Mountain scaling new heights

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11200650889381.jpg’, ‘Photo provided by Leighton Media’, ‘Mountain singer/guitarist Leslie West is set to rock at Davis Park July 2.’);

Singer/guitarist Leslie West discusses rock group’s staying power

Unlike its geological namesake, time has not eroded Mountain’s hard rock edge. The band, featuring original singer/guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, will perform with Deep Purple at On The Waterfront’s Stars and Guitars concert series July 2 in Davis Park.

Best known for the cowbell-enhanced rocker “Mississippi Queen,” Mountain’s raw, powerful sound established the group as a potent force when it emerged in 1969. Although the trio, composed of the aforementioned West and Laing along with bassist Felix Pappalardi, disbanded in 1972, it reunited periodically and left an undeniable impact on rock music. Any hope of a permanent reunion, however, was dashed in 1983 when Pappalardi was shot and killed by his wife. The group now travels with bassist and veteran performer Richie Scarlet.

In a recent interview with The Rock River Times, West, who originally founded Mountain, felt the band’s straightforward approach contributed to its lasting influence.

“I think the songs had a lot to do with it and the way we played,” he said. “There wasn’t a show with all kinds of special effects and everything. It was just really playing the music.”

In its brief career, the band produced three gold albums and played a number of impressive venues, including Woodstock. The trio’s success can be attributed to several factors, but one of the most prominent was its diverse repertoire. The members’ unique chemistry allowed them to craft everything from unpolished, primal rock to pristine, artful melodies. A traditional blues flavor also infiltrates several of Mountain’s songs.

After the group broke up, West worked with a variety of celebrated performers including Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and Van Halen. He considers playing with The Who, however, to be one of his most memorable collaborations.

“I originally played on The Who’s Who’s Next, and even though they rerecorded after we did it, they re-released it about a couple years ago in their box set, and that was a big thrill to play guitar in The Who,” West said.

More recently, he supplied the guitar tracks for Ozzy Osbourne’s remake of “Mississippi Queen.” West explained that he has been friends with Osbourne for decades.

“The first year Black Sabbath went on tour, they did about 100-odd shows with Mountain as our opening act. [Osbourne] is a great singer and a great guy.”

West was impressed with the revamped version of his 1970 hit, which appears on Osbourne’s new four-CD box set, Prince of Darkness.

“It’s given us a fresh look to the song,” said West.

The New York native has been taking his own music in a new direction lately. In 2003, he recorded a solo blues album titled Blues To Die For, and in April he released another collection called Got Blooze. West said he has always been attracted to the genre and was excited to tackle these projects.

Currently, Mountain has been reinterpreting Bob Dylan songs for a cover CD, which should be released next year. West found the folk singer’s music to be a good basis for new Mountain material.

“I looked at his lyrics, and I wanted to get a little different idea to do a Mountain album and it just came to me,” he said.

While Mountain’s current lineup has been experimenting with new musical concepts and styles, West said the group has remained true to its roots.

“We try to stay faithful to what we were,” he said.

For more information on Mountain’s upcoming show, visit or call 968-5222.

From the June 29-July 5, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!