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King Leo

Leo (King Leo) LaDell
Leo grew up in the state of Virginia in the United States, and after exploring several instruments and musical styles throughout his youth, he found the Blues in his early 20s. At a B.B. King concert in the late 1980s, Leo heard live Blues for the first time, and it was a revelation. He took up harmonica, listening especially to Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. B.B. King's guitar and voice were inspiring, and Leo began listening to B.B. and other great Blues guitarist/vocalists, like Freddie King, Guitar Slim and Muddy Waters.

Within a short time Leo was fronting bands on vocals, guitar and/or harmonica in Virginia. In this period (late 80s through early 90s), Leo opened for many national acts, including Delbert McClinton and Danny Gatton. He also traded licks with Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews band at Charlottesville, VA house parties.

After he moved to Colorado in the mid-90s, Leo fronted two successful Blues bands: Chicago Skinny and the Delta Sonics. With Chicago Skinny, Leo recorded his first CD (Keg O' Dynamte), and he wrote and sang most of the tunes on this disc. Listen to Me, a song Leo wrote and sang on Keg, secured the band a spot in the 1999 Musician magazine Best Unsigned Bands of 1999 competition. With Listen to Me, Chicago Skinny placed as a finalist - in the top 12 entries of over 2000 submitted nationwide. Another of Leo's songs, Beater Car Boogie, was featured on the nationally-syndicated radio program Car Talk. Keg O' Dynamite also received excellent reviews in several national Blues magazines.

In the Winter of 2003, Leo played guitar and harmonica for cajun legend Doug Kershaw on his national tour. Leo was also singing and playing guitar with the Delta Sonics at this time, and after playing guitar in Big Bill Morganfield's (Muddy Waters' son) band for New Year's Eve 2003, Leo played guitar for Bo Diddley and Pinetop Perkins (of the Muddy Waters band) at Denver, Colorado shows.

After moving to New Zealand in 2004, King Leo performed throughout New Zealand for several years with the Growling Dogs, and the band released the album Mad Love in 2009.

The Growling Dogs have since moved on to other projects, and Leo has teamed up with the powerful rhythm section of Vernon Sawers and Jim Strang with dynamite horn players Stevie Rice and Ralph Miller to keep the music rolling as King Leo. The band has been playing shows all over the South Island, including the Queenstown Blues & Roots Festival.

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