Russell, Leon [Bridges, Claude Russell ]
- Jonas Westover
(b Lawton, OK, April 2, 1942). American singer, songwriter, keyboard player, and producer. He is well respected for his solo work—a mix of rock, folk, and country music—but his work as a session musician has also brought significant recognition. He began playing piano at the age of four and was playing in clubs in Tulsa as a high school student. His band, the Starlighters, managed to score a spot as the opening act for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1959. Russell moved to Los Angeles the same year and quickly established himself as a session musician, notably with Wrecking Crew, the, the group of musicians Phil Spector used to accompany his artists. With the Wrecking Crew, he accompanied artists such as the Byrds, Herb Alpert, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. The keyboard player on hundreds of recordings, he opened his own recording studio in 1967. He has since been active in almost all fields of popular music, from musician to singer to songwriter to label owner (he founded Shelter Records in 1970). Russell worked closely with Joe Cocker as a songwriter (notably “Delta Lady”) as well as producing the album Joe Cocker! (1969), on which he also played guitar and keyboards. Since 1970 Russell has also released several solo recordings, and his single “Tight Rope” hit the charts in 1972. He has continued to perform and record into the 21st century and has collaborated with an array of stars, including Frank Sinatra, Elton John, George Harrison, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones.