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Presented by Richard Flohil and Tom Dertinger
STANDING ROOM ONLY
Leon Redbone —a master guitarist, dry comedian, and a warm and witty singer who recreates the classic jazz, blues and pop music of the ’20s and ’30s — remains one of the most mysterious figures in popular music.
He has always cultivated an aura of mystery about his background, in part because he wants the emphasis to be placed on the music, rather than the “personality” behind it.
He does, however, claim to have been born in 1929 (on the date of the stock market crash), but later told interviewers he was born in Bombay during a monsoon to violinist Niccolo Paganini and Swedish soprano Jenny Lind. (It should be noted that Paganini died in 1840, and Lind in 1887).
Mr. Redbone is a laid-back singer, a dry story-teller, and an archivist with wide musical tastes — as long as the music is more than 70 years old. His concerts will likely include forgotten old pop songs, classic ragtime, blues from the likes of Lonnie Johnson or Blind Blake, and jazz standards by Fats Waller or Dixieland jazz pioneer Nick La Rocca.
Although he began his career in Toronto in 1970, he is hardly a frequent visitor to the city he used to call home. In his early days, Mr. Redbone could be found at the pool hall that used to exist in the entrance to the Bloor subway station; if you asked for Mr. Grunt, he would, guardedly, answer the telephone. A fixture in local folk clubs, he also had an acoustic duo, called Little Sonny, with David Wilcox.
Since then Leon Redbone has gone on to make numerous television performances (he was a regular for many years on the Johnny Carson Show, as well as on Saturday Night Live), and he has recorded some 15 albums, the first in 1975. He has toured around the world, appeared in numerous television commercials, and was even featured in a Far Side cartoon.
A superb acoustic guitarist, Mr. Redbone is also a skilled pool player and is dangerous with a deck of cards; people are advised not to engage him in either pursuit.