Mountain Man Leslie West Once Had Houston at His Fingers
An odd question to hear outside of a TV commercial, to be sure. But even odder since the voice asking the question -- and now laughing -- comes from Leslie West, the classic-rock singer/guitarist best known for fronting the band Mountain of "Mississippi Queen" fame.
But it turns out that West has more than a passing interest in interior design of Texas homes, due to an interesting family tie.
"Bobby Finger was my cousin!" he says of the company's late President/CEO and well-known commercial pitchman. "My father married a woman from Houston, and my brother and I went down and lived there in 1958 for a year, right off of Buffalo Speedway. I remember Bobby's daddy had a helicopter that he used to fly around in, which I thought was really cool."
And that's his only tie to a historic Houston business. "My father also married into the family from Gordon's Jewelers," he continues. "And do they still have James Coney Island hot dogs there? I used to love those. But let me tell you something. The humidity in Houston is enough to kill you!"
Photo by Justin Borucki Leslie West today
After West finishes his trip down memory bayou, he's eager to talk about his new solo record, Still Climbing (Provogue/Mascot). The 11 tracks run the gamut from hard and melodic rock to ballads, featuring a stellar cast of guests including Johnny Winter, Dee Snider, Jonny Lang, and Mark Tremonti (Creed).
"I have always wanted to play with Johnny. And I enjoyed playing with Billy Gibbons too. He was on my last solo record, Unusual Suspects," West says of the Bearded One -- whose Little Ol' Band from Texas once opened a show for Mountain. The friendship was rekindled years ago when West inadvertently met Gibbons' parents at Hobby Airport.
Still Climbing also includes a re-recorded version of "Long Red," a track from Mountain's 1969 debut record that has had an inexplicable second life as a frequent sample in hip-hop songs: Jay-Z used it in "99 Problems," and so have rappers from Kayne West, De La Soul and the Game to A$AP Rocky and Common. Even Lana Del Rey has sampled it.
West is at a loss to explain its popularity, though he notes that it "does have a hip-hop beat" -- even if there was no hip hop around when he first recorded it.
"It's kind of unbelievable, the success it has had with sampling," he says.
Interview continues on the next page.