Chuck Leavell has been pleasing the ears of music fans for more than 40 years now. His piano and keyboard work has been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, The Black Crowes, George Harrison, The Allman Brothers Band, The Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, Train, Montgomery-Gentry, Lee Ann Womack and many, many more. In addition to being a well established pianist/artist in the music industry, Leavell is also a published author, long time tree farmer, co-founder of the popular website The Mother Nature Network, and keeps busy with his advocacy work on behalf of the environment. At the age of 13, Chuck got the opportunity to see Ray Charles in concert. He recalls, “Ray and the band played an incredible show, and it had such an impact on me that I made up my mind there and then that that was what I wanted to do. I decided that night what I wanted as my career.” When he was 15, Leavell made his way to Muscle Shoals, AL, and the legendary studios there, where he played on several records, including Freddie North’s soul classic Don’t Take Her, She’s All I’ve Got.
In 1970 Chuck moved to Macon, GA, where Southern music impresario Phil Walden had recently opened Capricorn Records and studio. There he worked his way through the ranks recording and touring with Alex Taylor (brother of James Taylor), Dr. John, country legend Kitty Wells, The Marshall Tucker Band and others. In 1972 having just turned 20 years old, Leavell was asked to join the Allman Brothers Band. The first album he recorded with the band was Brothers and Sisters, which included the classics “Ramblin’ Man” and “Jessica.” The album hit number one on Billboard’s Pop charts, and he went on to record several more albums with them before the Allmans temporarily disbanded in 1976.
Emerging from the break-up of the Allman Brothers Band, Leavell formed the rock/jazz/blues fusion group Sea Level with Allman’s drummer Jaimoe. The band toured relentlessly during the late ’70s and released five critically acclaimed albums. Catching the ears of and becoming friends with the late rock ‘n’ roll impresario Bill Graham and keyboardist Ian Stewart, the original “sixth” Rolling Stone, in 1982 he was invited to assume a significant keyboardist/vocalist/musical director role for the Stones that continues today. Says guitarist Keith Richards: “Without the continuity that Chuck brings to us, the Stones would not be the Stones.” Leavell describes his role with the Stones as a “sort of musical navigator” who keeps track of arrangements and keeps things balanced in addition to spicing up the music with his keyboards. In 1999, Leavell released his first seasonal album, What’s In That Bag? on Capricorn Records. Since that time it has become a holiday favorite and it continues to rate highly every year in Christmas CD sales.
In 2001, Leavell released Forever Blue: Solo Piano, a collection of seven original songs and three classics including “Georgia On My Mind.” With this release, Leavell reached down deep in his soul and his roots and created an extraordinary piece of work. Forever Blue is still one of the most popular solo pianos CDs around.
His next release, Southscape has been described as “Southern Jazz”, and is Leavell’s musical portrait of the south he grew up in and still lives in today. The nine tracks include eight new songs written or co-written by Leavell and a wonderful re-visitation of the classic “Jessica” that he is so well known for.
The record-breaking 2005-2007 Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang” tour marked Chuck’s 25th year with the band, and the 147 show tour proved yet again that the Stones are indeed the “World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band.” But Leavell didn’t stop at the end of that tour…he immediately put a band together in Germany and did his own tour of Europe in September of ’07 called “Green Leaves and Blue Notes” that resulted in his double disc live recording, “Live In Germany”, released in spring of 2008. Since then, he has continued recording with various including, the Montgomery-Gentry Band, Miranda Lambert, Heidi Newfield, and two new Nashville artists, Lady Antebellum and David Nail. He also recorded with Mike Gordon of Phish on his “The Green Sparrow” CD.
He then focused on a new book called “Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable”, which has become one of the most appreciated and celebrated books about “Smart Growth”. He also embarked on recording a new CD called “Back To The Woods: A Tribute to the Pioneers of Blues Piano”, which has become a classic appreciation of blues piano. He spends much of his time in-between projects working on The Mother Nature Network (mnn.com), which has become the most visited environmental website in the world that he co-founded with his partner, Joel Babbit, in January of ’09.
More about Chuck Leavell:
In addition to his musical expertise, Leavell is also a respected authority on forestry and conservation. In 2001, he penned “Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest.” This book is now in its second printing in the U.S. and has been translated and released in Germany and Austria. Leavell is a highly sought after speaker on the subject, invited by various committees, environmental officials and high level government officials to share his knowledge and help shape forest policy in America. Along with several conservation recognitions, he and his wife Rose Lane were given the ultimate honor for their outstanding management of their own forestland, Charlane Plantation in Macon, Georgia, by being named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999. Today, Leavell plays a strong role in environmental issues in the US and beyond. He has served as a Board member of several important and influential organizations including the American Forest Foundation, the US Endowment for Forests and Communities, the Georgia Land Conservation Council and others. His name is well known on Capitol Hill for his advocacy work on behalf of the environment, and he has played a solid role in forming the forest component of the past three US Farm Bills.
Leavell’s autobiography entitled “Between Rock and a Home Place” has garnered flattering reviews with one critic even declaring it the “best rock autobiography ever.” Taking the reader from his early days as an upstart musician in Alabama in the late ’60s to his classic ’70s years with the Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level and his many sessions as a premiere sideman to his more than 25 years with the Rolling Stones and much more in-between, this book rocks. Leavell also discusses his passion for forestry and the environment as well as his dedication to his family. The book has been translated into Japanese and released there in 2008.
In late 2006, Leavell released his third book, a wonderful children’s book called “The Tree Farmer”. Beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Bleau, it has won several top awards including the “Growing Good Kids” honor; the “Media Award” from The National Arbor Day Foundation; and a special “Book of the Year” award from the American Farm Bureau. He also and manages plenty of time to work on Charlane Plantation, his beloved hunting and pristine pine forest plantation.
Back in the late 90′s People Magazine called Chuck Leavell “the sixth Rolling Stone,” but accompanying the story was a picture of him hugging a tree. The New York Times, meanwhile, says he’s “a man who can see the forest for the trees and helps nurture it” in a story topped by a picture of Leavell onstage with Mick Jagger. The truth is that Leavell is all those things – and more. He’s one of music’s most respected and sought-after pianists, a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and a modest man who has a knack for taking his talents to the right places at the right times. At his home in rural Georgia, you can find Leavell working in the woods, playing his piano and declaring he’s fortunate to have three real passions in his life: “My family, my trees and my music,” he says. “I have no intentions of slowing down in music now!! Maybe one day I will hang up my rock ‘n’ roll shoes… and if so, it will be right here on a pine tree.”
2015 — Leavell tours with The Rolling Stones on their “Zip Code Tour” of North America, playing 17 sold out shows …15 of which were stadium shows. Total attendance was around 750,000. Leavell also continues his conservation work giving speeches to the US Industrial Pellet Assn.; The Colorado Open Lands Trust; SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) annual conference and the Fortune Brainstorm E conference. He also books several solo concerts and makes guest appearances with artists like Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Widespread Panic.
2014 — Leavell performs in the core band backing an array of star guest artists in a tribute to his longtime friend Gregg Allman at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. The performance is made into a DVD and CD titled “All My Friends”. He also is in the core band and is a featured artist on a tribute to Dr. John at the Sanger Theater in New Orleans along with another all-star cast. He then tours with The Rolling Stones in several countries outside the US on the “14 on Fire Tour”. Countries included several in Europe; United Arab Emirates; Japan; China; Israel; Australia and New Zealand. Another sold out stadium tour for the Stones!
2012-2013 — John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” CD with Chuck on several songs is released May of 2012. Chuck hits the road again starting in late 2012 and going into 2013 with the Stones for their “50 and Counting Tour”. There were 29 dates in the UK and in the US, proving that after 50 years the Stones are still on top of their game and on top of the World. Leavell continues his relationship with John Mayer, recording with him on John’s “Paradise Valley” CD which is released summer of 2013
2011 — Leavell releases his fourth book, “Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable”, a book about “Smart Growth”. Does media tour to promote. He also records with John Mayer for his “Born and Raised” CD. The sessions take place in NY and LA. He also does many solo dates and does shows in Germany with the HR Big Band. He participates in several events and conferences including the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference on behalf of The Mother Nature Network.
2010 — Chuck inducts The Black Crowes into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Books many solo dates and does video series for The Mother Nature Network called “In The Green Room”. Is selected for the first time as one of the “100 Most Influential Georgians” by Georgia Trend magazine. Releases the second edition of his book, “The Tree Farmer”, originally released in 2005. Gives several speeches to various groups including a keynote to Virginia Tech University.
2009 — Chuck co-founds The Mother Nature Network (www.mnn.com) with partner Joel Babbit. Opens offices in Atlanta. MNN rises quickly into the top 10 most visited environmental website. Chuck starts video series on MNN called “Love of The Land”. Participates in “50 Winters Later”, which is a tribute to Buddy Holly and others that died in the plane crash in 1959. Event takes place at the legendary Surf Ballroom. Artists include Graham Nash, Wanda Jackson, Peter and Gordon, Dave Mason and others. Chuck gives keynote address to the National Press Club and appears on several national TV and radio media to promote MNN. Makes special appearance as a guest artist with the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theater in New York.
2008 — Leavell releases his Live In Germany double disc CD. Leavell also records with Montgomery-Gentry; new country trio Lady Antebellum; and with Mike Gordon (bass player, singer and composer for the band Phish). Leavell is bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Central Michigan University. He gives keynote addresses to several important environmental events, including The Florida Land Trusts, The National Wild Turkey Federation, The Presidential Seminar and Fortune Magazine’s “Brainstorm Green”.
2007 — Leavell finishes up two years on the road with the Rolling Stones on the “A Bigger Bang” tour. Just after that he starts his own “Green Leaves and Blue Notes” tour resulting in a live CD called Live In Germany. His autobiography “Between Rock and a Home Place” is translated into Japanese and released there.
2006 — In between short breaks on the Stones “A Bigger Bang” tour, Leavell records with several artists including country music’s Miranda Lambert and Canadian legend Collin James. He also steps up his advocacy work on environmental issues and is named to several Boards including The Georgia Land Conservation Council, The U.S. Endowment for Forests and Communities, and The American Forest Foundation. Leavell is bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Mercer University in Macon, GA.
2005 — Leavell joins the Rolling Stones in the studio for the recording of A Bigger Bang, their first CD of all-new material in nearly eight years and prepares for the tour, which will start August 21 and run through 2007 after dates all over the world. He also releases his third book, “The Tree Farmer”, a children’s book. It gets instant acclaim and receives several awards, including the National Arbor Day “Book of the Year”.
2004 — In April, Leavell, along with OutKast, Orlando Jones, Dallas Austin and Alex Cooley, received the prestigious Heroes Award from the Atlanta Chapter of the Recording Academy. The Awards celebrate outstanding individuals and institutions in Georgia who have made important contributions to the creative community. Past recipients include Ray Charles, James Brown, Fred Dinah Gretsch and Joel Katz. The following October, Chuck joined the ranks of many other great Georgia musicians when he was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
2003 — In January, CBS Sunday Morning interviews Leavell, spending 12 hours at Chuck’s home recording footage for the January 12 show. In December of that year, Leavell is invited to Washington, DC, for the signing of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act into law, and performs the national anthem. President Bush explained that Leavell was the keyboardist with the Rolling Stones and then drew laughter when he said, “they tell me he’s a tree raiser, a tree farmer, whatever you call them.
2002 — In January, FORTUNE Magazine publishes an extensive article on Leavell. In April, Leavell plays live for CNBC Lunch Hour from his home, Charlane Plantation in Dry Branch, Georgia. In May, CNN interviewed Leavell in at his home in Dry Branch, Georgia about his book, “Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest” which he began composing during the Rolling Stones’ Bridges to Babylon tour of 1998-1999. In October, The Rolling Stones CD Forty Licks is released, featuring Leavell on all four of the new songs, plus many of the old favorites from ’83 on. “The Forty Licks Tour” begins with Leavell on keyboards. In October, Leavell is interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition with Bob Edwards. In November he records with Richard Ashcroft on Human Conditions. He played on ‘Check The Meaning’, ‘Buy It In Bottles’ & ‘Lord I’ve Been Trying’. The album went straight into the UK chart at No.3.
2001 — Leavell publishes “Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest”. Using his Charlane Plantation as inspiration, the book touches on the history of the American forests, types of forests, the idea of urban forests, and the direction of conservation. Leavell releases his solo piano CD, Forever Blue. That same year Leavell accompanies Train on their song, “Drops Of Jupiter,” that goes on to receive a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
1999 — Leavell and wife, Rose Lane, win the prestigious National Outstanding Tree Farmer Award.
1998 — Leavell’s Christmas CD, What’s in That Bag? is released on Capricorn Records.
1992 — Leavell plays with George Harrison and Eric Clapton in Japan.
1992-1991 — Leavell contributed his talents to three of Eric Clapton’s albums – 24 Nights, Rush-The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and the Grammy-Award-Winning Album of the Year, Eric Clapton Unplugged.
1982 — Leavell joins the Rolling Stones on their “Tattoo You” summer tour of Europe.
1977 — Leavell forms Sea Level with fellow Allman Brothers Band members Lamar Williams and Jaimoe. They release their first album, the self-titled, Sea Level.
1972 — Leavell joins the Allman Brothers Band and records the classic Brothers and Sisters album.
What does Chuck Play?
Chuck uses the following keyboards with the Rolling Stones:
- Yamaha P-200 for piano sounds
- KORG Triton and Oasys synthesizers
- Keyboard Specialties Midi B Hammond organ
- Wurlitzer model 200 electric piano
For the “B” Stage”:
AT HOME ACCOUSTIC PIANOS: