Saturday, April 28, 2018
A musician friend -- singer, guitarist, radio host, and scholar of pre-WorldWar II music -- posted on Facebook that he would like very much to meet Leon Redbone... so I told him my story.
In the 1970s, another friend of mine, Jim Rigby, freelanced music articles for a hip alt-weekly, the Hartford Advocate, and called me up to say he'd gotten an interview with Leon Redbone. I had been at the daily Hartford Courant for years and also knew a little about blues/ragtime guitar, so Jim asked me to come along and help with the interview... backstage at the legendary The Shaboo Inn near Willimantic, Conn.
Two memorable things about the meeting:
1. A musical revelation (to me, anyway): Among his influences, Leon mentioned singer and guitarist Lee Morse, which was the first time I'd heard of her. (Thanks to YouTube, she's much easier to find today.)
From his "Ah yes, the gentlemen of the press..." Leon remained in character, which sounded like he was channeling W.C. Fields and Groucho Marx simultaneously, with a touch of Chaplin. As he said those ".. gentlemen of the press" words, he began rummaging through his pockets -- pants, suitcoat, vest, shirt -- muttering about how he had too many pockets, "... counted them once..." -- finally producing a business card and giving it to Jim, who glanced at it and put it in his pocket. And off we went with the interview.
At the end, I said (approximately), "Leon, when you were up in Lenox, Mass., last year, I took some pictures of you on stage and I really like the way one of them came out. I'd like to send it to you. Could I have one of your cards?"
He went through the whole pocket-searching shtick again, finally producing the card, which I pocketed, and said goodnight.
Here's the picture I was telling him about, and the card. I never sent him a copy of the photo, for lack of an address...
The front of the card says "How do you do."
The other side is blank.