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YouTube Gold: Leon Redbone

A most singular figure in American music

Leon Redbone
 Leon Redbone performs Friday, April 2, 2004, at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center in Reading, PA. 
Photo By Bill Uhrich/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Leon Redbone was a very unusual musician. He first came to public attention in the early ‘70s. His style was out of step with the era: he generally wore a Panama hat and sunglasses, sometimes with a white suit, with short hair and a neatly trimmed goatee and mustache.

And he had a passion for American music from the 1890s through as late as the 1930s but generally earlier than later.

He was an immensely talented guitarist and had a rich baritone voice and completely won people over with his unique style.

Among others, Bob Dylan was a huge fan. He mentioned Redbone in an interview with Rolling Stone which sparked a lot of interest and Redbone soon had a recording contract.

The most amazing thing about Redbone, who was born as Dickran Gobalian in Cyprus, is that he never broke character. He absorbed the era that thoroughly fascinated him and lived that live until the day he died.

This song, Diddy Wa Diddie, is a great example of both his guitar work and his rich, eloquent voice. People often say so-and-so is one of a kind but in Redbone’s case, it’s absolutely true. We’re not sure anyone could ever pull off what he pulled off and we’re pretty positive no one would maintain a life-long character and then turn it into something which has and will endure.