He first appeared in Toronto in the 1970's, and I do mean appeared. No knowledge of his life before that really exists, and the people he claims as his parents died well before what most likely was his birth-date. (Which is also unknown but guessed at.) Redbone commonly claims to have written songs well-before his time, and his entire appearance and sound comes straight out of the Depression-era Tin-Pan Alley style.
Leon made many appearances throughout the first few seasons of Saturday Night Live, which really acted as the spring-board of his career. Many rumours spread (and still abound) as to just who this man really was... including one (that I still cling to) that believes he was (and is) yet another character of performer Andy Kaufman's. Despite Kaufman's (possibly fake) death, Leon Redbone has continued to perform live to this day, while still remaining as elusive as ever.
"Walking Stick" (Live)
I was lucky enough to see a show of his a few years back, dragging along a friend who was unfamiliar with Redbone's music. The show was half-music , half-comedy and was something along the lines of a classic Vaudeville act. His stage-setting over the years consists of simple lighting from a single old-fashioned lamp, a chair for Redbone to sit in, and an upright piano played by what one could call an "accomplice". Despite being "low-tech" and rather simple, my friend (who frequents more modern concerts than I'd care to count) excitedly described it as being one of the "best shows [he'd] ever seen." I would agree with him whole-heartedly, and I hope to catch Redbone live again someday.
Live Chat and Song
I love not only the mystery involved in Leon Redbone, but the music and mood is just fantastic. There really is no other like him. A truly under-appreciated genius whose legacy I plan to spread around for the rest of my life.
"Dancin' On Daddy's Shoes"