Leon Russell Still Going Strong after 50 Years of Music

by Robert Offen

With near perfect weather on July 31, a large crowd turned out to enjoy a night of some great blues and good old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll for the third in the series of “Summer Nights at Harkness,” at Harkness Memorial State Park. The concert, produced by Bring Our Music Back and the Tinty Foundation, featured the legendary singer, songwriter, musician Leon Russell with opening performances by local artists P.J. Tautkus and the ever-popular David Foster and The Mohegan Sun All-stars.
“Prodigy” is the word used to describe blues guitarist P.J. Tautkus, age 18, of nearby Clinton. P.J. started playing guitar at age 10. He’s been hitting local venues for a while now and is pursuing a career in music.
P.J. displayed his musical prowess playing several upbeat blues selections including his original compositions Horizon Line and End of Show. P.J. is pursuing a career in music and has been accepted at

Photo By Robert J. O'Shaughnessy Leon Russell tickles the ivories on his trademark grand piano at Harkness, earning a rousing ovation for his talent.

Leon Russell tickles the ivories on his trademark grand piano at Harkness, earning a rousing ovation for his talent.

the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. No doubt we will be hearing more from this young talent in the years to come. In the meantime, check him out on his website http://pjtautkus.com or watch some of his videos on YouTube.
The Shaboo Inn in Willimantic was the site of one of the most popular local music venues of the 70’s and early 80’s. The Inn, operated by David Foster, played host to what sounds like a Who’s Who of music. Appearances there by famous artists, including B.B. King, Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Hall and Oates, Dire Straits and NRBQ just to name a few, made the Inn the place to go. While operating the Inn, Foster put together a group of talented musicians who played there with other groups.
The group was The Shaboo All-stars, and it became one of the most popular bands in the area. The Inn closed in 1982 but the band continued to perform playing up and down the East Coast. In 2001, the Mohegan Sun Casino contacted Foster and signed the group as their house band. They are now known as the Mohegan Sun All-Stars.
Leon Russell, described as one of the most talented and versatile musicians in the history of rock ’n’ roll, has a career that spans the last 50 years. He is an accomplished pianist, singer and songwriter; and was a studio musician for artists too numerous to mention…and a sideman for such greats as Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Glenn Campbell, and the Rolling Stones to name just a few. In 2010, Leon collaborated with Elton John to release the album, The Union. Leon has since been touring the country maintaining a busy concert schedule, performing almost 1,000 concerts during his career.
On this July night, without introduction or fanfare, Leon and the band quietly walked on stage, he dressed in his trademark white cowboy hat, snow-white flowing beard, white jacket, and dark sunglasses. With Leon at his white grand piano the music started, going virtually non-stop for the next 90 minutes.
For the finale, the band reassembled on stage and played a medley including Jumping Jack Flash, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, and Kansas City. A rousing standing ovation affirmed the fan’s admiration for this venerable and admirable performer.

Photo by Robert J. O'Shaughnessy

Photo by Robert J. O’Shaughnessy

Once again Frank Bombaci Sr., his son Frank Bombaci Jr. and his volunteer staff at Bring Back Our Music produced another memorable musical event. For further information on upcoming concerts, visit their website at http://bringourmusicback.org/events.
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