Chuck Leavell spends a lot of nights together with the Rolling Stones. But the veteran piano player, who has been a de facto member of the legendary rock ’n’ roll band for more than three decades, gets just as much satisfaction from trees.
When he’s not playing with the Stones or other stars such as Eric Clapton and Greg Allman, Leavell manages a 2,900-acre tree farm and hunting lodge in Georgia that he runs with his wife. “I have a deep love of both things, working in the studio or on the stage, and working in the woods and entertaining our clients,” Leavell says. “Both have challenges and rewards.”
Leavell, 62, has long had to balance the demands of his business with those of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. When the Stones are touring—several months every few years—he’s on the road playing keyboards and serving as the band’s musical director, helping everyone remember the details of songs they wrote decades ago.
Back at home in Georgia, he tends to Charlane Plantation, about two hours southeast of Atlanta. The business has its challenges—he’s had to cope with the housing bust, which felled timber prices in recent years—but Leavell says he’s always re-energized by his return to the woods after weeks on the road. [...] Continue Reading…
Chuck Leavell at his home in Bullard, Ga. Jeff Herr for The Wall Street Journal
Pianist and author Chuck Leavell, 62, will be touring this fall with the Rolling Stones. He is co-founder of the Mother Nature Network, an online environmental news and information site. He spoke with Marc Myers.
Wood has a funny way of growing on you. When my wife’s grandmother passed away in 1981, my wife, Rose Lane, inherited 1,100 acres in Bullard, Ga. After we moved in, Rose Lane and I began purchasing adjacent tracts of land, bringing our total property to 3,000 acres. As far back as the early 1800s, much of the land had been devoted to row crops like corn, cotton and soybeans, and some livestock. Today, we use 70% of the acreage to grow and harvest trees.
I’ve been playing piano in rock bands like the Allman Brothers since the early 1970s, and since ’81 I’ve toured and recorded with the Rolling Stones. So I’ve always had a special feeling for wood and how different kinds affect the sounds of musical instruments. Trees and songs have an interesting correlation. Both are built to last, both have external texture and internal patterns, and no two are alike, which is sort of miraculous when you think about it. [...] Continue Reading…
Chuck Leavell: Stewardship & Partnership
Don’t miss an extraordinary evening with rock legend and environmental advocate Chuck Leavell.
Leavell has been playing and touring with the Rolling Stones for over 30 years. His piano and keyboard work have also been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, the Black Crowes, George Harrison, The Allman Brothers Band, and many more.
In addition to his musical expertise, Leavell is a respected authority on forestry and conservation. A long-time tree farmer and co-founder of The Mother Nature Network, he has authored several books on the environment and tree conservation. Leavell is a highly sought after speaker on the subject, often invited by government officials to share his knowledge and help shape forest policy in the United States. Leavell will share his thoughts on the future of forest stewardship and just might play a few tunes!
The Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of the families of Edwina & Tom Johnson and Duvall & Rex Fuqua. Proceeds benefit the conservation program at the Garden. [...] Continue Reading…
Louise Hudson peered from the kitchen of the H&H Restaurant and wondered about those skinny, long-haired boys at her table.
They looked hungry and broke. Several of them were shyly picking food from just one plate. Taking pains not to embarrass them, she brought more tableware and generously ladled out greens and smothered fried chicken, and then refused to charge them. This first “loaves and fishes” gesture for the Allman Brothers Band eventually would sanctify the H&H in the South’s music landscape.
Chuck Leavell: When I first came to Macon in search of a career in music, I was flat broke but full of hope. It wasn’t long before I began to get a few minor opportunities — a recording session here and there, an occasional gig sitting in. During that time, I first heard about the H&H. The word was that if you were a musician, they would feed you even if you didn’t have the money to pay. I was eventually introduced to Mama Louise at the H and she said, “Honey, don’t you worry — we’re gonna feed you and you can pay us later if you can, and if not, that’s just fine, too” I couldn’t believe there was someone that would do that. It just blew my mind. Eventually I started doing well and would take most of my meals there, patronizing her as much as possible and encouraging others to go there and experience the best soul food in the world. After I joined the Allman Brothers Band, Louise would occasionally do catering for us…and of course it was always top-notch. She became a part of our extended family, and it remains that way to this day. And even now when I do solo shows around town, she always shows up. Louise, you are our surrogate mother and we will always be your children! I love you more than words can say. [...] Continue Reading…
Performance doubles as tribute to flood-ravaged Nashville
Days before the Cumberland River flooded its banks in May 2010, leaving more than $2.3 billion of soggy destruction in its wake, Keith Urban moved some of his best guitars to a warehouse on the river’s eastern shore. The plan was to have everything in one place before May 5, when recording sessions for his seventh album, Get Closer, were supposed to begin. Satisfied with the move — and looking to spend one last weekend with his wife before the album’s start date — Urban packed his bags and caught a plane for Hawaii, where Nicole Kidman was filming a movie. While he was gone, a 1,000-year storm hit Nashville, leaving much of the town — including the warehouse — under several feet of water.
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SAN FRANCISCO — The doorway into Studio Trilogy isn’t particularly wide, so by all accounts, Chuck Leavell’s head shouldn’t be able to squeeze through it.
Both as a musician and an environmentalist, Leavell, 61, has reached heights that would swell the craniums of most mortals to blimp proportions. Keyboardist for the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Tree farmer, eco-pal of presidents and co-founder of the website Mother Nature Network.
Yet his ego gets checked at the door.
“I’m just a guy who loves music and loves this planet, and wants to see both thrive long after I’m gone,” Leavell says as he settles into a sofa not far from a recording space where Lada Gaga recently hit some high notes.
Leavell is on break from the current Stones tour — interrupted by the March suicide of Mick Jagger’s partner, L’Wren Scott — and in town to receive kudos from the think tank Pacific Forest Trust.
“We just got to 7 billion people here,” he says. “That means we’ll be facing a lot of resource challenges as a human race.”
Artists with causes aren’t a new tune, but the roots of Leavell’s commitment run deep. They were planted during a rural childhood in Alabama and blossomed after his wife, Rose Lane, inherited 1,000 acres of Georgia farmland near Macon not long after the couple married in the early 1970s.
“We were wondering what to do with some of it, and I looked around at the things I loved, like pianos, and, realizing they were made of wood, decided that sustainable forestry was something I wanted to do,” he says. [...] Continue Reading…
The Rolling Stones defied objections from boycotting musicians and exceeded expectations with a phenomenal performance last Wednesday night. The band played for 50,000 fans that packed the amphitheater at Hayrkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel. There were multiple trip ups, but the show finally went on.
The show began with opening song “Start Me Up” and when on for two hours. Other songs in the set included “It’s Only Rock and Roll”, “Angie”, “Honky Tonk Women” and “Brown Sugar”. The highlight of the concert was Mick Taylor joining the band on stage for a rendition of “Midnight Rambler”. The concert closed with a final encore of “Satisfaction”, which Mick Taylor also joined in on. After music ended there was a show of fire works as a finale.
This was the Rolling Stones first time playing in Israel, and their debut almost didn’t happen with the protests of fellow British rocker Roger Waters, lead singer of the band Pink Floyd. Waters tried repeatedly to convince the Rolling Stones to join in a boycott of Israel. He is a very vocal opponent of what Water’s believes to be Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. [...] Continue Reading…
Last night The Rolling Stones’ 14 On Fire World Tour continued at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain, where the band dusted off a long-lost Bob Dylan cover for the first time in over a decade.
At each show of the tour, The Rolling Stones have played a song requested by fans that has been determined by voting on social networks and beyond. A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” won out last night and the version the Stones delivered was their first take on the song since way back on September 29, 2003. The Stones’ “Like A Rolling Stone” was propelled by Chuck Leavell’s organ work and Keith Richards’ sharp rhythm guitar stylings. We don’t have as nice things to say about Mick Jagger’s harmonica solo.
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