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Leslie West (1945–2020), ‘Mississippi Queen’ guitarist

by Kirk Fox

Leslie West was guitarist and co-vocalist for the pioneering hard rock band Mountain, best known for their song “Mississippi Queen.”

  • Died: Tuesday, December 22, 2020 (Who else died on December 22?)
  • Details of death: Died at the age of 75 in Florida after being taken to the hospital following a cardiac arrest.
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Hard Rock Guitar Pioneer

Leslie West formed Mountain in 1969 with Felix Pappalardi, who was working with the hard rock trio Cream on their album “Disraeli Gears.” West played guitar while Pappalardi was on bass; they shared vocal duties. Mountain played at Woodstock with drummer N.D. Smart on the second day of the legendary rock fest. After Woodstock, Corky Laing replaced Smart and the band recorded their hit rock song “Mississippi Queen.” The song is a staple of classic rock radio with a signature guitar riff and cowbell. The band were pioneers of a heavier rock sound that was highly influential on the emerging heavy metal genre. West, looked up to by many rock guitarists, was known for his unique tone. Mountain broke up in 1974 but would re-form on and off throughout the years.

West on his guitar playing

“I’m no great guitarist, technically… I only play with these two fingers [index and ring]. But you wanna know why people remember me? If you take a hundred players and put them in a room, 98 or 99 of ’em are gonna sound the same. The one who plays different, has some of his own – that’s the one you’re gonna remember.” —Ultimate Classic Rock


Tributes to Leslie West

Full Obituary: Billboard

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