Childhood & Early Life
Chuck Leavell was born Charles Alfred Leavell on 28 April 1952, at Birmingham, Alabama in the USA.
He was inclined towards music since childhood and learnt to play instruments like the piano, guitar and tuba at an early age. When he was 13, he got the opportunity to meet Ray Charles at a concert and he has stated that the experience influenced him to pursue music as his career.
In 1966, he formed his musical band called ‘The Misfitz’. The band performed regularly for YMCA as well as a television show. However, in a short while the band separated.
At the age of 15, he travelled to Muscle Shoals in Alabama and performed for several records at the renowned studio present there. His work included Freddie North’s classic ‘Don’t Take Her, She’s All I’ve Got’.
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In 1970, he shifted to Macon in Georgia and became part of Capricorn Records as a studio musician. As part of work, he spent time touring with musician Alex Taylor, The Marshall Tucker Band, country music singer Kitty Wells, singer and songwriter Dr, John among several others.
In 1972, he got an offer to be part of the American Rock band, Allman Brothers Band. His debut album with this band was titled ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and it comprised of songs like ‘Jessica’ and ‘Ramblin’ Man’. This album became a Billboard Pop Chart Topper and he went on to be part of the album ‘Win, Lose or Draw’ that was released in 1975. The Allman Brothers Band temporarily separated in 1976.
Towards the end of 1976, he, along with a guitarist lamar Williams and drummer Jaimoe of the Allman Brothers formed a new band named the ‘Sea Level’. The band lasted for five years and during this period they released multiple albums. It was then that Chuck Leavell got the opportunity to be frontman of the group.
In 1982, he was offered the role of a vocalist, music director and keyboard artist with the English rock band Rolling Stones on their 1982 European Tour. According to him, his role in the band is that of a musical navigator, ensuring balance and making necessary arrangements along with playing the keyboard. He is associated with the band till date.
He is part of the Rolling Stone’s tours and also contributes to their albums when not touring. Among the music albums that he has been part of are ‘Undercover’ (1983), ‘Dirty Work’ (1986), ‘Steel Wheels’ (1989), ‘Voodoo Lounge’ (1994) and ‘A Bigger Bang’ (2005).
In 1999, Chuck Leavell released his solo album ‘What’s In That Bag?’ with Capricorn Records. The album had great sales over the forthcoming Christmas holiday season. Two years later he released ‘Forever Blue: Solo Piano’, a compilation of songs including classics like ‘Georgia on My Mind’. This work went on to be known as one of the best solo piano works till date.
He wrote his first book in 2000 titled ‘Forever Green: The History and Hope of The American Forest’. His autobiography ‘between Rock and a Home Place’ was published five years later in 2005.
In 2005, he released his next solo work ‘Southscape’ that included eight new songs that were either solely written or co-written by him.
Between 2005 and 2007, the Rolling Stones embarked on their musical tour ‘A Bigger Bang’ and this also marked the 25th year of association of Chuck Leavell with the Band. They performed 147 shows during the tour.
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As soon as the tour with Rolling Stones came to an end, he formed a band and went on a Europe tour in 2007 called the ‘Green Leaves and Blue Notes’. He released the live album of the tour in Germany in 2008 as ‘Live In Germany-Green Leaves and Blue Notes Tour’. As part of his career, he has worked with Miranda Lambert, Heidi Newfield, Montgomery-Gentry Band, David Nail and Lady Antebellum.
In 2006, he wrote a children’s book titled ‘The Tree Farmer’. Later, he worked on a book that focused on the concept of ‘smart growth’ and was titled ‘Growing A Better America: Smart, Strong and Sustainable’.
In 2009, he, along with partner Joel Babbit, established the Mother Nature Network, an environmental information website. With growing popularity, it is currently ranked Number 3 among environmental websites of the world. He holds position as the Director of Environmental Affairs.
The website includes a variety of topics that not only include nature but involve discussions on food, travel, family, pets, and health etc. The primary equity partners of the website include CNN and American mass media company Discovery Communications.
Chuck Leavell played keyboard on John Mayer's album ‘Born and Raised’ that was released in 2012.
He is known to work towards a variety of causes and donate his time and skill to initiatives that support these causes. In 1992, he played the keyboard in collaboration with vocalist and keyboard player Ray Reach to raise money for the homeless in Birmingham.
In 2008, he performed as a part of a supergroup to raise money for artists facing difficulties with addiction.
He is also involved with the Georgia Commission for Hearing Impaired and Deaf Persons.
Awards & Achievements
In 2004, he was inducted as a member into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
He was awarded the Birmingham Area Music Award (BAMA) in 2008.
In 2012, he, along with the existing members of the band, Allman Brothers, was presented with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2012, he received an honorary Forest Ranger Award from the United States Forest Service.