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Members include MarkClarke (member 1985-present), bass; SteveKnight (member 1970-72, 1985-present), organ; CorkyLaing (born January 26, 1948, in Montreal, Canada; member 1970-72, 1985-present), drums; Bob Mann (member 1974), keyboards; Felix Pappalardi (born 1939 in the Bronx, New York, NY; died on April 17, 1983), bass, vocals; AlanSchwartzberg (member 1974), drums; N.D.Smart II (member 1969), drums;LeslieWest (born Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945 in Forest Hills, NY), guitar, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211 Phone: (212) 833-8000.
When it comes to heavy rock bands, Mountain definitely qualifies. The group was in the vanguard of hard rock/pre-heavy metal bands from the late 1960s, and Leslie West's thunderous riffing on guitar was a cornerstone of rock's original wall of sound. West was the size of a National Football League lineman, and the band no doubt took its moniker as a monument to his impressive stature. Numerous musicians have played under the Mountain banner over the years, but the group at its most essential consists of just three members: West, bassist Felix Pappalardi, and drummer Corky Laing.
West was born Leslie Weinstein on October 22, 1945, in Forest Hills, New York. He is one of many second generation rock 'n rollers whose life was changed by seeing Elvis Presley for the first time. West's uncle was a writer for the Jackie Gleason Show and took him to see a performance of its summer replacement show hosted by Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Presley was a guest on the show and West was transfixed. "I've been playing guitar ever since that day," he told Goldmine magazine in 1995. West attended numerous private schools, but a standardized education was not for him. "In school they just weren't teaching me anything I was interested in, and the teachers were asking me questions I already knew the answers to, and learning dates and all that stuff, it just never appealed to me," he told Goldmine. Instead, he worked as a jeweler for a short time, but mainly spent his time practicing guitar. West's first band was called the Vagrants, a barely capable Long Island group that specialized in rhythm and blues, and actually recorded the song "Respect" before Aretha Franklin's famous version. The Vagrants recorded several singles for the Vanguard label, and then for Atco. They were assigned to work with producer Felix Pappalardi, who was then riding high as the producer of famed English power trio Cream.
Pappalardi was born in 1939 in the Bronx, New York, and began learning guitar at the age of four. Determined to devote his life to making music, he attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. After stints in college and the United States Army, he returned to New York and fell headlong into the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk scene. Among the musicians he worked with were John Sebastian (soon to be of the Lovin' Spoonful), Cass Elliot (future member of the Mamas and the Papas), Richie Havens, and Joan Baez. His early successes as a producer include the Youngbloods' seminal single "Get Together." His reputation skyrocketed after his work with Cream, whose records Disraeli Gears, Wheels of Fire, and Goodbye he produced and arranged.
West talked about meeting Pappalardi with Goldmine: "Atlantic Records sent him down to produce for the Vagrants. He walked in and I think he had just met Cream. He produced our single, we broke up and then he said, 'Well, if you guys get something together, give me a call.' Later he began working with Cream, and he said if I'd got something together, he would give it a listen, so I called him right away, as soon as he got back from England. He liked it. But then he went in the studio with me and he didn't like my drummer. So I had to get another drummer; I had a bass player and an organ player. Felix didn't like the bass player, so his partner suggested he play bass, so he did. That was the beginning of my solo career."
What is often thought of as the first Mountain album is really a Leslie West solo album, which was not incidentally titled Mountain. Pappalardi plays bass on the record, N.D. Smart played drums, and in an attempt to differentiate the sound from that of Cream, Steve Knight was added on keyboards. The lineup from the West album became a band, and they debuted at San Francisco's Fillmore West in July of 1969. They played a couple of other gigs, and then, by virtue of sharing management with Jimi Hendrix, their fifth show ever was played at Woodstock. "I remember hanging around backstage and Janis Joplin had this gorgeous girlfriend she was hanging out with," West told Goldmine about the famed concert. "I was in awe of everything there. I remember Creedence Clearwater Revival went on and they did one hit after another. I couldn't believe how many hit singles they had! Our first album I think was just coming out."
Drummer Smart had a falling out with the band after that, and they immediately replaced him with Corky Laing, who had been hanging out with the group, and whose own band had a record produced by Pappalardi's wife, Gail Collins. Laing was born on January 26, 1948, in Montreal, Canada. With its lineup solidified for a while, they recorded Mountain Climbing, technically the group's debut, which went gold thanks in large part to the hit single and enduring Mountain classic "Mississippi Queen." The group struck gold again with the album Nantucket Sleighride, which featured a jam-heavy title track. After that album, the group quickly recorded another, the ominously titled Flowers of Evil, and a live disc, The Road Goes Ever On. But by then, drugs and dissension in the ranks had made being in the band unbearable, and the group split up.
Papplardi returned to production work. Knight all but vanished. West and Laing joined with ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce to form the second-tier supergroup West, Bruce and Laing, which recorded three albums before disbanding. From there, West and Laing soldiered on in a group called Leslie West's Wild West Show. Pappalardi--who suffered hearing damage from his days as a musician, particularly with Mountain, who always played at top volume--rejoined in 1974. They recorded the album Avalanche, and then broke up again. After that, West resumed his solo career, though Laing continued to work with him. Albums from this period include The Great Fatsby--West was always one to make a joke about his weight at his own expense--with the Leslie West Band. A long fallow period came in the late '70s and early '80s, during which time West did not record. The inner circle of Mountain was sundered forever in 1983 when Pappalardi's wife shot and killed him.
West returned in 1985 with a new version of the band that included Laing and bassist Mike Clarke. They recorded the album Go for Your Life in 1986. West's solo albums Theme and Alligator arrived in the late '80s. Laing meanwhile led a blues band that featured former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.
The '90s were a return to even more action for West and Laing separately, and in tandem. West has continued to make solo albums, and has even shed some of his famous poundage. He remains in the limelight these days as a musician, but also as a frequent guest on Howard Stern's syndicated radio show. Laing recently formed the band Cork, featuring former Spin Doctors guitarist Eric Schenkman. Their album Speed of Thought was released in 1999. For years, Laing was also an executive for the Canadian branch of Polygram Records.
Mountain continues to tour occasionally, and lineups in the mid-'90s occasionally featured former Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. "Needless to say, Mountain without Felix is not the original Mountain," Laing told Goldmine. "It's the other two guys, it's two-thirds, and we don't try to fool anybody by that."
by Daniel Durchholz
Formed in 1969 in New York City, NY; released debut album, Mountain Climbing, 1970; disbanded, 1972; reformed 1974, 1985, and periodically during the 1990s-2000s.
- Selected discography
- Mountain Climbing , Windfall, 1970.
- Nantucket Sleighride , Windfall, 1971.
- Flowers of Evil , Windfall, 1971.
- Mountain Live (The Road Goes Ever On) , Windfall, 1972.
- Best of Mountain , Windfall, 1973.
- Twin Peaks , Columbia, 1973.
- Avalanche , Columbia, 1974.
- Go for Your Life , Scotti Bros., 1986.
- Over the Top , Columbia Legacy, 1995.
- Leslie West
- Mountain , Windfall, 1969.
- The Great Fatsby , Phantom, 1975.
- Live , Blues Bureau International, 1993.
- Dodgin' the Dirt , Blues Bureau International, 1994.
- Blood of the Sun , Raven, 1996.
- As Phat as It Gets , Lightyear, 1999.
- West, Bruce & Laing
- Why Dontcha , Columbia, 1972.
- Whatever Turns You On , Columbia, 1973.
- Live 'n' Kickin' , Columbia.
- Corky Laing
- (With Cork) Speed of Thought , Lightyear, 1999.
- Graff, Gary, and Daniel Durchholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
- Romanowski, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1995.
- Goldmine, 1995.
- Leslie West website, http://www.lesliewest.cjb.net (September 2000).
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