Something you may not have known: Leon Russell played piano on Bobby Pickett’s original “Monster Mash.”
In fact, before he built his reputation as a slightly off-center singer and bandleader, Leon Russell played on lots of big hits and even co-wrote a few (for instance, this one, which informed much of my adolescence.) You won’t see Leon here, but you will hear his piano:
Perhaps his biggest success as a solo artist was the 1972 album Carney, which featured the single “Tight Rope”:
The B-side of “Tight Rope” was the lovely “This Masquerade,” covered to great extent by George Benson a few years later:
Still, the highlight of Carney was “If the Shoe Fits,” a kindly but still snarky blast at the rock and roll fandom of the age.
Leon Russell kept on making music, if not always making the charts; perhaps his most dramatic return was The Union, a 2010 joint venture with Elton John. Russell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, introduced by John, who’d always been a fan:
When Mr. Russell’s Greatest Hits album came on one day during the trip, I started to cry, it moved me so much. His music takes me back to the most wonderful time in my life, and it makes me so angry that he’s been forgotten.
Let me assure Sir Elton that Leon Russell has never been forgotten, especially here in his native Oklahoma. (Long associated with Tulsa, he was actually born in Lawton in 1942.)