Leon Russell

Class of
Leon Russell

Leon Russell

He was a mentor, inspiration, and so kind to me.
Sir Elton John, 2016


Born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Leon Russell was an internationally-celebrated American musician and songwriter. With six gold records to his credit, he played an integral role in hundreds of best-selling pop music records over his 60-year career. With unique talent, he mastered all genres, including rock, blues, country, bluegrass, and gospel.

Russell attended Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School and formed the group The Fencemen with a fellow classmate. It was during this time that he took the name “Leon” from the fake ID he used to get into clubs he was legally too young to perform in.  

Playing the piano since the age of four, it was after his move to Los Angeles that Russell began working as a pianist on recordings of many notable artists of the 1960s, including Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys. By the end of the decade Russell was an accomplished arranger and songwriter and by 1970 became a solo recording artist.  

Russell’s collaborations are recognized as some of the most successful in music history. He recorded 33 albums and more than 430 songs. His “A Song for You”, released in 1970, has been recorded by more than one hundred artists including Amy Winehouse, Michael Buble’, the Carpenters, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, and Whitney Houston. On his first solo album that same year, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison played backup, among countless other notable artists.

Prior to his death in 2016, Russell was presented for induction by his friend and fellow musician Sir Elton John to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Fun fact

During his career, Russell released more than 30 albums and recorded over 400 songs.

Oklahoma connections

Leon Russell’s music career began as a teenager playing in Tulsa’s nightclubs.




Musician, Songwriter





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