Among the movers and shakers who met in New York last week to talk about climate change was Chuck Leavell, a slight, soft-spoken sixty-two-year-old piano player from Georgia. Though better known for the moving and shaking he does onstage—since 1982, he has been the Rolling Stones’ main keyboardist—Leavell has become an influential voice on an array of reforestation issues around the world. Heads of state have yet to find much common ground when it comes to climate change, but they appear to agree about the Rolling Stones. Presidents, senators, and high-ranking ministers all happily engage with Leavell about Stones songs, and when he smoothly changes the subject to wind farms, or biomass in Brazil, they listen.
Leavell was attending the U.N. Summit as a member of the Global Restoration Council, a new entity backed by the World Resources Institute. Another member is Bianca Jagger, and on the eve of the summit they met with a few other environmentalists at the Mandarin Hotel. One visitor ventured, “You two must have some friends in common in the Rolling Stones,” which drew an icy stare from Jagger, her eyebrows cocked like drawn bows. (She and her ex have not remained close.)
“Acquaintances,” Leavell proposed.
Leavell’s interest in the world’s trees began when he and his wife, Rose Lane, inherited an eleven-hundred-acre farm in Georgia, in 1981. Chuck took a forestry-management correspondence course while he was on a Fabulous Thunderbirds tour, and started planting trees. Years of managing his own land as a mixed-use forest that is a hunting preserve and a tree farm has made him aware of the economic and environmental benefits of planting trees. He is one of only three people in the U.S. to be made an honorary forest ranger. (The other two are Betty White and Arnold Schwarzenegger.) “One of my proudest possessions is an original forest-ranger hat,” he said. “Like my man Pharrell wears.”
Did Leavell talk to the other Stones about trees?
“At first, there was a lot of head-scratching—‘What’s he going on about the trees again for? What’s that all about?’ ”—he said. “But, you know, they understand my commitment to these issues, and the fact is we’re all parents and grandparents, we’re concerned about our children and grandchildren’s future, and we all have hopes we can make positive changes in those regards.”
From the Mandarin, Leavell and his wife walked up Broadway to the reception for the Equator Prize awards, which was held in the soaring atrium of Avery Fisher Hall. There Leavell became involved in a discussion with several State Department officials about upcoming Stones dates in Australia, next month, and soon moved on to the deforestation of palm trees in Indonesia by palm-oil producers. Among the group was Charles Barber, who, until recently, was the Forest Chief at the State Department and now works for the World Resources Institute.
“People listen to Chuck,” Barber said. “He knows how to tell the story, without getting into the weeds on issues like the price of softwood lumber.” He added, “A lot of actors don’t want to talk about their acting experiences; they want to talk about the issues. But Chuck loves to talk about the music.”
The conversation kept drifting back to the Stones. Couldn’t Chuck get the band to represent the issues onstage, somehow?
“You mean, like, Mick goes, ‘I’m a tree, I’m a tree.’ ” Leavell expertly mimed Jagger’s frantic rooster strut, imitating a tree.
“Keith would just be, like, ‘Plant a fuckin’ tree.’ ”
Leavell has met three Presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush—but before the summit he had never met Barack Obama. “He could be more of an R. & B. guy,” Leavell said at Lincoln Center.
The following night, after dinner at the Waldorf, they did meet.
Leavell said, “Mr. President, wonderful to meet you. I play with the Stones!”
“I play piano with the Rolling Stones.”
The President replied, “You must be, like, the youngest guy in the group!”
Leavell is the co-founder of IROCKU.com. The New York City Department of Education has selected the platform to provide rock and roll workshops.
“I have been fortunate in my career in music to have recorded and toured with many incredibly talented artists including a host of rock superstars,” Chuck said in a statement to Noise11.com. “All these years I’ve had fans, musicians, and teachers constantly ask me ” how can I learn to play like that”? Well, here’s how! I developed IROCKU’s online rock piano lessons to share my passion for the piano and to pass on what I’ve learned from over 40 years of playing with rock’s superstars. IROCKU is a system designed to teach anyone how to play rock and roll on the piano and we have a very simple mission- make learning to play rock piano easy and fun.”
IROCKU.com is an interactive platform where students and teachers can converse online, get feedback, ask questions and learn the tricks of the trade from experts in the field.
Each IROCKU lesson is presented in 7 different levels. Beginners start with levels 1-3, intermediate players hone their skills with levels 3-5 and advanced players challenge themselves to play the licks of rock’s greatest keyboardists with levels 5-7. For students just starting out, the IROCKU online “note learner” teaches the core concepts of music.
For a sample lesson, please visit: http://www.irocku.com/registration/
Ramblin’ and Rollin’: An Evening with Chuck Leavell at the Rylander Theater in Americus, GA – Sept 20
The Friends of the Rylander Theatre Present
Ramblin’ and Rollin’: An Evening with Chuck Leavell
Saturday, September 20th at 8pm
Kick off the 15th Anniversary Friends of the Rylander Theatre Presenter Series with an award winning concert event!
Grammy winner Chuck Leavell is best known as the keyboard/piano player for The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, John Mayer, and many more. This concert event will feature the legendary piano man in a storyteller setting, sharing tales from the road, and singing the songs that highlight his many years as an entertainer. For more info: www.chuckleavell.com
Tickets are $25 Reserved Seating / Box Office Hours: Tues–Fri, 11am–4pm
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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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