Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Mountain guitarist Leslie West dead at 75

Famed Mountain guitarist Leslie West died in a Florida hospital on December 23 at the age of 75.

The rocker’s brother, Larry West Weinstein, confirmed the musician's passing to Rolling Stone; a cause of death was not immediately available, but West suffered cardiac arrest at his home near Daytona, FL on Monday and was rushed to a hospital, where he never regained consciousness.

Growing up in the New York City area, West’s first success came in the mid-1960s with the Long Island rock and soul outfit The Vagrants before leaving to go solo by the end of the decade.

West was joined on his 1969 solo debut, “Mountain”, by producer and bassist Felix Pappalardi, drummer N.D. Smart and keyboardist Norman Landsberg before evolving the project into a band of the same name. West and the outfit played their third show ever at the Woodstock Festival, although they did not appear in the event’s original companion feature film.

Drummer Corky Laing and keyboardist Steve Knight were on board for Mountain’s debut release, 1970’s “Climbing!”; the set featured the band’s signature song, “Mississippi Queen”, which reached No. 21 on the US charts and went on to become a staple of rock radio while helping the album reach the US Top 20.

“Nantucket Sleighride” – the first of two 1971 records – reached the US Top 20 while it’s follow-up, “Flowers Of Evil”, delivered a mix of studio and live recordings.

Following a few years of extensive touring, Mountain disbanded in early 1972, with West rebuilding it the following year before things shut down again in 1974 – the first of several times the band that would regroup in the decades that followed, occasionally accompanied by a new studio release, while West would continue to issue solo records.

West had his lower right leg amputated in 2011 as a result of complications from diabetes, and returned to live performances.

The guitarist is survived by his wife Jenni Maurer; the couple married onstage at a Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in 2009.