Part jazz/blues, part comedy, all mystery: Leon Redbone. Seriously, who is that guy?
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Most online music sites can tell you that he is a noted American guitarist and singer, known for his stylized performances of early jazz and blues songs. Others may tout Redbone’s delight for onstage theatrics, comedy, and performing (in his trademark Panama hat and suit) largely unknown songs from vaudeville and minstrel shows of the 1910s and ’20s. But there’s a mystery surrounding this performer that has never lifted. As the Toronto Star once reported, it’s a mystery that Redbone keeps intact by answering interview questions with long sighs and “I don’t remember.”
The fact that he tours only by car, and has never released any biographical information (or ever confirmed any) about himself finally led to ongoing rumors that he is “an act” being performed by a well-known performer who wants his real identity to remain a secret. For a while, some even suggested that he was Frank Zappa or Andy Kaufman, both of whom he has outlived.
In the 1970s, Bob Dylan has said he first met him at the Mariposa Folk Festival, liked his work, and mentioned him in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Redbone was later featured in Rolling Stone before he ever released an album. When Redbone finally did release his first album, “On The Track”, he quickly landed an appearance on Saturday Night Live, both in 1976.
Since then he has released 14 critically-acclaimed albums, developed a cult following, and has performed on Saturday Night Live three times as well as The Tonight Show. His voice is heard in commercials for Budweiser and Chevrolet as well as on movie soundtracks including “Elf.” He sang the theme song for the television series, “Mr. Belvedere.”
Fans of eclectic music, don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Redbone live in concert.
Leon Redbone, w/Erin Donovan. The Square Room, Knoxville, TN. October 3, 2011, at 8 p.m. Tickets $30.