He’s been singing the songs of the ‘Boardwalk Empire’ era for decades, and has re-done a song he originally recorded in 1977 for the HBO series’ soundtrack.
When Redbone takes the stage of the new, intimate Campus Center Theater at Stockton on Sunday afternoon, he’ll be appearing 15 minutes outside of Atlantic City.
During any other period of Redbone’s long career, it would be just another gig for the timeless troubadour who has been performing old-time American songs, from blues to jazz to Tin Pan Alley to his own creations, since he burst onto the Toronto music scene in the early 1970s.
But Sunday’s show takes place during a period of time when both Atlantic City and the songs that Redbone has always loved to play — even alone, working out chords and melodies in the back of his head — are at the center of a renewed interest in early American music.
However, when told that Starbucks has recently released a compilation of 1920s-era songs entitled Speakeasy Times, Redbone is dumbfounded.
“They’re not making enough money so they have to go and do something extra to supplement the meager amount of money that comes into them,” he says with more than a shard of sarcasm. “I’m going in the opposite direction,” he says with a laugh. “I used to drink espresso when nobody [in the States] drank it. Now it’s become so ridiculous that essentially what people are drinking is a gallon of milk with a little bit of coffee flavoring. But it has come together in an interesting way. But from the standpoint of an appreciation for coffee, I don’t think much of that is happening. [Starbucks] has just become a place to go, where you can spend three or four dollars on a cup of coffee, and sit there for a length of time and chat. It’s really got nothing to do with coffee.”
How does he feel about digital downloads?
“If you asked me 30 years ago, I would have said [the Internet] was a great positive,” he says. “But I really don’t see it as a positive at this point. The whole thing in general. Everything is different. There are no recording studios; if you want to make a record you go make it yourself, because you can. And at one time you couldn’t. It was neatly packaged and controlled by the strength of the recording companies.
“They started fading in the 1970s. Eventually — I don’t even know where they are now. I can’t think of anybody who’s actually recording for a major label. I’m sure there are, but I don’t know who they are or which label [they’re on].”
Today, Redbone says, the free-for-all YouTube generation of recording where “anyone” can pretty much do whatever they want and get their music heard, is comparable to world-wide musical anarchy: “Anybody can do anything they want apparently, where at one time if you did one thing out of line every lawyer from every record company would get on your back. Now it’s basically anarchy and bedlam. ‘You wanna make a record? Fine, go make a record! You don’t need a recording studio; you can do it at your kitchen table.’ And then you put it online and bim-bang, there it is.
“In today’s world, you can hear anything you want — if you have a computer, you can hear anything, virtually anything — if you find the right place. The only problem I have with it is that — I guess it’s a romantic concept — where you had something where you really had to make an effort to go find the old 78s or the reissues that started coming out in the 1950s and then music just became more and more available so you could find music from [all over] the world on LP for instance. ... These were popular things that were innovations of their time and that essentially had an impact on those who were interested, but it did not have a wide impact.
“Now, nobody can tell the difference between the music from 1920 or 20 minutes ago. ... I don’t think most people understand what it is that they’re listening to or hear unless they’re [looking for something specific], but most people just bump into it these days, [the old music, music from other cultures] and they don’t know what it is.”
That’s where Sunday’s concert comes in, not to mention the soundtrack of Boardwalk Empire.
Where: Campus Center Theater, Richard Stockton College, Pomona
When: Sunday, Nov. 20, 2pm
How Much: $35 general admission
'The whole world now will start listening and really finding out how great the music of the 1920s is. It brings it up to the forefront.'
"When I recorded the first two songs I got to record with the band, which I prefer — in the same room, we did it live. Coming from a musical theater background, I prefer to sing live because there's just this synergy when you have a band playing behind you."
“It’s been my love and passion ever since I was five years old and I think this music moves people. People who come to see us, they say, ‘When I got here I was in kind of a blah mood, not so good, or depressed, or whatever and I come out in just a whole different place. I’m laughing, my spirits are lifted, it’s cheaper than going to a psychiatrist!’”
The famed seaside resort that is portrayed in HBO's hit drama series Boardwalk Empire celebrated the show's second season premiere on Sunday, Sept. 25, in a number of ways over the weekend.
“The three eras that attracted me where the 1920s, the ‘50s and the ‘70s. And really HBO’s mandate was [so broad that] I literally had a huge canvass to work from.”
In the sixth episode of this multi-part series, the distinguished panel of Atlantic City historians and authors begin to discuss the history of entertainment and nightlife in the resort, which has played such a vital role in Atlantic City for more than a century.
Leon Redbone at Appel Farm With HBO’s Boardwalk Empire highlighting the music of the 1920s (and even earlier), it would only make sense that a long-time carrier of the torch of early American music — Leon Redbone — should put out an album of songs from the era. “It’s a good idea,” Redbone, in his trademark nasaly voice tells AC Weekly. “I’ll make a call.” Of course you never know when Redbone, who has successfully kept his music career and private life separate,...
In a “news” box on the upper right side of the Archeophone Records home page, there’s a list of the songs played thus far in the first two episodes of HBO’s 'Boardwalk Empire,' set in 1920s Atlantic City.