APPLAUSE: Don Rhodes column
16 September 2004 – Augusta Chronicle
Few Georgia tree farmers can claim to have toured with the Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers and recorded with Eric Clapton and George Harrison.
Keyboardist Chuck Leavell can. When not onstage, he and his wife, Rose Lane, own and manage 1,500 acres of timber and wild game in Bullard, Ga., 20 miles southeast of Macon.
On Saturday night, he will step back into the spotlight as the newest artist inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in the performer category. The program at Atlanta’s World Congress Center will air locally at 8:30 p.m. on WCES-TV (Channel 20).
Other inductees will be: nonperformer, Hugh Jarrett, an Atlanta radio announcer and former Jordanaires vocal group member; pioneer inductee, gospel great Mattiwilda Dobbs; and posthumous inductee, Mary Lou Williams, Atlanta-born jazz pianist and composer, who died in 1981.
“It’s very flattering,” Mr. Leavell said last week by cell phone from his Charlane Plantation. “It came as a surprise to me, and I regard it as an incredible honor.”
You can read about Mr. Leavell’s musical accomplishments at chuckleavell.com or learn how you can hunt and fish on his farm at charlane.com. His life on and off the road also will be detailed in his autobiography, Between a Rock and a Home Place, coming out in November.
Older Southern rockers will remember Mr. Leavell as the leader of the 1970s band Sea Level, which was named after him. Get it?
The Alabama native was in his teens in the late 1960s when he began recording sessions in the fabled Muscle Shoals, Ala., studios, which were churning out monster rock hits with a soul groove. Shortly after Phil Walden opened Capricorn Records and studios in Macon, Mr. Leavell moved there in 1969 and hooked up with Alex Taylor (brother of James) and toured with him for more than a year.
That led to six months on the road with blues rocker Dr. John; five years and five albums with The Allman Brothers Band (including the 1973 Brothers and Sisters album); four years and five albums with Sea Level and the past 22 years and seven albums touring with The Rolling Stones.
Other projects have included three albums with Eric Clapton (including his Grammy-winning Unplugged) and playing with Train on the band’s Drops of Jupiter recording, which won the 2002 Grammy for Best Rock Song.
“Sure, many people look upon some of the people I’ve played with as icons and above being human, but they are human,” Mr. Leavell said. “They like much like we do with the same desires. They are people who laugh and cry.
“Whenever I go into any situation with any artist, I realize that I’m there to contribute and to focus on what I’m supposed to do to make my contribution valuable. I try to give 110 percent.”
At the heart of his musical and personal accomplishments is advice given to him by his father, an insurance salesman.
“Success is very much about relationships,” Mr. Leavell said. “It’s about what my dad taught me: You make your own luck. It’s learning how to be in the right place at the right time and maintaining those relationships and making them grow. I’ve been very fortunate at doing that.”
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