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  • About

    Leon Watson Bio Before Leon Watson’s fingers could barely strum the strings, his father made him his first guitar, placed it in his hands and chose his profession. Following in his father’s footsteps, most days found Leon on the family’s farm learning to repair farm equipment and other farming operations to keep things running smoothly. Growing up in a proud, independent community called Mound Bayou, Mississippi Leon walked in his father’s tradition. What makes the northwest Mississippi town of Mound Bayou special is its rich heritage. Most notable for being founded by former slaves as a sovereign black community in 1887, history winked at Mound Bayou. Led by Isaiah Montgomery Leon’s ancestors helped build the foundation of the Delta’s bottomlands when it was a relatively undeveloped frontier. Blacks had a chance to clear land and acquire ownership in these areas. By 1900, two-thirds of the owners of land were black farmers. Shortly after a fire destroyed much of the business district, it wasn’t until 1942 that Mound Bayou began to revive in 1942. “What one man cannot accomplish, many men, unified, can,” said founder of the International Order of Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor. This fraternal organization sponsored the opening of the Taborian Hospital in 1942. By the early 60’s this hospital was only one of two that provided low-cost health care to thousands of blacks in the Mississippi Delta. And it was upon the hospital founder’s principle Leon built the notion that being his father’s son meant being a sincere hard worker. No matter how much or how hard the work was, there was always time made in the Watson’s household for entertainment. It was not long before Leon had become a major attraction at family gatherings with his guitar skills. By the time Leon made it to high school he and a few of his school friends formed their first band. Throughout his high school career Leon and his band mates worked to perfect their musical talents. When it looked like the band was ready to make their first professional move Leon, bass player Rommel Sinclair, and drummer Johnny McNealy found high school graduation confronting them. Threatening the horn section and several other key members of the band who had a couple more years of high school, the band was left at a major crossroads. At this point in their lives all the band members were sure they needed music to be a part of their lives but they also knew that to their parents education was a must. So a major turning point for Leon was when he, Johnny, and Rommel headed for Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. With hopes of being joined by their remaining band members as they completed high school these audacious three balanced dedication to their high school band mates with their commitment to Lane College. As music majors, they still had a responsibility to fulfill scholarship obligations. Determined, they kept the band together by traveling home on weekends; all the while making deposits in Mound Bayou history. And in time, every one of the band members pressed their way, becoming members of the Lane College Band. During his time at Lane, Leon began to develop his skills as an arranger by becoming one of the student arrangers for the college band. Being associated with the college also led band members to get to meet a musically diverse group of professional musicians. Meeting musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Winters, Gene Wright, Al Green, and Isaac Hayes only fueled the fire of these young musicians. By the time Leon graduated from college the band was seriously pursuing the music business. By this time there had been several personnel changes and the core of the band was set. Johnny and Rommel had taken a different path with Rommel being replaced by Jerome Maclin and horn players Lester Cain (trumpet), and Lawrence Gilmore (saxophone), from Mound Bayou being joined by college friend Johnny Ray Thomas. These changes gave birth to Cold Blooded Express. The early 70’s found the band polishing their skills and working the night club circuit of the southern states. By the mid 70’s Leon had started presenting his original songs to the band. Playing these songs, the band took on a definite identity and style of their own. As truth would have it, Leon’s sound, musical arrangements and motivations were shaped from the molds of Mound Bayou’s struggles and triumphs. Also around this time Cold Blooded Express did a series of recordings with T & L Records. The first of these sessions produced the release of a single produced by Leon’s college friend Howard Rambsy. Yet the recording had little commercial affect leaving the group to continue playing the night club circuit. Refusing to give up they pushed through the disappointments and added keyboard player Donald Brown, and bassist Jimmie Morris to the group for their next studio recording. Refusing to give up they pushed through the disappointments and added keyboard player Donald Brown, and bassist Jimmie Morris to the group for their next studio recording. This studio recording was produced by Wayne Douglas and Rambsy. In the studio they were producing some outstanding tracks that never got a recording or publishing deal. But this series of sessions led to Leon working on several projects with Wayne Douglas. This led to several of Leon’s songs being recorded by artists in the Memphis area. Most noteworthy of these was “First Love” recorded by The Singing Dentist of Memphis, Tennessee. With the disco era the band found work less frequently and eventually members drifted in different directions. During this time Leon continued to polish and develop his writing and arranging skills. The formation of RamTean Music found Leon once more working with college classmate Howard Rambsy. Having completed the ground work Leon for the songs “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” and “If It Wasn’t For The Lord,” Leon found himself working with gospel artist Patricia Copper on what promises to be an outstanding series of recordings. Talks are also under way for a possible Cold Blooded Express reunion. For Leon the future is full of musical adventures that are sure to be exposed to a new audience as he reconnects with old musical friends. Just think back to the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor who built the Taborian Hospital. Their developments didn’t happen by coincidence they were deliberately designed to teach “the art of cooperation as a means of promoting self-help through encouraging initiative in essential enterprises.” So if Leon chooses Cold Blooded Express as his vehicle, the world better watch out and marvel because with belief in and commitment to his talent, Leon Watson can’t help but reunite, revive and renew others as he paves the way for an old school approach to modern day musical genius.

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