Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


The night I interviewed Leon Redbone / Audio

By TOM D'ANTONI // Leon Redbone passed away this week. Here's a radio phoner I did with him c.1989 for the American Radio Network. I asked him, "Leon, people want to know 'where are you at?'"

Leon Redbone, troubadour from a distant time, died this week. He was unique. He sang Ragtime, Vaudeville, Blues and Jazz tunes. He was the foremost interpreter of the last of the blackface minstrels, Emmett Miller. Nobody seems to be mentioning that in the coverage of his death, but to leave that out would to be eliminating a giant portion of Leon's repertoire.

Deadpan, funny, a living ghost who put a smile on everyone's face, even if they didn't know why.

Circa 1989, I was doing a network radio talk show on the American Radio Network, based in Baltimore, MD. He agreed to do a phoner from his home near Philadelphia, PA one Saturday night, although that's not where he claimed to be when I called. Naturally, there were no cell phones so when I dialed area code 215, I knew where I was calling.

He told me I was mistaken and he was in Spain. It was the kind of thing he was known for. A god-natured shadowy figure of uncertain lineage singing now-obscure music.

He always sounded like an old man, even though, when we did this interview he was, and remained until his death, four years younger than I.

His heirs continued the joke when they announced his death at age 127.

The audio here is shitty. A very cheap audio cassette recorded on an inexpensive studio cassette machine. I did not edit, keeping in all of the radio ephemera, including the commercials.

Hard to believe this took place thirty years ago.

Use headphones. It's worth it.

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