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Leslie West

Leslie West live at the Florida Theatre in 2008.
Background information
Born October 22, 1945 (1945-10-22) (age 64)
New York City
Genres Rock, Hard rock, Blues-rock, Southern rock, Heavy metal
Occupations Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1965 - present
Labels Sony, Blues Bureau International, Lightyear
Associated acts Mountain, West, Bruce and Laing, The Vagrants
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul Junior
Dean Leslie West signature model
Electra signature MPC model

Leslie West (born Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945) is an American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.



West was born in New York City, grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in East Meadow, Forest Hills and Lawrence.[1] 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 Manhattan 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 US: 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 (he produced the seminal Disraeli Gears). In 1969, West and Pappalardi would form the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, also the title of West's debut solo album. Initially Mountain did not feature a keyboardist, but one was later added to the band to keep them from seeming like a Cream imitation. Rolling Stone identified the band as a 'louder version of Cream'. [2] With Steve Knight on keyboards and original drummer, N. D. Smart, the band appeared on day 2 of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969 starting an 11-song set at 9PM.

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 #21 on the Billboard charts and #4 in Canada. It was followed by the Jack Bruce-penned "Theme For an Imaginary Western". Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal music.[3]

After the breakup of Mountain, West and Laing would produce two studio albums and a live release with Cream bassist Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. Mountain reformed in 1974 only to break up a few years later, but since 1985 has continued to tour and record.

West, along with keyboard player Al Kooper, recorded with The Who during the March 1971 Who's Next New York sessions. Tracks 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 and Sods.

West also played guitar for the track "Bo Diddley Jam" on Bo Diddley's 1976 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.

Leslie 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).

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" on Leslie 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 continues to record and perform on his own. His latest solo album, entitled Blue Me, was released in 2006 on the Blues Bureau International label. In 2007 Mountain released Masters of War on Big Rack Records, an album featuring 12 Bob Dylan covers that sees Ozzy Osbourne providing guest vocals on a rendition of the title track.

West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. [4].

West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, New York. Over 15,000 people were present and the couple walked through a bridge of guitars held by Levon Helm, Larry Taylor and Corky Laing among others. West now lives in New Jersey.[5].

Johnny Ramone, a fan of West, has called him, "one of the top five guitar players of his era"[6].

In September 2009, Leslie West: The Sound & The Story was released; a guitar instructional DVD from Fret12. The DVD includes the story and breakdown of Leslie's biggest hits, including "Mississippi Queen". Guest appearances from Zakk Wylde, Joe Satriani, Mark Tremonti, and Corky Laing are also included[7].

West continues to make occasion appearances on radio, notably on Howard Stern's radio show.[8]


West is renowned for helping popularize use of the Gibson Les Paul Jr. guitar with P90 elements, along with the use of Sunn Amplifiers, to create a tone which became his trademark sound.



West frequently used two Les Paul Juniors, one "TV Yellow" and the other a sunburst.[9] West also used a modified Gibson Flying V, with the neck pickup removed (he used the hole for an ashtray) and a P90 fitted at the bridge position, West also had a 2 pickup flying vee which he used after the ash tray vee broke the s/n of that flying vee is s/n 906965. West also used a plexiglass Dan Armstrong for slide guitar.[9]

From 1977 to 1982, he used a signature on-board effects MPC model guitar, created by the Japanese company Electra.[9] He currently uses a signature model from Dean Guitars, the USA Soltero Leslie West Signature model,[9] fitted with a custom-designed Dean pickup called "Mountain of Tone."


In 2005, West received a sponsorship with Carlsbro amplifiers, and could frequently be seen playing through "Carlsbro 50 Top" valve heads. His studio amplifier is a Marshall JMP. Live, he used Marshall JCM 900s. He started endorsing and using Budda Amplification in 2008.[9]


West uses octaver, chorus and delay effects.


For his work with Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing, see their pages.

A compilation of singles done in the 1960s by The Vagrants was released as The Great Lost Album in 1986.


  1. ^ Fischler, Marcelle S. "Nascent Hall of Fame to Welcome First Honorees"., The New York Times , October 15, 2006. Accessed November 26, 2007. "Dee Snider of Stony Brook, the shock-rocker from the 1980's heavy metal band Twisted Sister, known for his defiant metal anthem We're Not Gonna Take It, and Leslie West of the band Mountain, who grew up in East Meadow, Lawrence and Forest Hills, are also being inducted..."
  2. ^ Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, p674, Mountain, Rolling Stone Press, U.S., 2001.
  3. ^ Ingham, Chris (2002). The Book of Metal. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 204. ISBN 978-1560254195. 
  4. ^ Home of the L.I. Music Hall of Fame
  5. ^ Leslie West to get married onstage at Woodstock Newsday July 16, 2009.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, p674, Mountain, Rolling Stone Press, U.S., 2001.
  9. ^ a b c d e Gress, Jesse (July 2009). "10 Things You Gotta Do To Play Like Leslie West". Guitar Player 43 (7): 78-86. 

External links


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