Leslie West dead at 75: the Mountain man leaves a legacy of timeless guitar riffs and killer tone

By Steve Newton

2020 is apparently not done taking our guitar heroes.

After the devastating death of Eddie Van Halen on October 6 of this year, now we’ve lost another six-string legend in Leslie West.

As I reported yesterday, West had been on a ventilator the last couple of days, after his heart gave out, but now comes news in a short Facebook post from his cousin Marty Weinstein that he has actually passed away:


When I interviewed West back in 2002, we actually talked about Eddie Van Halen a bit. I asked him what the last album was that he went out and bought, and it turns out it was Van Halen’s commercially disastrous 1998 release, Van Halen III.

“I bought the last Van Halen CD with [former Extreme vocalist] Gary Cherone,” explained the hefty fret-strangler, “not because of Gary so much, but Eddie and I are really good friends—in fact, he recently sent me some new amplifiers that he designed, and a guitar.

“So I’m always interested in hearing what he’s doing. And I just love Eddie to death; I mean, he got me playing again. In the ’70s I had stopped playing when I went to rehab, and he was the first guy I saw that really inspired me to start up again.”

Saddened rock-guitar fans may find some solace in the idea that West and Van Halen might now be exchanging cool riffs and wild licks up above. West was known for the killer tone he was able to concoct on tunes like Mountain’s biggest hit, “Mississippi Queen”.

“These days, I can pretty much get the ‘Mississippi Queen’ tone out of any guitar,” West said in an excerpt from an archival Guitar Player interview published recently. “[Pickup manufacturer] Larry DiMarzio once told me my tone was in my right-hand attack, and he was right.

“Also, I never felt like I needed a two- or three-pickup guitar, because you can get a lot of tones out of a single pickup. If you’re in a room filled with gasoline, how many matches do you really need? One good one and a backup!”

Rest in peace Leslie.

And somebody pass him a match.

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