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Leslie West Biography

Home > Music > W > West, Leslie > Biography

Born: 1945/10/22
Birth Place: New York City
Years Active: 1965 - present
Genres: Rock, Hard Rock, Blues-rock, Southern Rock, Heavy Metal

Leslie West (born Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945) is an American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.

His musical career began with The Vagrants, an R&B/Blue-eyed soul-rock band influenced by the likes of The Rascals that was one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of the New York metropolitan area itself. The Vagrants had two minor hits with 1966's “I Can't Make a Friend” and a cover of Otis Redding's “Respect” the following year.

Some of the Vagrants' recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream on their album “Disraeli Gears.” In 1969, West and Pappalardi would form the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, which was also the title of West's debut solo album. With Steve Knight on keyboards and original drummer, N. D. Smart, the band appeared on the second day of the Woodstock Festival in August 1969.

The band's original incarnation saw West and Pappalardi sharing vocal duties and playing guitar and bass, respectively. New drummer Corky Laing joined the band shortly after Woodstock. They had success with “Mississippi Queen,” which reached #21 on the Billboard charts. It was followed by the Jack Bruce-penned “Theme For an Imaginary Western.” Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal music.

After the breakup of Mountain, West and Laing would produce two studio albums and a live release with Cream bassist Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. Mountain reformed in 1974 only to break up a few years later, but since 1985 has continued to tour and record.

West, along with keyboard player Al Kooper, recorded with The Who during the March 1971 “Who's Next” New York sessions. Tracks included a cover of Marvin Gaye's “Baby Don't You Do It,” and early versions of “Love Ain't For Keepin'” and The Who's signature track “Won't Get Fooled Again.” 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.”

West also played guitar on the track “Bo Diddley Jam” on Bo Diddley's 1976 “20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll” all-star album. West and Joe Bonamassa recorded Warren Haynes' “If Heartaches Were Nickels” together. West released it on “Guitarded” in 2005 and Bonamassa on “A New Day Yesterday” in 2000.

West contributed the music and co-wrote the lyrics to the song “Immortal” on Clutch's 2001 album “Pure Rock Fury,” which was a reworked cover of the song “Baby I'm Down” on West's first album.

In 2005 he contributed to Ozzy Osbourne's “Under Cover” album, performing guitar on a remake of “Mississippi Queen.”

In addition to fronting Mountain, West continues to record and perform on his own. His solo album, entitled “Blue Me,” was released in 2006 on the Blues Bureau International label. In 2007 Mountain released “Masters of War” on Big Rack Records, an album featuring 12 Bob Dylan covers that saw Ozzy Osbourne providing guest vocals on a rendition of the title track. In 2011 he released the album, “Unusual Suspects.”

West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in October 2006. West was affectionately nicknamed “The King of Tone” by his legions of fans, referring to his influential and world renowned guitar tone. West was also nicknamed “The Fattest Fingers in Rock N' Roll,” due to his large build. In June 2011 West had his lower right leg amputated as a result of complications from diabetes.