The Central Lakes College Cultural Arts Series, in collaboration with Minnesota Public Radio, presents Tin Pan Alley enthusiast Leon Redbone for a 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday, April 21 in Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus. Neo vaudeville crooner Redbone is a gem of American music who has made an indelible stamp on popular culture. At the core of his initial calling was the desire to simply honor songs from the past – a waltz with bygone days that established him as sole curator of the museum of 20th century music.
Combining performance, comedy, and skilled instrumentals, the musically resonant and personally elusive Redbone has enthralled audiences onstage, on TV, and in films with this trademark Panama hat and dark glasses and his renditions of such sentimental favorites as “Harvest Moon,” “Walking Stick,” and “You’re Going to Miss Me When I’m Gone.”
The cigar-smoking, comedic Redbone continues his 40-year love affair with tunes from the turn-of-the-century (as in the second-to-last century), flapper-era radio ditties, Depression-spawned ragtime, and World War II folk-jazz.
“I’m just an entertainer, and I use music as a medium for entertaining,” he said. “But I’m not really an entertainer either, because to be an entertainer it implies you have a great desire to want to entertain.”
Redbone made his recording debut in 1976 with On the Track, which featured legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti as well as singer/songwriter Don McLean; his 1977 follow-up Double Time even reached the U.S. Top 40 charts, largely on the strength of his frequent appearances on television’s “Saturday Night Live.”
He performed the theme song for the popular 1980s sitcom Mr. Belvedere, as well as “Your Feet’s Too Big,” the theme from the syndicated sitcom Harry and the Hendersons. He appears regularly on the PBS children’s show “Between the Lions.”
He did a cover of Frank Loesser’s romantic Christmas song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanel for the closing credits of the 2003 film “Elf.” He also voiced the character of Leon the Snowman in the same film.
If there is one common element to Redbone’s diverse music it’s his mastery of his acoustic guitar. It is easy to get lost in his stage exploits (which often gravitate between vaudeville and performance art) and overlook what a truly fine player he is – finger picking with a ragtime bounce of jumping between chords with the grace of a hurdler. (Maybe the analogy should be with the grace of a card shark, because he makes it look so effortless it can often be deceiving.)
Tickets ($10-$25) can be purchased at www.clctickets.com, or by contacting the CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199. Cultural Arts Series information, including links to each artist’s website, can be found at www.clcmn.edu/theatre
MPR members should ask for a membership discount when purchasing tickets (available by phone sales or at the box office window only).