Leon was a native of Houston, Texas. How could anyone forget Bob Wills when he'd call out on his
recordings, "take it away, Leon...". A reknowned steel guitarist
bar none. Take a listen to "Steel Guitar Rag". He was part of
the Bob Wills sound for many years. Later on, he formed his own
band. And was at one time recording on Cimarron records. He just about
adopted Tulsa, Oklahoma as a home town from his many years there both
with Bob Wills and his own band. Let's read about this famed steel
guitarist and band leader.
He was held in such high regard by the folks in Tulsa, that the
Tulsa Chamber of Commerce held a program dedicated to Leon, in the
spring of 1952 or 1953.
Leon started his career off playing with W. Lee O'Daniels' Lightcrust
Doughboys. Then he moved on to play with legendary Bob Wills and his Texas
Playboys. Bob Wills had a habit of saying "Take it away, Leon..." as
part of the recordings and performances and it became one of those
things that became part of hillbilly lore. He did about 50 recordings
with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys while he was with them.
Then, in 1945, Leon organized his own band. Around mid-1953, it looks
like their most recent release was "Sugar and Salt" that featured a
vocal by Jimmy Hall. The flip side was a tune called "Panhandle Waltz",
a steel guitar number featuring a solo by Leon.
Around mid-1953, he doing a daily show over the 50,000 watt KVOO
in Tulsa from 12:15pm. He also appeared on Wednesday nights at 11:00pm
as well as Saturday nights at 10:30pm on a show called the "Western
Leon and his band also played for the dancers every Wednesday and
Saturday evenings at the Cimmaron Ball Room in Tulsa as well as
other personal appearances in the area.
Leon was married and had two kids, a daughter and son.
Credits & Sources
- Cowboy Songs No. 27 (July 1953); American Folk Publications,
Inc.; Derby, CT.