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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 7:09 am | Fair 35º


Gerald Carpenter: Leon Russell, Swamp Dogg to Perform at Granada

Friday's concert is sure to highlight their complementary styles

Claude Russell Bridges, known to the listening world as Leon Russell, will play a concert at 8 p.m. Friday in The Granada, which is sponsoring the event.

The one and only Leon Russell will be at The Granada on Friday.
The one and only Leon Russell will be at The Granada on Friday.

Russell’s special guest that evening will be Jerry Williams Jr., better known by his pseudonym Swamp Dogg.

Russell and Swamp Dogg make an interesting, weirdly complementary pair of performers. Both were born in 1942. No white musician has higher standing in the uniquely African-American music forms — jazz, blues, soul, gospel — than Russell. And few blacks (Charlie Pride — name another) have Swamp Dogg’s credit in the overwhelmingly Caucasian world of country music. (Williams told an interviewer he was raised on country music: “Black music didn’t start ‘til 10 at night until 4 in the morning, and I was in bed by then … If you strip my tracks, take away all the horns and guitar licks, what you have is a country song.”)

Among the many honors heaped on Williams in his career, the cover of his 1971 album, Rat On!, which showed Williams riding an enormous white rat, was ranked as one of the worst album covers of all time. (It was a good album, though.)

Russell is one of the most powerful and subtle personalities to emerge in American popular music during the late 1960s. In a telling moment during the film Mad Dogs and Englishmen — a record of the 1970 Joe Cocker tour of the same name — Russell walks up to an interview in progress and reaches between interviewer and interviewee to a pack of cigarettes, takes one and lights it. He nods his recognition and turns to go. “What do you do here?” the interviewer asks. Russell smiles and shrugs. “I play piano, a little guitar.”

In fact, Russell organized the overpopulated tour, and it was only his quiet force that kept the chaotic ensemble from disintegrating. In general, you can assume that if Russell is on stage — no matter how many headliners are there with him — he is the one in charge. You won’t have any trouble spotting him.

Current members of Rusell’s band include Jackie Wessel on bass, Chris Simmons on guitar, Beau Charron on keyboards, lap steel guitar and mandolin, and Brandon Holder on drums.

Russell has played as a session musician for an astonishingly diverse array of acts: Jerry Lee Lewis, George Harrison, Delaney Bramlett, Ringo Starr, Doris Day, Elton John, Eric Clapton, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Badfinger, Tijuana Brass, Frank Sinatra, The Band, Glen Campbell and The Rolling Stones, to name a few.

Adept as a piano player from age 4, he learned guitar much later, taking lessons from the incomparable James Burton (lead guitarist for Elvis Presley, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris).

He also has had considerable impact as a songwriter, with such tunes as “Delta Lady” and “A Song for You.” On March 14, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Tickets for Friday’s concert range from $25 to $61 and are available through The Granada box office — 1214 State St., 805.899.2222 or www.granadasb.org.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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