Chuck Leavell Biography
Chuck Leavell (born April 28, 1952) is an American pianist and keyboardist, who was a member of The Allman Brothers Band during the height of their popularity, a founding member of the jazz-rock combo Sea Level, a frequently-employed session musician, and later, the keyboardist for The Rolling Stones.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Leavell was a mostly self-taught musician. Inspired by seeing Ray Charles in concert (with Billy Preston in the backup band) to pursue a career in the industry, he dropped out of high school. Leavell made contacts with Macon, Georgia-based Capricorn Records, met his wife-to-be there, and relocated to Georgia.
Leavell joined the Allman Brothers in September 1972, when they decided not to recreate their dual lead guitar sound after the death of Duane Allman (who had died the previous October), but rather to use a different instrument as the second lead. Leavell's work was most prominent on the band's popular 1973 album Brothers and Sisters, and in particular on the heavily-played instrumental "Jessica". However, only one studio album, 1975's lackluster Win, Lose or Draw followed, again with Leavell's ebullient piano and keyboard work featured, but with a group on the brink of destruction.
While opening shows for the Allman Brothers Band with Allmans bassist Lamar Williams and drummer Jaimoe, Leavell stepped up as a frontman for the first time in his career, and after the Allmans disbanding in May 1976, the trio added guitarist Jimmy Nalls and set about touring behind the moniker Sea Level, derived from Leavell's first initial and last name. The group lasted five years and released as many albums, each featuring a different configuration of the group.
After the group's disbanding, Leavell went to work as a studio musician, within a matter of months joining the Rolling Stones as second road keyboardist behind Ian Stewart for the European segment of the group's Tattoo You Tour. After Stewart's 1985 death, Leavell occupied the role of the group's road keyboardist by himself, frequently playing on studio recordings as well. He continues to go on tour with the Stones, as of 2006 as part of their A Bigger Bang Tour. He serves as the unofficial "musical director" for the band and devises each night's set list with Mick Jagger. "It's my job to keep Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie all happy", Leavell says on his web page.
In addition to his work with the Rolling Stones, Leavell has worked with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Gov't Mule, Train, The Black Crowes, and countless others in the studio and on the road in addition to recording three solo albums.
Leavell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
In addition to this, Leavell is a tree farmer outside Macon, Georgia, an occupation that began when he inherited land in the early 1980s. Owner with his wife of Charlane Plantation, he is a two-time Georgia Tree Farmer of the Year, and is a staunch supporter of conservation and environmental protection. In 2006, Leavell wrote a children's book, The Tree Farmer.