Leon Redbone, a one of a kind personality who brought vintage music to the masses, died on May 30th at 69 years old, though in characteristic fashion the official notice from the family listed his age as 127.
Discovered by Bob Dylan while playing clubs and folk festivals around Canada in the early 70s he was catapulted to stardom by a 1973 profile in Rolling Stone. He specialized in reviving the music of the ragtime and Tin Pan Alley era, playing everything from jazz and vaudeville numbers to country blues. He brought his distinctive sound to Saturday Night Live, The Johnny Carson Show, and Prairie Home Companion, introducing many to the joys of vintage music.
He maintained a trademark secretive persona that included a Panama hat and dark sunglasses. This led some to speculate he was really the character of another performer, Frank Zappa or perhaps Andy Kaufman, but he was, in fact, his own man.
Dan Levinson toured with him for 12 years and he worked frequently with Vince Giordano and many other musicians in the universe of early jazz and ragtime. He released 16 albums and appeared on children’s television and in several TV commercials. His 1987 “Christmas Island” album is a perennial favorite of spirited jazz fans. He also appeared as Leon the Snowman in 2003’s Elf.
He retired from performing in 2015. Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone, a documentary about his life, premiered in 2018.
Read the official announcement and see information about the documentary at https://www.leonredbone.com/news