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Canadian singer and guitarist, born 26 August 1949, Cyprus.
While his gravelly baritone and omnipresent fedora, dark glasses,
and Groucho Marx mustache made him one of the more distinct and
recognizable characters in popular music, little is known about the
neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. Throughout his career, he
steadfastly refused to divulge any information about his background or
personal life; according to legend, Redbone's desire to protect his
privacy was so intense that when he was approached by the famed producer
John Hammond, the contact number he gave was not his own phone, but
that of a dial-a-joke service.
Because Redbone first emerged as a performer in Toronto during the
1970s, he was believed to be Canadian; his work, a revival of pre-World
War II ragtime, jazz, and blues sounds, recalled the work of performers
ranging from Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby to blackface star Emmett
Miller. He made his recording debut in 1976 with On the Track, which
featured legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti as well as
singer/songwriter Don McLean; his 1977 follow-up Double Time even
reached the U.S. Top 40 charts, largely on the strength of his frequent
appearances on television's Saturday Night Live.
After 1978's Champagne Charlie, Redbone began recording only
sporadically; following 1981's Branch to Branch, he waited four years
before reentering the studio to cut Red to Blue. Invariably, his albums
featured guest appearances from an eclectic cast of luminaries: while
1987's Christmas Island included a cameo by Dr. John, 1994's Whistling
in the Wind included duets with Ringo Starr and Merle Haggard and 2001's
Any Time featured contributions from such jazz luminaries as guitarist
Frank Vignola, reedman Ken Peplowski, and bassist Jay Leonhart. Despite
his low profile, Redbone has also earned a certain measure of fame as a
fixture in various television advertising campaigns.
Leon Redbone Discography