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Leslie West (born October 22, 1945) is an American rock guitarist, singer and songwriter.
He was born Leslie Weinstein in New York City, and grew up in Forest Hills. After his parents divorced, he changed his name to West. His musical career began with The Vagrants, one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of Manhattan itself (as opposed to the Greenwich Village scene of artists, bohemians, and Beat Generation types, which produced bands like The Fugs and The Velvet Underground). They had a minor local hit with a cover of Otis Redding's "Respect" in 1967.
The Vagrants' recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream. West and Pappalardi along with drummer Corky Laing and keyboardist Steve Knight would form the pioneering hard rock act Mountain in 1969. The original album was actually (and still is) credited to Leslie West, and named Mountain - supposedly an allusion to West's large size. They made up one of the bands considered to be part of early heavy metal. They had a mild success with "Mississippi Queen", which reached # 21 on the Billboard charts. It was followed by a mid-chart hit with a cover of Jack Bruce's "Theme For An Imaginary Western".
The original line-up on the solo album did not have a keyboardist, but one was added to keep the band from seeming like a Cream imitation (who Pappalardi had produced).
After the breakup of Mountain, West and Laing would form West, Bruce and Laing with Jack Bruce. Mountain reformed in 1973 to indifferent reactions.
West also recorded with The Who on a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It" in 1971. This track was not originally included on Who's Next, but has appeared on recent CD reissues. He also appears on demos for what became the group's signature rocker, "Won't Get Fooled Again" .
West continues to record and perform. His latest solo album entitled Blue Me was released in 2006 on the independent Blues Bureau label.
He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (www.limusichalloffame.org)on Oct 15, 2006
West is renowned for helping pioneer the Gibson Les Paul Jr. guitar, along with the use of Sunn Amplifiers, to create a tone which became his trademark sound. There were at least two of them in his collection, one "TV Yellow" and the other a sunburst. He used these Les Paul Jrs. 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 also a Dan Armstrong Ampeg lucite (clear) for slide guitar. Currently, he favours guitars equipped with dual humbuckers, plugged into Marshall amplifiers. During 1977 to 1982, he used a signature on-board effects MPC model guitar, created by the Japanese company Electra. Leslie West also has another signature guitar model with Ed Roman Guitars, entitled the "Leslie West Rocket". He currently has a signature model from Dean Guitars, a USA Soltero Leslie West Signature fitted with a custom designed Leslie West DiMarzio pickup known as the Megadrive. In 2005, Leslie received a sponsorship with Carlsbro amplifiers, and can frequently be seen playing through "Carlsbro 50 Top" valve heads. Leslie's studio amplifier is a Marshall JMP. His live amps are Marshall JCM 900s. He is well regarded for his use of octaver, chorus and delay effects.
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