By Ron Cook
IT’S NEVER A WALL DOWN MEMORY LANE WITHOUT THIS … special piece from our Archive that brings us such joy that we always love taking it out , dusting it off, and letting you enjoy it again! It makes us so happy to share this story about one of our very favorite Louisiana people, a homegrown, phenomenally funny, talented friend. We LOVE you, Leon!
Most of us will never see that fifteen minutes of fame in life. We will go about our daily lives, and enjoy the fame of others. A few of us will have some sort of brush with fame, which we cherish and recall as a great memory. Yet, a very, very few of us will have lifetimes of notable achievements, and unprecedented shared talents. Leon Medica is in that latter group, enjoying a career lived in his musical abilities, which he shared for decades in Alexandria, across Louisiana and, then, throughout the world.
Leon grew up in Alexandria, attending Saint Francis Cabrini Church. By the time Leon graduated from Menard High School, he had already launched his musical career playing bass with his first band, Goatleg. Many Alexandria locals I spoke with remember Leon and Goatleg playing throughout the local area and the state in those early days of the late 1960’s. Leon then moved to New York with his bandmate, Bootsie Normand. While in New York, Leon became a part of an Off Broadway production that included Petula Clark. Leon and Bootsie toured with Petula Clark (a British superstar of the 60’s and ‘70’s), and then did a short tour with rock and roll legend, Chuck Berry (what, what??). After this, they both went to Denver, Colorado where they recorded several albums as studio musicians with Bee Gees drummer, Tuby Ziglar.
Are you with me so far … because we are just getting started!!
Leon and Bootsie would move back to Louisiana next living in Baton Rouge at a house with other musicians, playing and writing music. Creedence Clearwater Revival stayed at the house for a few weeks, and were certainly influenced by the Bayou music that permeated the jam sessions.
Leon would go on to marry, have a son, and start playing bass with Gatemouth Brown. He started a recording studio recruiting Louisiana talent. Later he would join the Jeff Pollard band that was a staple at JR’s in Baton Rouge. That band would turn into Louisiana LeRoux which Leon would lead for many years to come. LeRoux’s first self titled album would become a classic, and contained the hit “New Orleans Lady,” which Leon co-wrote. Some years later, Jeff Pollard quit the band and became a preacher.
In the early 70’s Leon did a USO tour with the Doobie Brothers and other artists. This was an instrumental part of Leon’s success. One of the musicians that was on the tour called Leon from California. He was doing an album for a movie. He said he needed some songs to finish the record. That record turned out to be the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack which sold over 65 million copies!
Leon then moved to Nashville and started producing acts that included Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne, among others. In 1982 Leon started the group Bayou Degradable. Leon has worked on a book also by this title. Leon worked on over ninety albums and ten movies. Over the course of his career he received many awards and recognitions from Presidents to Grammys to lifetime achievements and finally, induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. In Nashville many a studio bass player has been asked, “Could you play that like Leon Medica would?”
An artist shares with us his or her unique view and perception of our world. Leon has left his fingerprint on every aspect of the musical industry. He has delighted us with his unique bass-playing techniques. He has been a proud symbol of Louisiana Bayou musical tradition. “Leon Medica has not only become a Louisiana Legend, but he is Musical Royalty,” quoted a lifetime friend. Leon has quietly retired in his home town of Alexandria, but he has provided us with a plethora of musical history. That is always something to celebrate, as well as to enjoy, for as long as we have ears to hear, and hearts to feel …