Mad Dogs And Englishmen
In the late 1960s, there were few rockstars bigger than Joe Cocker. After massive success with The Grease Band and hit records like "Marjorine," and a cover of The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends," topped off by a legendary performance at Woodstock, Cocker's career was ripe to take off. His management had organized a tour of the U.S. for him, and days before, he was left without a band. His producer at A&M records was Denny Cordell, who happened to simultaenously be openning his own label with Leon Russell. Cordell and Cocker approached Leon about assisting them in assembling a band for the tour, and Leon agreed only if they could do it like no one had done before.
Through his litany of connections to musicians through The Wrecking Crew, Leon was quickly able to gather together an ensemble of over 20 musicians, including three drummers, a backing choir, and Leon as the lead guitarist, pianist, and musical director. Leon also insisted that a camera crew follow the tour, resulting in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen documentary film, which would become one of the essential rock n roll films in depicting what that era of music was really like.
The tour would become legendary, and the ensuing live album would reach #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200. Performances of The Band's "The Weight," Traffic's "Feelin' Alright," and The Box Tops' "The Letter" highlighted the setlist that was capped off by a wild and rousing rendition of Leon's own "Delta Lady." Rita Coolidge would take center stage and sing Leon and Bonnie Bramlett's "Superstar," and Leon and Joe would duet on their version of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country."
The tour served as an opportunity for Leon to showcase his own material, as he would be given stage time to perform "Hummingbird" and "Dixie Lullaby," which were both to be released on his debut album.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen introduced Leon to the world, and proved that he was a musical force to be reckoned with.
While the tour catapulted both Leon and Cocker into the pinnacles of rock n roll stature, the magnitude served as a rift between the two of them, and they would choose to pursue their careers separately from that point forward. To this day, however, the two will be forever connected as having orchestrated one of the great happenings in the history of rock music.