Leslie West

October 22, 1945

Leslie West Artistfacts

  • Leslie West went to Forest Hills High School, a public secondary school in Queens, New York. The Ramones, Burt Bacharach and Paul Simon also attended the same school. Leslie West recalled to us: "The Ramones, they were younger than me, but Johnny Ramone lived across the street from me when I lived in Forest Hills. Before they were a group, he wanted to be our roadie. I didn't graduate, by the way."
  • West has been performing since 1965, when he fronted the soul-fired The Vagrants in his native New York City. His brother Larry played bass. They had two minor hits in the Eastern US: 1966's "I Can't Make a Friend" and a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect" the following year.
  • In 1969, West and Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with the British psychedelic blues-rock trio Cream, formed the pioneering hard rock act Mountain. The band name was also the title of West's debut solo album and was a reference to his one-time physical bulk.
  • Mountain appeared on the second day of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969. They started a historic 11-song set at 9PM.
  • Rolling Stone placed West at #66 on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists."
  • West's repertoire continues to be relevant with enduring appeal to this day as "Long Red," which appeared on his Mountain album contains one of the most sampled drum breaks in the history of hip hop music. The most famous use was by Jay-Z for his 2003 mega-smash "99 Problems."
  • On June 20, 2011 West had his lower right leg amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. He was operated on just after his Mascot Label Group release, Unusual Suspects, as recorded. "I'm lucky it wasn't one of my hands or I'd be screwed," said West. "It was a difficult struggle, and after the amputation I didn't know whether I'd ever want to or be able to perform again. But a month later I played at the Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp in New York City, and I heard my guitar on stage and that was it. I knew I had to keep going."
  • West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage after Mountain's August 15, 2009 performance at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, New York.

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