born October 22, 1945
Mountain, “Theme for an Imaginary Western”
Forest Hills High School
What do the four original members of the Ramones (Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy and Joey), Burt Bacharach, Dick Stockton, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo, Jerry Springer and Peter Parker all have in common with Leslie West? Except Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, they all actually attended Forest Hills High School in Queens, NYC.
Leslie Weinstein became Leslie West after his parents divorced, but talent and luck, always a bit of luck, made Leslie West a household name among rock fans in the late 60s.
While Greenwich Village was pumping out folk musician after folk musician into the 1960's cultural revolution, West though nearby geographically was light years artistically on "distant" Long Island, NY. Leslie West was in the Vagrants and the band had minor success. Felix Pappalardi produced some of their recordings. Pappalardi produced and played on West's first album, called Mountain (1969). It was from that album's name that, in 1969, they formed Mountain. Pappalardi had also produced Cream and some compared Mountain's sound to theirs. Steve Knight (keyboards) and N.D. Smart (drums) were the other two original members.
Woodstock Music and Art Fair
The band appeared at Woodstock on Saturday night. Their well-received set was neither on the movie soundtrack nor the first movie, but the strength of their sound made West and the band favorites especially among the FM crowd. Following Woodstock, the band released it's first album, Climbing! (February 1970). Nantucket Sleighride followed in January 1971, and Flowers of Evil in November 1971. In 1972 Pappalardi left the band to do more productions and West, Jack Bruce and Corky Laing (had replaced ND Smart on drums) formed West, Bruce, and Lang. Over the decades versions of Mountain have formed and re-formed, always with West at the center.
Substance abuse and diabetes have plagued West, but have not kept him away from music very long. He lost the bottom half of his right leg to diabetes in 2011. He told Billboard afterwards, ""I cried a couple fuckin' times. I look down -- 'Where is it?!' You still feel the nerves and stuff like that. I had to make a decision -- lose my leg or lose my life. What are you gonna do? But I'll tell you, it's a good thing it wasn't one of my arms. Then I'd be really fucked." [insert gallows humor comment here] On August 15, 2009 he married Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Note Mr Levon Helm on the far left!
In 2015, Rolling Stone magazine rated West as 65/100 among the greatest guitar players. The blurb said in part that, " On songs like the 1970 hit "Mississippi Queen," West played roughened blues lines with deceiving facility and an R&B flair, through a black forest of stressed-amp distortion. "