November 16, 2016
Funeral Services for Leon Russell Scheduled for Nashville and Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. — Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell, born Claude Russell Bridges on April 2, 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma, died November 13, 2016, at his home in Hermitage, Tenn.
Public funeral services will be conducted at 1 p.m. CST Friday, November 18, 2016, at Victory Baptist Church, 1777 Tate Lane, Mt. Juliet, Tenn. Visitation will be private.
Russell will then be transported to Tulsa, Okla., for public services on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 2 p.m. CST at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University. Doors will open at 1 p.m. CST.
A birth injury to Russell’s vertebrae caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his distinct musical style. His family moved to Tulsa, Okla., in 1953, where within a few years he began to play with various local bands and develop the musical skills that would make him an in-demand session player in Hollywood and eventual rock and roll superstar.
In 1960 Russell made the trek from Tulsa to Los Angeles to try to make it in the thriving music business. After playing gigs on a fake ID card with the name “Leon Russell,” he eventually joined the musician’s union, where he played on dozens of hit records including “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds, “Surf City” by Jan & Dean, “Birds and the Bees” by Jewel Akens, “Day After Day” by Badfinger, “Help Me Rhonda” by The Beach Boys, “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis and The Playboys, “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert and scores of others. Russell branched out in the mid-1960s into other areas of the music industry, arranging and producing for other recording artists and accumulating several gold records for his work.
By 1969 Russell had partnered with British producer Denny Cordell to form Shelter Records and ventured out on his own as a solo artist. He had been actively touring and recording ever since. The following year, Russell captured the public’s attention as the top hat wearing pianist and bandleader on Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour. He earned the nickname “The Master of Space and Time” during this tour.
Russell went on to become a headliner throughout the 1970s with his gospel-based, good-timey piano style and unique singing voice. He wrote and performed hits like “Tightrope,” “Delta Lady,” “Song for You” and “Superstar,” which have been covered by a host of artists and are mainstays on singing shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
With George Harrison and Bob Dylan, Russell was a prominent player in the 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh” at Madison Square Garden, which set the tone for future big charity concerts. The resulting recording won a Grammy for album of the year. In 2011 Russell was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his work as a musician, songwriter and producer.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Partnership with Native Americans (PWNA), Music Cares or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Funeral arrangements were made with Bond Memorial Chapel, North Mt. Juliet Road and Weston Drive, Mt. Juliet, Tenn., 615-773-2663, Obit Line 615-641-2663, www.bondmemorial.com.
Leon Russell’s personal archive will be a featured part of the OKPOP Museum currently being developed by the Oklahoma Historical Society for Tulsa's Brady Arts District.
The OKPOP Museum is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.