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Chuck Leavell (born Charles Alfred Leavell, April 28, 1952) is an Americanmarker pianist and keyboardist, who was a member of The Allman Brothers Band during the height of their popularity, a founding member of the jazz-rock combo Sea Level, a frequently-employed session musician, and later, the keyboardist for Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.


Born in Birmingham, Alabamamarker, Leavell is a mostly self-taught musician. Inspired by seeing Ray Charles in concert (with Billy Preston in the backup band) to pursue a career in the industry, he dropped out of high school. Leavell made contacts with Macon, Georgiamarker-based Capricorn Records, where he met his future wife, and relocated to Georgia.

Leavell joined the Allman Brothers in September 1972, when they decided not to recreate their dual lead guitar sound after the death of Duane Allman (who had died the previous October), but rather to use a different instrument as the second lead. Leavell's work was most prominent on the band's popular 1973 album Brothers and Sisters, and in particular on the heavily-played instrumental "Jessica". However, only one studio album, 1975's Win, Lose or Draw followed, again with Leavell's ebullient piano and keyboard work featured, but with a group on the brink of destruction.
Leavell with Sea Level

While opening shows for the Allman Brothers Band with Allman's bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jaimoe, Leavell stepped up as a frontman for the first time in his career. After the Allmans disbanding in May 1976, the trio added guitarist Jimmy Nalls and set about touring behind the moniker Sea Level, derived from Leavell's first initial and last name. The group lasted five years and released as many albums, each featuring a different configuration of the group.

After the group's disbanding, Leavell went to work as a studio musician, within a matter of months joining the Rolling Stones as second road keyboardist behind Ian Stewart for the band's 1982 European Tour. After Stewart's 1985 death, Leavell occupied the role of the group's road keyboardist by himself, frequently playing on studio recordings as well. He continues to go on tour with the Stones, as of 2006 as part of their record-grossing A Bigger Bang Tour. He serves as the unofficial "musical director" for the band and devises each night's set list with Mick Jagger. "It's my job to keep Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie all happy", Leavell says on his web page.

In addition to his work with the Rolling Stones, Leavell has worked with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Gov't Mule, Train, The Black Crowes, Montgomery Gentry, and countless others in the studio and on the road in addition to recording three solo albums. Leavell's unique talent can be heard most prominently on Clapton's "Unplugged" record as he tears through the keyboard solo on the song 'Old Love'.

In 2003, Leavell participated in the annual improvisional musical experiment known as Zambiland Orchestra in Atlanta.

Leavell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Famemarker.

Leavell is a tree farmer in Twiggs County outside Macon, Georgiamarker, an occupation that began when he inherited land in the early 1980s. Owner with his wife of Charlane Plantation, he is a two-time Georgia Tree Farmer of the Year, and is a staunch supporter of conservation and environmental protection. In 2006, Leavell wrote a children's book, The Tree Farmer. In 2006 Leavell was appointed by Governor Sonny Perdue to the Georgia Land Conservation Council.

Leavell enjoys "giving back" to the community of his birth. In 1992, he played on a record titled "Mr. President," which was produced by noted Birmingham jazz keyboardist and vocalist Ray Reach for the purpose of raising money for the homeless in the Birmingham, Alabama area. Chuck and several other well-known Alabama musicians (including Wayne Perkins, Chuck Tilley, Charlie Hayward and Kelley O'Neal) donated their time for this worthy project.

In an April 2007 radio interview on WOR-AMmarker, Leavell said his three favorite contributions to songs in his career were "Jessica" with the Allmans, "Old Love" on Eric Clapton's Unplugged, and "Already Over Me" from the Rolling Stones' "Bridges to Babylon" record.

On March 20, 2008, Chuck Leavell was given a BAMA Award (Birmingham Area music Award) for his contributions to the Birmingham, Alabama musical heritage. The 2008 BAMA Awards ceremony was held at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Famemarker (in the historic Carver Theatre in the Birmingham Civil Rights District). Chuck performed at this ceremony, accompanied by the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars directed by Ray Reach. Also, at the same ceremony, a BAMA Award was bestowed upon keyboardist / producer Peter Wolf.

In April 2008, Leavell performed with a supergroup which opened for Chuck Berry in Boston. The concert raised money for artists struggling with addiction.

Leavell and Joel Babbit are the co-founders of The Mother Nature Network, an environmental news and information website that launched in January 2009. Leavell serves as director of environmental affairs and sits on the board of directors for the new company. He hosts two video series on "Love of the Land," in which he discusses sustainability and conservation issues, and "The Green Room," a series in which he interviews fellow celebrities about the environment and their philanthropic work.


Solo albums

  • (1998) What's in That Bag?
  • (2001) Forever Blue: Solo Piano
  • (2005) Southscape
  • (2007) Live In Germany-Green Leaves and Blue Notes Tour

With others

Gov't Mule

The Allman Brothers Band

The Rolling Stones


  • Leavell, Chuck, with Mary Welch. Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest. Evergreen Arts, 2001. ISBN 0-86554-900-1.
  • Leavell, Chuck, with J. Marshall Craig. Between Rock and a Home Place. Mercer University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-86554-975-3.
  • Leavell, Chuck. Chuck Leavell: Piano Instruction, Vol. 1 (DVD) 2005.
  • Leavell, Chuck, Nicholas Cravotta, and Rebecca Bleau. The Tree Farmer. VSP Books, 2005. ISBN 1-893622-16-9.


  1. " A Rolling Stone Goes 'Green'," ABC News video (2009-03-16)

External links

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