By Steve Newton
Fans of Leslie West should send thoughts and prayers to the American rock-guitar legend.
Yesterday West’s brother, Larry West Weinstein, posted on Facebook that Leslie was gravely ill and near death after his heart stopped, and that he was put on a ventilator.
“I am asking for all your prayers,” wrote Weinstein. “Jenni is by his side in Florida but it’s not looking good. Thanks Jenni, he wouldn’t have made it this far without you.”
Weinstein went on to say: “His heart gave out and he’s on a ventilator. May not make it through the night.”
Leslie West is best known for his time as guitarist, vocalist, and main songwriter for Mountain, a wicked band that played its third gig at Woodstock and won over hard-rock fans in the seventies with tunes like “Mississippi Queen”, “Never in My Life”, “Nantucket Sleighride”, and its cover of Jack Bruce’s “Theme For an Imaginary Western”.
I was fortunate enough to have interviewed West back in 2002 when the latest version of Mountain was headed to Vancouver for a show at the Commodore Ballroom. I asked him about playing Woodstock, and he explained that his band managed to get the gig because their agent also handled Jimi Hendrix.
“That’s how we got on the show,” recalled West from his home in Inglewood, New Jersey. “We went on on Saturday night—which was the nicest night for weather—just as it was gettin’ dark, and I remember Creedence Clearwater came on after us, and Sly, the Who. The Dead went on before us. It was quite a night.”
As a teenager in the seventies I spent many an hour spinning Mountain’s live double-album, Twin Peaks, on my trusty Yamaha YP-701 turntable. That’s where my deep fondness for West’s heavy riffing–and the cowbell on “Mississippi Queen”–came from.
“Corky knows how to milk a cowbell,” noted West, referring to original Mountain drummer Corky Laing. “Actually, for ‘Mississippi Queen’ he just used it to count off the song, and we just left it on [the record]. It seemed to work.”
My thoughts are with you Mr. West. Thank you for the wonderful music you gave the world.