Chuck Leavell (born Charles Alfred Leavell) is an American pianist and keyboardist, who was a member of The Allman Brothers Band throughout 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 Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones.
He started his first band, The Misfitz, in 1966. The Misfitz played a steady gig at the YMCA every Friday night, and eventually were the band for a Saturday morning television show, Tuscaloosa Bandstand. After the breakup of the Misfitz, Leavell did session work, and found himself on his first Gold Record.
In 1969, Hornsby moved to Macon, Georgia. to work for Capricorn Records as a studio musician and producer, eventually producing such artists as The Charlie Daniels Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and others.
Gregg Allman and Johnny Sandlin introduced the rest of the Allman Brothers Band to Leavell, and Leavell joined the band 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 "Win, Lose or Draw", followed, again with Leavell's ebullient piano and keyboard work featured, but with the band in chaos, and on the brink of destruction.
While opening shows for The Allman Brothers Band with The Allman Brothers' bass guitarist Lamar Williams and drummer Jaimoe, Leavell stepped up as a frontman for the first time in his career. After The Allman Brothers Band 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.
Leavell's first encounters with The Rolling Stones where auditions on Long View Farm for the spot of piano player alongside Ian Stewart for the Rolling Stones 1981 United States tour. Leavell guested at the Rolling Stones' Atlanta gig on October 26, 1981. For the 1982 European Tour Leavell landed the position of keyboardist alongside Ian Stewart. Leavell continued to record with the Stones on their next two albums, during a time when the band was not touring. After Stewart's death in 1985, Leavell occupied the role of the group's keyboardist by himself, with the exception of the addition of Matt Clifford on the Steel Wheels record and tour. He has continued to tour and record with The Rolling Stones ever since, as well as recording with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on solo projects.
In addition to his work with The Rolling Stones, Leavell has worked with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Gov't Mule, Train, Tinsley Ellis, The Black Crowes, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Montgomery Gentry, John Mayer, Miranda Lambert amongst many others in the studio and on the road in addition to recording five solo albums.
In February 2012, he and the other existing members of the Allman Brothers Band received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his time in the band from 1972-1976, Leavell performed two shows with the reunited Allman Brothers Band in 1986. Since 2001, he has performed as a guest pianist at more than a dozen Allman Brothers Band concerts, including multiple shows at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
Leavell is a tree farmer in Twiggs County 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.
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