Leslie West (born Leslie Abel Weinstein; October 22, 1945 – December 23, 2020) was an American rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. He was best known as a founding member and co-lead vocalist of the hard rock band Mountain.
West was born on October 22, 1945, in New York City to Jewish parents, but grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in East Meadow, New York, Forest Hills, New York, and Lawrence, New York. After his parents divorced, he changed his surname to West. His musical career began with the Vagrants, an R&B/blue-eyed soul-rock band influenced by the likes of the Rascals that was one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of the New York metropolitan area itself (as opposed to the Bohemian Greenwich Village scene of artists, poets, and affiliates of the Beat Generation, which produced bands like The Fugs and The Velvet Underground). The Vagrants had two minor hits in the Eastern United States; 1966’s “I Can’t Make a Friend” and a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” the following year.
Some of the Vagrants’ recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream on their album Disraeli Gears. In 1969, West and Pappalardi formed the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, which was also the title of West’s debut solo album. Rolling Stone identified the band as a “louder version of Cream”. With Steve Knight on keyboards and original drummer N. D. Smart, the band appeared on the second day of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969, starting an 11-song set at 9 pm.
The band’s original incarnation saw West and Pappalardi sharing vocal duties and playing guitar and bass, respectively. New drummer Corky Laing joined the band shortly after Woodstock. They had success with “Mississippi Queen”, which reached No. 21 on the Billboard charts and No. 4 in Canada. It was followed by “Theme For an Imaginary Western”, written by Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal.
After Pappalardi left Mountain to concentrate on various production projects, West and Laing produced two studio albums and a live release with Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. West, along with keyboard player Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears, recorded with The Who during the March 1971 Who’s Next New York sessions. Tracks from the sessions included a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t You Do It,” and early versions of “Love Ain’t For Keepin'” and The Who’s signature track “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Though the tracks were not originally included on the album (recording restarted in England a few months later without West or Kooper), they appear as bonus tracks on the 1995 and 2003 reissues of Who’s Next and on the 1998 reissue of Odds & Sods.
Mountain reformed in 1973 only to break up again in late 1974. West had acting roles in Family Honor (1973) and The Money Pit (1986).
West also played guitar for the track “Bo Diddley Jam” on Bo Diddley’s 1976 20th Anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll all-star album. Since 1981, Mountain has continued to reform, tour, and record on a regular basis. West teamed up with Ian Gillan of Deep Purple renown, to co-write and play guitar on the song “Hang Me Out To Dry” from the Gillan album ToolBox, released in Europe in 1991. West and Joe Bonamassa recorded Warren Haynes’ “If Heartaches Were Nickels” together. West released it on Guitarded (2005), and Bonamassa on A New Day Yesterday (2000). In May 1987, West played the band leader in a series of late night pilot shows for Howard Stern on the FOX network. He taped a total of five shows with Stern, which never aired. Stern went on to create a new show dubbed the Channel 9 show without West. West continued to make occasional appearances on radio, notably on Stern’s radio show.
West contributed the music and co-wrote the lyrics to the song “Immortal” on Clutch’s 2001 album Pure Rock Fury, which was a reworked cover of the song “Baby I’m Down” from West’s first album. In 2005 he contributed to Ozzy Osbourne’s Under Cover album, performing guitar on a remake of “Mississippi Queen”. In addition to fronting Mountain, West continued to record and perform on his own. His solo album, entitled Blue Me, was released in 2006 on the Blues Bureau International label. West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. In 2007, Mountain released Masters of War on Big Rack Records, an album featuring 12 Bob Dylan covers that saw Osbourne providing guest vocals on a rendition of the title track.
West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain’s performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, New York (August 15, 2009). A concert crowd of over 15,000 people was present, as West and Maurer were wed under a canopy of upraised electric guitars. On June 20, 2011, West had his right leg amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. West made his first public appearance after his surgery on August 13, 2011. In 2014, West was a guest performer on Eli Cook’s album, Primitive Son. His 2015 album, Soundcheck, peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Top Blues Albums chart.
Weeks before his death West was scheduled to begin recording a new studio album with a variety of guitarists. That group of musicians including Slash, Zakk Wylde, Dee Snider, and others, came together to record the album, titled Legacy: A Tribute To Leslie West, which was released on 25 March 2022.
By the late 1970s, West was recovering from addiction to heroin, morphine, and cocaine. West said in various interviews that his drug problems and similar drug abuse problems of other bandmates, had interfered with the success of both Mountain, and West, Bruce and Laing. In the mid-1980s, just as he was overcoming the drug problems, West was diagnosed with diabetes and his weight fluctuated over the years as he struggled with the disease. In the early 2000s he also survived a short bout with bladder cancer. In 2011, due to complications from his diabetes, West’s right leg had to be amputated. West said in a 2014 interview that he believed his past smoking also contributed to the crisis with his leg.
West went into cardiac arrest on Monday, December 21, 2020 and was rushed to a hospital in nearby Palm Coast where he never regained consciousness. After being contacted by Rolling Stone, West’s brother Larry West confirmed that Leslie West had died. A report by Variety based on social media posts made by Larry West states that Leslie West died on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. He was 75. (wikipedia)
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive comeback in the nineties
Reviewed in Germany on 5 April 2013
Leslie West is a legend. Anyone who has played at Woodstock, jammed with Hendrix, recorded and toured with Felix Pappalardi and Jack Bruce has earned that designation. Back then, West was the thickest and hardest blues guitarist in the world. But the Eighties were a tough time for the old heroes. Leslie, too, failed to build on his successes. The albums “Go for your Life”, “Theme” and “Alligator” were mediocre at best – and sonically cheesy for the times.
But with “Dodgin the Dirt” West made an impressive comeback in 1993. Earthy sound, a strong band (Steve Hunter on rhythm guitar) and a mixture of own and well-known songs in typical scratchy-rough West interpretations. Billy Joel’s “New York”, the Gillan collaboration “Hang me out to dry”, the groovy “Cross Cut Saw” and the instrumental “Sambuca” are just a few examples. The album ends with “Red House”, an obligatory and great Hendrix bow. All in all, the album is worth five stars to me. Rock on, Leslie … wherever you are ! (Alexander Gärtner)
If he ever had one foot in the grave, it was tapping time. They could never cover up this Dirt Dodgin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Death Camp survivor. Leslie West loves to laugh at the irony of his perpetuity and the fact that “Dodgin’ The Dirt” might be his finest work. The big man from Mountain has lost weight but the figure he cuts is no less imposing. Leslie has a signature sound. You can hear it in everything he does from “Mississippi Queen” to three cuts on Billy Joel’s “River Of Dreams”. “Dodgin’ The Dirt” – there’s that distinctive tone and violin control vibrato. ‘His kind of guitar’ is clear focused, coming from that center inside where talent transcends personality, time and Long Island. Turn it up. LOUD. It won’t escape you. (Tom Davies)
Randy Coven (bass)
Steve Hunter (guitar, dobro)
Kevin Neal (drums)
Leslie West (lead guitar, vocals)
Paul Beretta (drums on 13.)
Aynsley Dunbar (drums on 08.)
Brad Russell (bass on 08.)
Kevin Russell (guitar on 08.)
Riche “The Bat” Scarlet (bass on 13.)
01. Whiskey Train (Reid/Trower) 4.23
02. Daddy Are You Angry (West) 4.09
03. New York State Of Mind (Joel) 3.18
04. Sambuca (West) 2:42
05. Juke Joint Jumpin’ (live) (Carey/West) 2.54
06. Easy Street (Carey/West) 2.53
07. One Last Lick (West/Coven) 2.43
08. Cross Cut Saw (Sanders/Ingram/Walker/Person/Ford/Moss)4.08
09. Hang Me Out To Dry (Gillan/West) 4.45
10. Wasted Years (Morrison) 3.35
11. My Friend Sam (West) 1.54
12. Thunderbird (Carey/West/Hunter) 5.13
13. Red House (live) (Hendrix) 8.05
The official website (now deleted):