Leon Redbone



When Leon Redbone burst on the scene in the early 1970s, he did so under a shroud of mystery. No one, not even those considered his friends, knew where he was from, how old he was, or his real name. A walking caricature, Redbone shuffled through folk festivals in his rumpled three-piece suits from the Twenties, a wide-brim hat, sunglasses, and thick mustache. The only thing widely known about him was that he was a gifted singer and guitarist with a thorough knowledge of blues, urban folk, jazz, and ragtime. "Mr. Redbone doesn't just dig up the past, he embodies it," wrote New York Times reviewer Stephen Holden in 1981, "by dressing himself in the clothes of an old-time traveling minstrel and singing in a voice that is a stylistic composite of early Southern blues and vaudeville performers." Although today his voice is familiar to many, due to countless television jingles hawking everything from beer to laundry detergent, he remains an enigmatic figure whose musical tastes and presentations have gone unchanged for more than twenty years.

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