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Our Man in Alabama

Erci GebhardtCarl 'Sonny' Leyland grew up near Southampton on the South coast of England. He cut his teeth playing with Local legend Bob Pearce in the 80's, before moving to New Orleans where he began to carve a career mastering a wide variety of piano styles.

He plays internationally and has played, toured and recorded with an impressive selection of the great and the good including Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets, Kim Wilson, James Harman and Champion Jack Dupree.

Now living in a small town called New Cuyama, about 2 hours north of Los Angeles, he's agreed to be "Our Man in California"...

Episode 2: Carl goes to Chicago to play some shows

October 2007

Hi All,

CSL here again with another Postcard from the West Coast.

I recently took a trip to Chicago which I thought might hold some interest for you readers of Blues in London. I played a couple of shows, the first of which took place at the picturesque Willowbrook Ballroom, a dance venue that has been around since the big band era. The other gig was at a small club called the Charleston and I have included some photos from that night.

Paterson / Leyland / Sample...

My backing band for these shows was the excellent Joel Paterson Trio. Joel was the guitarist for the now defunct Jimmy Sutton's Four Charms and is currently a member of acoustic trio Devil in a Woodpile. He is equally capable in in the blues or jazz vein which works out well with my repertoire. For the guitar geeks among you - Joel played a 1936 ES-150 Gibson (Charlie Christian) archtop & 1952 Gibson ES-350, through a 1965 blackface Fender Princeton Reverb. On bass was Beau Sample who used to lead the Texas rockabilly group Cave Catt Sammy. Beau recently moved to Chicago from Austin, TX where he was studying jazz at the university there. He is a most creative player who always manages to surprise me with his solos! The drummer, who I had not worked with before, was Alex Hall a capable player who is also a recording engineer with his own studio.

Sutton on Bass...
Sherry on harmonica...

There were a few sit ins that night. Rick Sherry, harmonica man & vocalist for Devil in a Woodpile gave us fine renditions of John Lee Williamson's 'Sloppy Drunk Blues' and Jr Wells' 'You Better Cut That Out'. Jimmy Sutton sat in on bass for a couple of tunes & showed us on his solos that he is one of the finest slap bass players around today.

An old friend who I hadn't seen since my days in New Orleans turned up - drummer Willie Panker. Willie had been a protege of blues great Freddy Below. Then after spending some years in New Orleans became a master of the drumming styles of that region. At one point he was the drummer for the Iguanas. He joined us on Roosevelt Sykes' 'High Price Blues' and Professor Longhair's 'Tipitina'.

So, a combination of good music, good company & an ample supply of Laphroaig single malt scotch made for a grand time at the Charleston. I hope to return there soon. Chicago is still a fun town and definitely a place worth visiting for music.

Well, my friends, that's about it for this installment.

All the best,
Carl Sonny Leyland

More about Carl, and some recordings on his website:

Read Carl's first instalment here