Deke Leonard - "When we weren't playing, we did some serious lolling about"


Way back in the day, there were two types of music. Pop music and rock music, and I knew from a disquietingly early age that it was rock music for me. Pop music was good for a laugh, but hey, this is serious stuff, man. One of the first rock bands I got into was the Welsh band Man, always at their best when both the ever-present Mickey Jones and his on-off partner in West Coast (of Wales) guitar wizardry, one Roger "Deke" Leonard were flying through the riffosphere, riding cascades of gorgeously molten notes to far edge of infinity. Deke Leonard was in and out of Man during their 70s heyday more times than Rod Stewart was in and out of the divorce courts, but they were something else when he was in the ranks.

Always a much better prospect live than in the studio, my first encounter with Man was via the double live album Greasy Truckers, a recording of a United Artists showcase and benefit concert for a charity for the homeless, held at London's iconic Roundhouse venue in February 1972, released a couple of months later. Man were on the bill behind Hawkwind, another amorphous hippy collective who like the Welshmen couldn't maintain a stable line up for more than two consecutive albums. Side one of the budget double LP was taken up with  Man's jamming vehicle Spunk Rock. Put simply, this is the best recording of guitar band jamming by anyone, period. If you disagree you are very, very wrong. This 20-minute monster of a track puts the interminable noodling of the Grateful Dead and sundry other pale imitators to shame. Legend has it that the first ten minutes are missing because the tape had run out, and time was wasted (maan) running around looking for a new reel.



Man split up in 1976, but I was lucky enough to see them a couple of times after they reformed seven years later. Always a joyful experience, even when the audiences numbered less than three figures, as was sometimes sadly the case. Here they are with an actual West Coast (of USA) legend John Cipollina from the fabulous Maximum Darkness live album:


Deke's seventh string to his famously decorated Telecaster was his ability as a raconteur, and boy, does he have some stories to tell. His three autobiographical "life on the road" books are crammed full of amusing tales of derring-do and general rock'n'roll shenanigans and daftness. Combining coming of age tales, drugs, surreality, drugs and debauchery, and more drugs and loose women, all shot through with a serious lazy streak, it's a wonder they ever got it together long enough to play their endless tours and record albums, Deke's life gives the impression of being one long toke. Deke also takes time out in his books to rail at social injustice and unearned entitlement, being a true old-fashioned South Wales socialist at heart.

Deke had such a joie-de-vivre that it seems almost remiss of me to mention that he died on 31st January at the age of 72, and as he played a formative part in my introduction to Rock's Rich Tapestry, I shall be forever grateful for the hours of fine music, and those gloriously mad books.

Roger "Deke" Leonard 18th December 1944 - 31st January 2017

Deke's books still in print are available HERE

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