Guitarist Leon Rubenhold talks about his career, Outlaw Blues Band and the 60s Psychedelic Blues/Rock era

"Music is such a powerful language which transcends all communication barriers. If used correctly it can influence vast amounts of people by delivering the message you want. You have to be careful in what you imply because the result might not be what you intended. Many have been irresponsible in their choice of message, and many have been spot on. I personally want my music to uplift and or impart the truth as it is and help raise the consciousness of the planet."

Leon Rubenhold: Galaxy of Sounds

Originally born in London England and raised in Los Angeles Ca, Leon Rubenhold's musical experiences range from being lead guitarist for R&B legends Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack and David Ruffin to writing tunes for soundtracks, artists and bands. He got an early start in music when he joined "The Outlaw Blues Band" at age 17. The band played all the clubs and outdoor "Love-in" concerts in L.A. during the "Peace, Love and Flowers" era, and recorded two albums for ABC "Bluesway" with the late great Jazz producer Bob Thiele (John Coltrane, Impulse Records, Buddy Holly, etc.) in which Leon wrote and cowrote the bands original material. The tune "Deep Gully" from the second album was sampled by the English Rap Group De La Soul and was a huge hit for them in 1993. Both albums are enjoying a resurgence on the internet from a reissue label. From there Leon joined an original recording band under the production and guidance of Little Feat leader Lowell George who presented the band to Earl McGrath (Rolling Stone Records), who signed the band to a recording contract on a new label with Atlantic Records Chairman Ahmet Ertegun.                             (Photo: Leon Rubenhold)

After many months Leon worked up a dozen original tunes with Lowell and the other members of the band unfortunately the label went out of business and thus the group disbanded. At that point, Leon went back to recording and touring as a freelance guitarist where he met songwriter/producer Deke Richards and in the course of a few years they wrote and recorded together for the Four Tops, Marin Jahan and tv/movie soundtracks. Leon's tune "Down In Roswell" a song about the crashed UFO incident caught the ear of movie producer Paul Davids and was picked up for the title track of the 2 part video package he was producing on the subject. Paul Davids again called on Leon to contribute material for 2 other projects of his. He selected 2 tunes for a documentary called "Timothy Leary's Dead", and one song for his film called "Starry Night" about Van Gogh. Leon has a 12 song Indie CD called "A Close Circle of Friends" in which he writes sings and performs on all the tracks with the help from a close circle of friends.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Of course, you are referring to the 60’s and early 70’s. Back then it was an attempt to be open to communicating on an equal level with no bias or prejudices. The music and the feeling of a generation of people trying to make things different in a positive way than what had preceded by putting love and joy first. A great concept on paper but difficult to bring into a reality. With that being said keeping that frame of mind as time moved ahead was challenging and still is but remains the basis of how I approach life.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

Difficult to describe a musical sound or style without hearing it. My sound is the sum of all the music that I love and feel. Incorporating elements from blues, early rock and roll, R&B gospel, soul, C&W, British invasion, jazz, American standard song book, bossa nova. If it’s well written musically and lyrically and swings it will get my attention. The key to a music life well lived is make sure you are doing it for yourself with or without money.

"Of course, you are referring to the 60’s and early 70’s. Back then it was an attempt to be open to communicating on an equal level with no bias or prejudices. The music and the feeling of a generation of people trying to make things different in a positive way than what had preceded by putting love and joy first. A great concept on paper but difficult to bring into a reality. With that being said keeping that frame of mind as time moved ahead was challenging and still is but remains the basis of how I approach life." (Photo: Original members of Outlaw Blues Band, circa 1966/7 with Rick Gilman, Victor Aleman, Phillip John Diaz, Joe Francis Gonzales, Leon Rubenhold)

Why do you think that the Outlaw Blues Band music continues to generate such a devoted following?

The band had a unique sound and was doing it for the love of music which showed in our approach to writing and playing. To be honest If it wasn’t for people like you, I would not be aware that there was that much or any interest in the band.

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far? Which meetings have been the most important experiences?

Regarding highlights there are too many to mention here. My website is full of examples. Some standout events are working with producer Bob Theile, meeting and talking with Kate Bush, being involved with the first intergalactic songwriting collaboration with Michael Horn, and Cladena Aikarina from the planet Erra for the song “The Silent Revolution of Truth”.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

A memorable opening act gig was playing with Bobby Womack and opening for the Rolling Stones on their “Still Life” tour in 1982. Jamming with Duane Allman with the Outlaw Blues Band. Recording with Steve Cropper on a P.P. Arnold recording session.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I mostly miss nowadays is being moved to my soul by the sound of a performance, live or recorded. Like when you heard Aretha Franklin singing on a new record. I hope in the future for some innovative spirit to come shining through and take us to a new level of creativity. My fear is that it might have already run its course.

"Difficult to describe a musical sound or style without hearing it. My sound is the sum of all the music that I love and feel. Incorporating elements from blues, early rock and roll, R&B gospel, soul, C&W, British invasion, jazz, American standard song book, bossa nova. If it’s well written musically and lyrically and swings it will get my attention. The key to a music life well lived is make sure you are doing it for yourself with or without money." (Photo: Leon Rubenhold on stage, Venice, California)

What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of Psychedelic Blues/Rock researches and experiments?

When something is new it always peeks the imagination to say, “what if” or “how about” and when you add mind altering substances to the mix which were new then also it just adds more excitement and a whole other dimension to it culminating in unknown results.

What is the impact of music on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music is such a powerful language which transcends all communication barriers. If used correctly it can influence vast amounts of people by delivering the message you want. You have to be careful in what you imply because the result might not be what you intended. Many have been irresponsible in their choice of message, and many have been spot on. I personally want my music to uplift and or impart the truth as it is and help raise the consciousness of the planet.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I have learned that everyone is affected and or influenced by music. In general people take music for granted and don’t give a second thought for it’s creation and the people who create it. It’s something that is just there like the air you breath and why should I have to support it. If you took music away it would be a profound absence in the world. Just try to imagine how bad a lousy TV show without a soundtrack of music would be or a movie with no emotional support which music supplies or those commercials that rely on quickie jingles, it would be so incomplete just as your life would be. So, the next time you pass by some street musician you like toss a buck or two in the tip jar. Remember people started playing music because of the love for it and the sharing to all.

Leon Rubenhold - Home

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