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Leslie West (born Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945) is an Americanmarker rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.


West was born in New York Citymarker, and grew up on Long Islandmarker, in East Meadowmarker, Forest Hillsmarker and Lawrencemarker. After his parents divorced, he changed his surname to West. His musical career began with The Vagrants, an R&B/Blue-eyed soul-rock band influenced by the likes of The Rascals that was one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of Manhattanmarker itself (as opposed to the Bohemian Greenwich Villagemarker scene of artists, poets and affiliates of the Beat Generation, which produced bands like The Fugs and The Velvet Underground). The Vagrants had two minor hits in the Eastern USmarker: 1966's "I Can't Make a Friend" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect" the following year.

Some of the Vagrants' recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream (he produced the seminal Disraeli Gears). In 1969, West and Pappalardi would form the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, also the title of West's debut solo album. 1969's Mountain did not feature a keyboardist, but one was later added to the band to keep them from seeming like a Cream imitation.

The band's original incarnation saw West and Pappalardi sharing vocal duties and playing guitar and bass, respectively, and Corky Laing on drums with keyboardist Steve Knight. They had success with "Mississippi Queen", which reached #21 on the Billboard charts and #4 in Canada. It was followed by the Jack Bruce-penned "Theme For an Imaginary Western". Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal music.

After the breakup of Mountain, West and Laing would produce two studio albums and a live release with Cream bassist Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. Mountain reformed in 1974 only to break up a few years later, but since 1985 has continued to tour and record.

West also recorded with The Who during the March 1971 Who's Next New York sessions on a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It" as well as an electric version of "Love Ain't For Keepin'". Though the tracks were not originally included on the album, they appear on the 1995 and 2003 reissues as bonus tracks. LAFK is only on the 2003 reissue and the 1998 reissue of Odds and Sods. He also contributes to the demo of what became one of the group's signature songs, "Won't Get Fooled Again", which also has been included on the reissues.

West also played guitar for the track "Bo Diddley Jam" on Bo Diddley's 1976 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.

Leslie West and Joe Bonamassa recorded Warren Haynes' "If Heartaches Were Nickels" together. West released it on Guitarded (2005), and Bonamassa on A New Day Yesterday (2000).

West contributed the music and co-wrote the lyrics to the song "Immortal" on Clutch's 2001 album Pure Rock Fury, which was a reworked cover of the song "Baby I'm Down" on Leslie West's first album.

In 2005 he contributed to Ozzy Osbourne's Under Cover album, performing guitar on a remake of "Mississippi Queen"

In addition to fronting Mountain, West continues to record and perform on his own. His latest solo album, entitled Blue Me, was released in 2006 on the Blues Bureau International label. In 2007 Mountain released Masters of War on Big Rack Records, an album featuring 12 Bob Dylan covers that sees Ozzy Osbourne providing guest vocals on a rendition of the title track.

West was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. .

West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, New Yorkmarker. West now lives in New Jerseymarker..

Johnny Ramone, a fan of West, has called him, "one of the top five guitar players of his era".

In September 2009, Leslie West: The Sound & The Story was released; a guitar instructional DVD from Fret12. The DVD includes the story and breakdown of Leslie's biggest hits, including "Mississippi Queen". Guest appearances from Zakk Wylde, Joe Satriani, Mark Tremonti, and Corky Laing are also included.


West is renowned for helping popularize use of the Gibson Les Paul Jr. guitar although using a British made Hayman for a few years on stage, along with the use of Sunn Amplifiers, to create a tone which became his trademark sound. The Junior was originally designed and sold as a beginner's instrument, but West was one of the first professionals to utilize the model on recordings and in concert performances. There were at least two of them in his collection, one "TV Yellow" and the other a sunburst. He used these guitars straight into Sunns from 1969 to 1975. In addition to the two Les Paul Jrs, he used a modified Gibson Flying V (with the neck pickup removed and a P90 fitted at the bridge position) circa 1971-1972, and a clear Dan Armstrong Ampeg lucite for slide guitar. Currently, he favours guitars equipped with dual humbuckers, plugged into Marshall amps. From 1977 to 1982, he used a signature on-board effects MPC model guitar, created by the Japanese company Electra. Another signature guitar model is manufactured by Ed Roman Guitars, entitled the "Leslie West Rocket". He currently also has a signature model from Dean Guitars, a USA Soltero Leslie West Signature fitted with a custom-designed Dean pickup called "Mountain of Tone".

In 2005, West received a sponsorship with Carlsbro amplifiers, and could frequently be seen playing through "Carlsbro 50 Top" valve heads. His studio amplifier is a Marshall JMP. For live performances he utilized Marshall JCM 900s. He is well-regarded for his use of octaver, chorus and delay effects. West is currently (2008) sponsored by Budda Amplification and plays them on tour.


For his work with Mountain and West, Bruce and Laing, see their pages.

A compilation of singles done in the 1960s by The Vagrants was released as The Great Lost Album in 1986.


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