Leslie West, most notably known as the singer/guitarist for the band Mountain, has died at age 75. West formed Mountain in 1969. Their most notable hit was the song “Mississippi Queen” – a hard rocking blues number featuring West’s searing lead guitar and over-the-top vocals.
West was born in New York in 1945. He formed Mountain after hearing Cream in the late 60’s. Initially Mountain consisted of West on lead guitar and vocals, Felix Pappalardi on bass and N.D. Smart on drums. The most well known incarnation of the band consisted of West, Pappalardi and Corky Lang on Drums. After Mountain disbanded the first time, Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce joined with West and Laing to form West, Bruce and Laing. They released two albums; “Why Dontcha” and “Whatever Turns You On.” Mountain disbanded and reformed several times, releasing albums up though 2015.
Gear-wise – West was known for using Gibson Les Paul Junior guitars and Flying Vs as well as other brands/models. According to him, he had no use for the neck pickup in his guitars and frequently removed them altogether, joking that they made great ash trays for playing live. He played through a number of different amplifier brands throughout his career including Marshall, Sunn, Carlsbro and Buddha amps, which he had an endorsement deal with. He also endorsed Dean Guitars.
Here is a rendition of “Mississippi Queen” later in West’s career with a distinctive 80’s feel:
In addition to playing with Mountain, he taught guitar lessons in the late seventies/early eighties as well. In a Guitar Player interview at the time he recalled how one student asked for the guitarist to teach him what sounded to West like “a Bach organ fugue.” That song turned out to be Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption.”
West battled drug addiction and weight issues throughout his career. Diabetes caused him to have part of his right leg amputated in 2011. He moved to Florida a short time ago before suffering cardiac arrest on December 20. He passed two days later according to his brother, Larry.
RIP Leslie, you were/are a legend.