in 1962. Also featuring Corky Laing on drums, the album included two original compositions: “To Be Alive” (Valery, West, Ira & Maxine Stone) and “Music And My Man” by Valery, West, and Tim Saunders. The rest of the album was made up of cover songs such as Neil Sedaka’s “Solitaire”, the Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire”, and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles.
Dana Valery was also one of the contributors to “The Great Fatsby”, along with pianist Gary Wright. The latter had previously played with Mick Jones in Wonderwheel and the re-united Spooky Tooth of 1972-1974. Jones replaced founding guitarist Luther Grosvenor, who opted not to re-join Spooky Tooth but rather adopt the alias “Ariel Bender” and join Mott The Hoople. The latter had, of course, lost Mick Ralphs to Bad Company, the supergroup formed by former Free members Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke with bassist Boz Burrell of King Crimson fame. Having worked as a session musician, Mick Jones had also appeared on the self-titled Tim Rose album of 1972, featuring a version of “If I Were A Carpenter”, one of the songs covered on “The Great Fatsby”. Either way, Mick Jones soon joined West and Laing in The Leslie West Band, recording an eponymous 1976 album together. The Leslie West Band soon folded, however, and Mick Jones went on to form Foreigner with Ian McDonald (ex-King Crimson) and singer Lou Gramm of the band Black Sheep.
West, Laing and Mick Jones were credited together for all original material on the album “The Leslie West Band”, except “Singapore Sling” by Mick Jones alone. There was also two covers on the album, “Dear Prudence” by The Beatles and “We Gotta Get out of This Place” (Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil), the 1965 hit single by The Animals. The latter song has also been covered by The Frost (1970), Blue Öyster Cult (1978), Grand Funk Railroad (1981), Overkill (2000), and Alice Cooper (2011).
Another song written by Leslie West, Corky Laing and Mick Jones was included on “Makin’ It On The Street” (1977), the sole solo album by Corky Laing. This recording of “On My Way (To The River)” featured guitar playing by Eric Clapton and Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band.
Leslie West, meanwhile, made only a few more guest appearances on other artists albums before all but disappearing from the world of recorded music. “Destiny” was a 1975 album by Felix Cavaliere, a former member of The Young Rascals (1965-1972), the band known as The Rascals from 1968 onwards. Cavaliere would later record under the band name Treasure, releasing a self-titled AOR-styled album in 1977 with future Kiss guitarist Vinnie Vincent. Either way, the “Destiny” album featured Leslie West playing guitar on “Try To Believe” and “Hit And Run”.
Felix Cavaliere also produced the self-titled debut album by The Deadly Nightshade, a female trio. Released in 1975, “Ms. Leslie West” played lead guitar on “Losin’ At Love” and “Sweet, Sweet Music”.
Leslie West also appeared on The Stanky Brown Group’s “Our Pleasure To Serve You” (1976), playing lead guitar on “Masquerade”, “Let’s Get To Livin'”, and “Ravin’ Beauty”. The Stanky Brown Group would release two more albums, this being the debut album by the New Jersey rock band.
“The 20th Anniversary Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” was a 1976 album by rock n’ roll legend Bo Diddley (1928-2008), i.e. “Ellas McDaniel” or Ellas Otha Bates. Leslie West can be heard on most of the B-side, containing a 16 minute “Bo Diddley Jam”. Corky Laing played congas on the A-side while other contributors included Elvin Bishop and the Cactus/Vanilla Fudge rhythm section of Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. Billy Joel, Keith Moon of The Who and Alvin Lee (ex-Ten Years After) joined Leslie West in the jam while Albert Lee, Roger McGuinn (ex-The Byrds), and Joe Cocker are heard on the A-side. Best known for performing the title role in the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” film, Ted Neeley sings on the songs featuring Leslie West.
Released as “Corky Laing’s Pompeii: The Secret Sessions” in 1999, Leslie West appeared on three of the tracks recorded in the late 1970s. “The Secret Sessions” also featured Felix Pappalardi on bass (thus re-uniting the core Mountain trio) and the former Mott The Hoople members Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. Laing and Hunter had originally been asked by Elektra/Asylum records to form a “super group” with Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lou Reed, etc.) as the producer. Ezrin soon left to work on “The Wall” with Pink Floyd, however, and the core duo also lost co-musicians Andy Fraser (ex-Free, Sharks), Steve Hunter (Ezrin’s preferred session guitarist for Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, etc.), and Lee Michaels. Anyway, Leslie West joined Laing, Pappalardi, Hunter, and Ronson on Billy Joe Shaver’s “Lowdown Freedom”, “The Best Thing” (Laing) and “The Outsider” (Hunter), the latter two also featuring Todd Rundgren on Hammond organ and background vocals. John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful added harp to one of the other album tracks.
By the late 1970s, West was recovering from addiction to heroin, morphine, and cocaine. His drug problems, he claimed, had interfered with the success of both Mountain, and West, Bruce and Laing. “I want to get out of New York”, West said, “the drug scene, the whole music scene, everything.” He fled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but things changed after hearing Eddie Van Halen’s early work. The two men, who sadly both died in 2020, struck up a friendship that inspired West to focus on music again. Sadly, just as he was overcoming the drug problems, West was then diagnosed with diabetes.
Finding himself back at square one, Leslie West advertised himself as “Mountain” and tried drafting unknown or local musicians. Pappalardi objected but Laing instead opted to re-join West. Pappalardi was out, however, and so they decided to add one-time Keef Hartley Band vocalist/guitarist Miller Anderson (ex-Savoy Brown) on bass, with the resulting trio touring as Mountain during 1981–1984. Miller Anderson had spent his formative years of the 1960s in various band with Ian Hunter, later also appearing on some of his solo albums. While drummer in John Mayall’s band, Keef Hartley had been pushed to form his own group. Miller Anderson joined him along with future Uriah Heep bassist Gary Thain in 1969, also performing at the original Woodstock festival. Anderson appeared on the first five albums by The Keef Hartley Band, also releasing a solo debut in 1971.
Felix Pappalardi, meanwhile, was fatally shot in 1983 by his wife, Gail Collins, who had co-written songs for Mountain and designed their album covers. He was shot in their apartment on Manhattan, with a derringer he had recently given her. He was pronounced dead at the scene. She was subsequently charged with second-degree murder and found guilty of negligent homicide. During the trial it was revealed that the couple had an open marriage and that Collins Pappalardi had shot her husband in the early morning, after he had returned from seeing his girlfriend. In 1985, she was released on parole. Prior to the tragedy, Gail Delta Collins Pappalardi (1941-2013) had helped co-produce the 1976 album by Felix Pappalardi and Creation, the Japanese band formed in 1969 as Blues Creation. Pappalardi also released a solo album in 1979, “Don’t Worry, Ma”. While the classic line-up could never be reunited again, Leslie West continued to release albums as Mountain.
Leslie West was one of three guitarists playing on “Kingdom In The Street”, the 1985 album by Dion. The american singer/songwriter Dion DiMucci had started out in the vocal group Dion and the Belmonts (1957-1960) before reaching solo stardom with singles like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”. In 1979, Dion became a born-again Christian and “Kingdom In The Street” was one of his spiritual albums, with “Still in the Spirit” being released to Christian radio.
Leslie West himself finally made his comeback with the Mountain album “Go for Your Life” in 1985. This time, West and Laing were joined by bass player Mark Clarke. Miller Anderson, Mountain’s previous bassist (replaced in 1984, having travel visa troubles), added slide guitar on “Makin’ It in Your Car” while Ian Hunter (ex-Mott The Hoople) was credited for sequencing on “Hard Times”.
Ken Hensley’s old band The Gods had lost future Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Mark Clarke (ex-the Kegmen, the Locomotive, St. James Infirmary) first became a recording artist when he joined Colosseum, a band formed by three former Bluesbreakers. Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman had first played together in The Graham Bond Organisation, after Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker left to form Cream with Eric Clapton, himself a former Bluesbreaker. Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith joined the Bluesbreakers in 1967, recording 1968’s “Bare Wires” with Mayall, Mick Taylor and bassist Tony Reeves. Prior to replacing Andy Fraser (who left for Free, having briefly replaced John McVie), Tony Reeves had played in bands with Jon Hiseman and Dave Greenslade. Much like Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie had done the previous year, Hiseman, Reeves and Heckstall-Smith soon left Mayall to form a band of their own, Colosseum (1968-1971), with keyboardist Dave Greenslade. Prior to their initial split, Dave “Clem” Clempson (ex-Bakerloo) and Chris Farlowe had also joined Colosseum. Mark Clarke first appeared on Colosseum’s fourth studio album, 1970’s “Daughter of Time”, which was followed by a legendary double live album before the original band broke up in October 1971.
Mark Clarke was approached by Hensley the night that Colosseum disbanded. A few tiring months on tour with Uriah Heep followed before Clarke decided to leave, having only recorded two songs. He was replaced by Gary Thain from the Keef Hartley Band. Keef Hartley himself had recorded one album with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in 1967, “Crusade”, replacing Mick Fleetwood (who had left for Fleetwood Mac) before the arrival of Jon Hiseman. After leaving Uriah Heep in 1972, Mark Clarke re-joined Hiseman in a band called Tempest. They recorded two albums together (1973-1974), the first featuring guitarist Allan Holdsworth (ex-‘Igginbottom, Ian Carr’s Nucleus and Sunship, with future Gilgamesh founder Alan Gowen and King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir) and the second with former Patto guitarist Ollie Halsall. Gary Moore (ex-Skid Row, Thin Lizzy) was intended as their third guitarist in 1974. Hiseman and Clarke did rehearse with Moore for a couple of weeks. “From what I remember it was quite amazing”, Mark Clarke said. “Well, it would be, don’t you agree? But I then decided to form Natural Gas and then moved to the States”.
Jon Hiseman and Gary Moore went on and formed Colosseum II in 1975. Colosseum II also featured keyboardist Don Airey and bassist Neil Murray (ex-Gilgamesh) from Cozy Powell’s band Hammer. Powell (ex-The Sorcerers, Youngblood, The Ace Kefford Stand, Big Bertha, The Jeff Beck Group, Bedlam) himself was asked to join Rainbow, as Richie Blackmore (ex-Deep Purple) got rid of all former Elf members aside from Dio. Don Airey would later re-join Powell in Rainbow while Neil Murray (after re-joining Alan Gowen in National Health) would again play with Powell in Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, and the Peter Green Splinter Group. Another member of Hammer, guitarist Bernie Marsden (ex-UFO and Wild Turkey, formed by original Jethro Tull bass player Glenn Cornick) went on to join Babe Ruth before playing with Paice Ashton Lord and Whitesnake.
Natural Gas released a self-titled album in 1976, produced by Felix Pappalardi. Natural Gas and Rainbow had rehearsed in the same studio and “the very day I decided to knock Natural Gas on the head”, Clarke recalled “within two hours the phone rang, and there was Ritchie. He came right out with “Do you want to join Rainbow”? I was in shock but after about a minute I said, yes. Within a week, I was living in LA, and I don’t remember how long we were there, but it was many months. From there we went to Paris, The Chateau, for about two months. This is where we had our falling out that lasted about ten years, but now I consider him, when I see him, a friend.” Richie Blackmore had fired future Dio bassist Jimmy Bain (ex-Harlot, later with Wild Horses and Phil Lynott) in January 1977. Once in the studio for “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”, Blackmore found that he disliked Clarke’s fingerstyle playing. Bob Daisley (ex-Kahvas Jute, Chicken Shack, Mungo Jerry, and Widowmaker, later with Lee Kerslake in Ozzy’s band, Uriah Heep and Living Loud) was hired to replace Mark Clarke in Rainbow before the end of 1977.
In addition to re-joining Ken Hensley for his next solo album, Mark Clarke went on to appear (sometimes along with Bob Kulick) on albums by Richard T. Bear, Billy Squier, Ian Hunter and Michael Bolton before joining Mountain (1984–1985, 1995–1998) and The Monkees on tour in 1986. Colosseum eventually re-united in 1994 and as of 2021, Clarke is still in Colosseum with Dave “Clem” Clempson and Chris Farlowe. Colosseum no longer features any founding members, however.
Either way, Mark Clarke played with Mountain when they opened for Deep Purple on the first European leg of their triumphant 1985 reunion tour. This was, of course, the classic Mark II line-up of Deep Purple (Gillan, Glover, Lord, Blackmore, and Paice) that had released “Perfect Strangers” in 1984. In 1991, Ian Gillan would release his second solo album, “Toolbox”, with Leslie West providing guitar on the opening track, “Hang Me Out to Dry”, written by Gillan and West. “Toolbox” was Gillan’s last album before his second and ultimately lasting re-union with Deep Purple, in 1992.
Following the tours promoting “Go for Your Life”, Leslie West returned to solo work. He released two studio albums, “Theme” (1988) and “Alligator” (1989), before reverting to Mountain. “Theme” saw West re-unite with Jack Bruce, with the two finally re-recording “Theme for an Imaginary Western” together. They were joined by Joe Franco (drums) and Alan St. Jon (keyboards) for a set of covers (“Red House” by Jimi Hendrix, Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” and the Elvis Presley classic “Love Me Tender”) and originals. “I’m Crying” and “I Ate It” were credited to Leslie West alone while “Motherload” and “Love is Forever” co-credited Joe Franco and Corky Laing respectively.
Jack Bruce didn’t stick around for the follow-up, with Leslie West himself playing most of the bass parts on “Alligator”. An exception was “Whiskey”, recorded with jazz fusion bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke of Return to Forever fame. Also featuring several other session musicians, “Alligator” was another mix of originals and covers, such as Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover” and “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. “Little Bit of Love” had been covered on “The Great Fatsby” and this album saw Leslie West cover another song by Free, “The Stealer” off 1970’s “Highway” album.
The “Theme from Exodus” had been performed live by The Vagrants, the band Leslie West played with in the 1960s. “Alligator” paired “Theme from Exodus” (from the 1960 film scored by composer Ernest Gold) with “Hall of the Mountain King”, the frequently covered (by Rainbow, Savatage, ELO, etc.) classical piece by Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg.
“Sea of Fire” was credited to George Clinton (of Parliament-Funkadelic) but “Waiting For The F Change”, “Whiskey”, “All Of Me” and the title track were all composed by West himself.
Leslie West was also featured on “Night of the Guitar- Live!” (1989), a double live album recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1988. Hosted by Miles Copeland, brother of The Police drummer Stewart Copeland, the concert also featured guitar heroes like Randy California (ex-Spirit), Steve Hunter (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, etc.), Robby Krieger (ex-The Doors), Steve Howe (Yes, Asia), Alvin Lee (ex-Ten Years After), Ted Turner and Andy Powell, the latter two of Wishbone Ash.
Leslie West was featured with two Mountain classics (“Theme From An Imaginary Western” and “Never In My Life”) and on the concluding rock ‘n roll medley. This final track featured many musicians on “Whole Lotta Shakin'”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”, “Johnny B. Goode”, “Rock & Roll Music”, and “Bye Bye Johnny Bye Bye”, the latter three originally by Chuck Berry.
After this, in 1992-1993, West and Laing teamed up as Mountain with Richie Scarlet, known for solo work and collaborations with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley. Scarlet was replaced with Randy Coven (1993-1994) and then Noel Redding (1994-1995), the former bass player for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and guitarist/singer for Fat Mattress. This line-up was occasionaly joined in concert by special guest guitarist Elvin Bishop, one of the original members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1963–1968). The line-up with Noel Redding also recorded two songs for the 1995 double CD compilation “Over The Top”: “Talking To The Angels” and “Solution”.
Aside from these two tracks, Leslie West had continued recording as a solo artist. He released a live album, titled simply “Live”, and “Dodgin’ the Dirt” in 1993. Richie Scarlet and drummer Paul Beretta could be heard on the live album. It contained mostly Mountain classics and cover songs (“Third Degree”, the Hendrix classic “Voodoo Chile”, and “Goin’ Down”, written by Don Nix and first released by Moloch in 1969) but the studio album featured several new Leslie West originals.
“Dodgin’ the Dirt” also featured a Jimi Hendrix cover, “Red House”. In addition, it featured Procol Harum’s “Whiskey Train” (written by Robin Trower and Keith Reid), Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind”, “Wasted Years” by Van Morrison (who recorded it with John Lee Hooker for 1993’s “Too Long in Exile”) and a re-recording of the Ian Gillan co-composition “Hang Me Out To Dry”.
While most of the album was recorded with legendary session guitarist Steve Hunter, bassist Randy Coven and drummer Kevin Neal, the blues standard “Cross Cut Saw” (popularized by Albert King) instead featured bassist Brad Russell, Kevin Russell on rhythm guitar and legendary drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The remaining songs were all credited to Leslie West, sometimes along with Burt Carey or his co-musicians Randy Coven (“One Last Lick”) and Steve Hunter (“Thunderbird”).
Another album released in 1993 was “River of Dreams”, the twelfth studio album by Billy Joel. Leslie West played guitar on “No Man’s Land”, “The Great Wall of China” and “A Minor Variation”.
L.A. Blues Authority featured various musicians, including Glenn Hughes on their second album. Leslie West featured on the third and fifth L.A. Blues Authority albums, their tributes to Stevie Ray Vaughan (1993) and Cream (1994). West covered “Look At Little Sister” and “Crossroads”.
Another “all stars project” was “Carmine Appice’s Guitar Zeus”, which released a self-titled album in 1995. Leslie West was featured on the short closing track, “Guitar Zeus Part II”. The older drummer brother of Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio, John Lennon, Rick Derringer, Axis, etc.) made a name for himself with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and Beck, Bogert & Appice, all three bands featuring the recently diseased bass player Tim Bogert. Carmine Appice also recorded with Focus guitarist Jan Akkerman, King Cobra, Paul Stanley, Rod Stewart, and Ted Nugent. For the first “Guitar Zeus” album, Appice was also joined by Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Neal Schon, Steve Morse, Doug Aldrich, Brian May, Jennifer Batten, Ty Tabor, Slash, Ted Nugent, Elliot Easton, and Mick Mars.
By 1995, West and Laing re-united with Mark Clarke and recorded the 1996 album “Man’s World”. Eddie Black, the album’s co-producer, provided lead vocals on the track “I Look”. He was also co-credited as composer of several tracks, along with West and Laing. There was also two covers on the record, James Brown’s 1966 hit “This Is A Man’s World” and “Hotel Happiness” (Leon Carr, Earl Shuman), a R&B chart hit for Brook Benton in 1963. Following this record, Mountain ceased to exist between 1998 and 2001, when West and Laing re-united with Richie Scarlet.
Leslie West resumed his solo career with 1999’s “As Phat as it Gets”. Something of a return to form, I’d say, it featured tracks like “Saturation (I’m In Love With You)”, “Allergic”, and “Palace Of The King”. Guests included former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner (on “The Cell” and “I Can’t Shake It”), Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, and George Thorogood’s backing band, the Destroyers.
In addition to original material, the album featured covers of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”, “Tequila” and Otis Redding’s “Respect”, the song also recorded by Leslie West with the Vagrants back in the ’60s. “Me and My Guitar” was written by Leon Russell .
Speaking of Joe Lynn Turner appearing on “As Phat As It Gets”, Leslie West returned the favor by appearing on his album “Under Cover 2” (1999), providing the guitar solo on a cover of “Mississippi Queen”. Leslie West later appeared with Joe Lynn Turner on a cover of The Who’s “The Seeker”.
“If Heartaches Were Nickels” is a song written by Warren Haynes, the leader of Gov’t Mule and guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band and surviving members of the Grateful Dead. “If Heartaches Were Nickels” had been recorded by Kenny Neal on his 1994 album “Hoodoo Moon” but Joe Bonamassa gave it another spin on his debut studio album, “A New Day Yesterday”.
Released in the year 2000. Leslie West provided vocals and a guitar solo to Bonamassa’s version. Leslie West would also include the track on his own 2004 album, “Guitarded”.
The Who bassist John Entwistle (1994-2002) released his final solo album in the year 2000, “Music from Van-Pires” by the John Entwistle Band. A soundtrack for an animated children’s television series (1997-1998), Leslie West played lead guitar and sang on the track “Don’t Be a Sucker”.
Randy Coven (1960-2014) was briefly (1993-1994) a member of Mountain. He played on the Leslie West solo album “Dodgin’ the Dirt” and co-wrote “One Last Lick” with him. Randy Coven had started out in the jazz-rock band Orpheus before recording with Steve Vai and forming The Randy Coven Band in the late 1980s. His own band featured drummer John O. Reilly and guitarist Al Pitrelli, with the trio also releasing an album in 1992 as CPR. Prior to this, Al Pitrelli had worked with future Dream Theater keyboard player Derek Sherinian in Alice Cooper’s touring band in 1989-1991. Pitrelli went on to work with Asia (1991-1994), Dee Snider’s band Widowmaker (1992-1994), Savatage (1995-2000), Trans Siberian Orchestra (1996–present) and Megadeth (2000-2002).
Either way, Randy Coven went on to join Holy Mother (1994-2003) before going on tour with Yngwie Malmsteen in 1999–2001. Malmsteen’s vocalist for that tour was Jørn Lande (The Snakes, Masterplan, Beyond Twilight, Millenium, Avantasia, etc.), who’d later work with Ken Hensley. After touring together, Randy Coven joined Lande, guitarist Tore Østby (Conception, D. C. Cooper, Frankie’s Playground, Redrum) and drummer John Macaluso (TNT, Riot, Spread Eagle, Alex Masi, Yngwie Malmsteen, Powermad) for the recording of the second album by Norwegian progressive metal band Ark, 2001’s “Burn The Sun”. That same year, Randy Coven also released his final solo album, “Witch Way”, on which he was joined by both Al Pitrelli and Leslie West.
Al Pitrelli and Leslie West also appeared on the sole album by Hotshot, a self-titled archival CD released in 2005. Six of the tracks were actually recorded in 1986 by The Mike Pont Band, with Mike Pont being the singer and main songwriter in Hotshot. Hotshot formed in New York in 1983, splitting up two years later. They eventually reformed in Los Angeles in 1988, with Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe expressing an interest in working with them. The hype sticker on the CD mentioned that the musicians involved had also worked with Danger Danger, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Dio, Great White, Saraya, Foreigner, Asia, Joan Jett, and Mountain. Leslie West played guitar on the track “Sweet Little Lucy”, one of the tracks recorded by Hotshot in 1988-1989.
Leslie West joined Queen guitarist Brian May for a version of “Going Down”, a song that West had previously covered on his 1993 “Live” album. This new version appeared on the 2002 album “Going Down – Songs Of Don Nix”. West also played lead guitar on “Living On The Highway”.
Richie Scarlet (ex-Frehley’s Comet, in 1984-1986) had two stints playing bass in Mountain: 1992–1993 and 2001–2008. In 2002, Scarlet released the solo album “The Insanity Of Life” with Leslie West appearing on the track “Who’s To Blame”. The album also featured former Alice Cooper members Neal Smith and Dennis Dunaway, drummer Bobby Rondinelli, and Ty Tabor of King’s X.
Mountain’s “Mystic Fire” (2002) was recorded with session bassist Chuck Hearne, with the exception of “Nantucket Sleighride (Redux)” which feature Richie Scarlet. This was the album featuring a cover of Clutch’s “Immortal”, the re-arrangement of Leslie West’s “Baby I’m Down” of 1969.
Initially called “High”, “Mystic Fire” was Mountain’s final album with original material, as “Masters of War” would consist of Bob Dylan covers. Most of the new songs were co-credited to Laing and West (“Mystic Fire”, “Mutant X”, “Marble Peach / Rotten Peach”) but there was also a Leslie West solo composition, “Mountain Express (Oh Boy)”, and a song that he co-wrote with George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic. “The Sea” was a new version of their “Sea of Fire” off “Alligator”.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown (1924-2005) had first recorded “Better Off with the Blues” (Delbert McClinton, Gary Nicholson) on his 1992 album “No Looking Back”. Todd Wolfe added slide guitar to the Little Willie John song “Fever” (written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell) from 1956.
Published in 2003, “Nantucket Sleighride and Other Mountain On-the-Road Stories” was co-authored by Leslie West and Corky Laing.
2003 also saw the release of Mountain’s first concert DVD, “Sea Of Fire”. It was followed by “Live In Texas 2005” and “Live in Paris” (2006), the latter recorded in 1985 and featuring Mark Clarke rather than Richie Scarlet on bass.
Leslie West again returned to solo work and released “Blues to Die For” in 2003. This album was recorded with Aynsley Dunbar on drums and a variety of other co-musicians. A session musician since the 1960s, Aynsley Dunbar had played with Peter Green in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before joining the Jeff Beck Group and forming the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, whose “Warning” was covered by Black Sabbath in 1970. Dunbar had since played with everyone from Frank Zappa and Journey to Jefferson Starship, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Whitesnake. Most recently, Dunbar had played with Pete Way in Mogg/Way and UFO (2000, 2002-2003).
“Blues to Die For” centered around covers of old blues standards such as “Crawlin’ Kingsnake”, “Boom Boom”, “I’m Ready”, “Hellhound On My Trail” and “Born Under A Bad Sign”.
Leslie West recorded a cover of “Old Brown Shoe” for the 2003 album “Songs From The Material World: A Tribute To George Harrison”. “Old Brown Shoe” was originally released by The Beatles on a non-album single in 1969, as the B-side to “The Ballad of John and Yoko”.
Leslie West also included “Old Brown Shoe” on his 2004 album “Guitarded”, a compilation of previously released tracks. “Guitarded” had one track going back to 1975 but featured mainly songs from the late ’80s up to “As Phat as it Gets”. It also included the tracks that Leslie West recorded with Ian Gillan and Joe Bonamassa, and a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” that would later also be included on the 2013 compilation “The Man And The Mountain”.
“Got Blooze” (2005) was recorded by a power trio super group: Leslie West, Aynsley Dunbar and bassist Tim Bogert. West had played with Bogert on Bo Diddley’s 1976 album “The 20th Anniversary Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” while Dunbar had first appeared on 1993’s “Dodgin’ the Dirt” before recording all of “Blues to Die For” with West. Tim Bogert, who also recently passed away, had recently re-joined Vanilla Fudge and would soon also reform Cactus with Jim McCarty and Carmine Appice.
“Got Blooze” contained another set of bluesy cover songs, such as “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “I Can’t Quit You”, “(Look Over) Yonder’s Wall”, “The Sky Is Crying”, and “The Thrill Is Gone”. A solid blues rock album, it also included a cover of “Walk In My Shadow” off the first Free album, 1969’s “Tons of Sobs”. West had previously recorded the Free songs “Little Bit of Love” and “The Stealer”.
2005 saw the release of “Heavy Hitters”, an album of cover songs by Michael Schenker and a cast of guest musicians. Intended as a solo album by the former UFO guitarist (1973–1978, 1993–1995, 1997–1998, 2000–2003), it was released as another Michael Schenker Group record. Later re-used for the solo releases called “By Invitation Only” and “The Kulick Sessions”, Leslie West joined Schenker, Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright for a version of the Mountain classic “Blood of the Sun” .
Leslie West later featured on Michael Schenker’s first “Temple Of Rock” album (2011), playing guitar on the “3 Generations Guitar-Battle Version” of “How Long”, along with Schenker and Michael Amott (ex-Carnage, Carcass) of Arch Enemy and Spiritual Beggars. The track also featured bassist Neil Murray (Colosseum II, Whitesnake, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath, National Health, Peter Green Splinter Group, MSG, etc.) and Toto drummer (1992-2014) Simon Phillips.
West and Dunbar were joined by guitarist Kevin Curry (who’d played on “Blues to Die For”) and bass player Tim Fahey for 2006’s “Blue Me”. Having appeared on Mountain’s “Mystic Fire”, Todd Wolfe provided additional guitar on “One Thing On My Mind” and “Sinner’s Prayer”. Again, Leslie West had the good taste to cover a song by Free, “Woman” off their self-titled second album of 1969.
Richie Scarlet (2001-2008) played on the Mountain live albums “Eruption” (2004, on the songs recorded in 2003 – there was also a CD of performances from 1985 featuring Mark Clarke) and “Live in Texas 2005” (2006), but also 2007’s “Masters of War”. Consisting entirely of Bob Dylan covers, the latter turned out to be Mountain’s eighth and final studio album.
In 2005, Leslie West had performed a guitar solo on Ozzy Osbourne’s cover of “Mississippi Queen”. Ozzy returned the favor by singing on “Masters of War”, the song first released on the album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” in 1963. West had recorded the Warren Haynes composition “If Heartaches Were Nickels” with Joe Bonamassa and Haynes (Gov’t Mule, ex-Allman Brothers Band) now provided additional guitar to “Serve Somebody” and “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
Other musicians on the album included Brian John Mitchell (piano, organ, accordion), Todd Wolfe (rhythm guitar) and bassist Kenny Aaronson, who himself had played with Bob Dylan after rising to fame with the Brooklyn-based hard rock band Dust, also featuring Marc “Marky Ramone” Bell.
While they never recorded anything with him, the final Mountain line-up of 2008-2010 featured James “Rev” Jones (bass, vocals) of MSG in addition to West and Laing. Following this, Leslie West occasionally also performed as Mountain with Rev Jones and Bobby Rondinelli (Axel Rudi Pell, ex-Rainbow, Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult), as opposed to Corky Laing who in 2015 formed a new project, “Corky Laing Plays Mountain”.
Todd Wolfe, a blues guitarist born in 1957, released the album “Borrowed Time” in 2008. Leslie West featured on his cover of “Baby I’m Down”, the same 1969 song re-done by Clutch as “Immortal”.
Leslie West returned with another solo album in 2011, “Unusual Suspects”. This record featured Toto’s Steve Lukather (“One More Drink For The Road”), Slash (“Mud Flap Momma”), Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (“Standing On Higher Ground”), Zakk Wylde (“Nothing’s Changed”) and Joe Bonamassa, on yet another version of “Third Degree”. Slash and Zakk Wylde also joined West for Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over”. Several session musicians also played on the album, including drummer Kenny Aronoff who over twenty years had worked with John Fogerty, John Mellencamp (1980-1996), Tony Iommi, Smashing Pumpkins, Cinderella, Meat Loaf, Bob Seger, Joe Cocker, and others.
Credited as Leslie Weinstein, West wrote some original material here. Some of the songs were also written by/with Joe Pizza, the head of a pharmaceutical company that had worked with Leslie’s wife.
“Black On Blues – A Tribute To The Black Keys” was released in 2012. Leslie West covered their song “I Got Mine”, the second single from The Black Keys’ album “Attack & Release” of 2008. Other artists featured on the tribute album included Iggy Pop, Ginger Baker, Walter Trout and Pat Travers.
Released in 2013, “Still Climbing” was the fifteenth stuido album by Leslie West as a solo artist. The title of the album was, of course, a reference to Mountain’s debut album, “Climbing!”. The album featured mostly original material by Leslie West himself, along with guest performances by Johnny Lang (on “When a Man Loves a Woman”, the song first recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966), Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider (on “Feeling Good”, written for a 1964 musical before being recorded by Nina Simone and others), Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge, Tremonti), and Johnny Winter.
The final track, “Rev Jones Time”, is actually a take on “Over the Rainbow”, the Harold Arlen composition for the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz”. Rev Jones played bass on the album while the drums were handled by arranger/producer Mike “Metal” Goldberg. David “Squigg” Biglin added Hammond organ, piano, strings and acoustic guitar to some of the tracks. The album also featured a re-recording of “Long Red”, off Leslie West’s 1969 solo debut “Mountain”. Leslie’s brother and bandmate in The Vagrants, Larry Weinstein, was asked to play bass on this version.
Poison singer Bret Michaels released “Jammin’ with Friends” in 2013. The album features four new original songs, two new cover songs and eight newly re-recorded songs of Poison classics/Michaels solo tracks, all of which feature guest musicians. The album also contains six previously released songs featuring guest musicians. His friends included Ace Frehley, Michael Anthony, Rickey Medlocke, Gary Rossington, Phil Collen, Loretta Lynn, Joe Perry, Miley Cyrus, C.C. DeVille, Randy Castillo, and others. Leslie West was featured on the Extended Rock Mix of “Driven”.
Blues rock legend Johnny Winter (1944-2014) released his final studio album in 2014, “Step Back”, featuring appearances by Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats, Dr. John, Paul Nelson, Ben Harper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry.
Leslie West was featured on a cover of the Little Richard classic “Long Tall Sally”, originally released in 1956. The album eventually won a Grammy Award for Best Blues Album
Eli Cook is an American blues singer/songwriter and guitarist born in 1986. His 2014 album, “Primitive Son”, featured Leslie West as a guest performer on the track “Motor Queen”.
Leslie West recorded a cover of “Roadhouse Blues” (off the 1970 album “Morrison Hotel”) for “Light My Fire: A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors”. The tribute album released in 2014 was produced by Billy Sherwood (Yes, World Trade, Circa, etc.), having recently joined Nektar as bass player. The other performers on “Roadhouse Blues” were Circa drummer Scott Connor, Harmonica player Rod Piazza and Brian Auger on Hammond B3 Organ.
Other artists appearing on the tribute album to The Doors included Uriah Heep’s Mick Box and Ken Hensley, Joe Lynn Turner (ex-Rainbow), Survivor’s Jimi Jamison, Thijs Van Leer of Focus, Lou Gramm (ex-Foreigner), Brian Auger, Tony Kaye (ex-Yes, Flash, Badger, Detective), Steve Cropper (ex-Booker T & The MG’s), Chris Spedding, Edgar Winter, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Keith Emerson (ex-The Nice, ELP), David Johansen (ex-New York Dolls), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, ex-Dixie Dregs, Kansas), Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess, Nik Turner (ex-Hawkwind), Steve Hillage (ex-Gong), Graham Bonnet (ex-Rainbow), Eric Martin (ex-Mr Big), Asia’s Geoff Downes, Todd Rundgren (ex-Nazz, Utopia), Mark Farner (ex-Grand Funk Railroad), Pat Travers, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and Yes members Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.
Leslie Wests’s final album, “Soundcheck,” reached #2 on Billboard’s blues chart in 2015. Rev Jones, Dave Biglin and Mike Goldberg were still around but this one also featured Peter Frampton (ex-Humble Pie) on “You Are My Sunshine”, Queen’s Bryan May and Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, which at times included Duane and Gregg Allman, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, and Leon Russell) on “Going Down”. The latter is the version previously released on “Going Down – Songs Of Don Nix”, and also featuring David Hood, Max Middleton, and Bobby Whitlock. The concluding cover of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” (made famous by Howlin Wolf and covered by Cream) was lifted from 1988’s “Theme” and thus featured Joe Franco and Jack Bruce, recently diseased. Leslie West wrote the instrumental “A Stern Warning” and was co-credited with his wife, Jennifer, for “Left By The Roadside To Die” and “Empty Promises / Nothin’ Sacred”.
Leslie West discography:
1965: The Vagrants – Oh Those Eyes / You’re Too Young
1966: The Vagrants – I Can’t Make a Friend / Young Blues
1966: The Vagrants – The Final Hour / Your Hasty Heart
1967: The Vagrants – I Love, Love You (Yes I Do) / Respect
1967: The Vagrants – And When It’s Over / I Don’t Need Your Loving
1967: The Vagrants – A Sunny Summer Rain / Beside The Sea
1969: Leslie West – Mountain
1970: Mountain – Climbing!
1971: Mountain – Nantucket Sleighride
1971: Mountain – Flowers of Evil (studio/live)
1972: Mountain – Live: The Road Goes Ever On (live 1969-1972)
1972: West, Bruce & Laing – Why Dontcha
1973: West, Bruce & Laing – Whatever Turns You On
1974: West, Bruce & Laing – Live ‘n’ Kickin’ (live)
1974: Mountain – Twin Peaks (live 1973)
1974: Mountain – Avalanche
1975: Leslie West – The Great Fatsby
1975: Dana Valery – Dana Valery
1976: The Leslie West Band – The Leslie West Band
1985: Mountain – Go for Your Life
1988: Leslie West – Theme
1989: Leslie West – Alligator
1993: Leslie West – Live (live)
1993: Leslie West – Dodgin’ the Dirt
1996: Mountain – Man’s World
1999: Leslie West – As Phat as it Gets
2002: Mountain – Mystic Fire
2003: Mountain – Sea Of Fire (live DVD)
2003: Leslie West – Blues to Die For
2004: Leslie West – Guitarded (compilation with rarities)
2004: Mountain – Eruption (live 1985/2003)
2005: Mountain – Live In Texas 2005 (live DVD)
2005: Leslie West – Got Blooze
2006: Leslie West – Blue Me
2006: Mountain – Live in Paris (live DVD, recorded 1985)
2007: Mountain – Masters of War
2011: Leslie West – Unusual Suspects
2013: Leslie West – Still Climbing
2015: Leslie West – Soundcheck