George Leh

George Leh

Simply put, blues, R&B, soul and rock ‘n’ roll powerhouse “Rockin’ George” Leh is a force of nature in New England’s musical weather system. And that’s been the case for over 50 years, since he first exploded on the scene like a Molotov cocktail strapped to a microphone.

Since 1967, the singer-songwriter-guitarist-keyboardist has intoxicated audiences in his solo shows like few before him ever have and few after him ever will. With his irresistible cocktail of heart-rending blues, timeless R&B, inspired soul and no-holds-barred rock ‘n’ roll, Leh’s contributed his singular blend of passion and presence to performances and recordings with top-tier New England artists and a who’s who of internationally celebrated acts.

Born in Boston 1938, Leh has never advertised his own blindness in his stage name, unlike early-20th-century blues legends before him such as Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Boy Fuller. In fact, until the mid-‘70s he was billed and credited simply as “George Leh,” his birth name, before some fans in Maine tagged him with the moniker “Rockin’ George” and it stuck.

EARLY BANDS, SKYHOOK, POWERHOUSE, THE THRILLERS, ROCKIN’ SHOES

Before becoming “Rockin’ George,” Leh spent 1967 at the mic with The Street Choir, CC and the Chasers and The J. Geils Blues Band. From 1968 to 1973, he was part of the 11-piece blues-R&B band Swallow which included guitarist Phil Greene, bassist Vern Miller of The Remains and blues harpist Parker Wheeler. Leh wrote or cowrote most of the band’s material and appeared on the two albums the group recorded for Warner Bros., including 1972’s Out of the Nest which features Jeff “Skunk” Baxter on the track “Come Home Woman.”

In 1973, after Swallow disbanded, Leh joined Boston-based blues-rock bands Skyhook until 1975, then fronted Powerhouse until 1977). Cleverly maximizing the marketing power of his snappy new nickname, from 1978-81 he fronted Rockin’ George and The Thrillers, then opened for The Thrillers regularly as a solo act from 1982-83 before forming George Leh & Rockin’ Shoes.

COLLABORATIONS, SINGLES, ALBUMS

In addition to his consistently knock-‘em-dead solo appearances, Leh has  shared the stage with a doubly impressive assortment of major talent from New England including James MontgomeryTaj Mahal, Danny Klein’s Full House, Ernie and The Automatics, Jon Butcher and Roomful of Blues. He’s also appeared with a bevy of iconic blues, R&B, soul and rock acts such as Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Ike and Tina Turner, Bob Seger, Grand Funk Railroad, Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane, Queen, Sly and the Family Stone, The James Gang, Albert King, James Cotton, Joe Turner, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and “Big Mama” Thornton.

While primarily a live performer, Leh hasn’t stayed away from the studio. His first appearance on a record was in 1967 when CC and The Chasers recorded the single “Two and Twenty” b/w “Put the Clock Back on the Wall” and he went on to cut three albums with Swallow and one with Skyhook before playing on Geoff Muldaur’s Blues Boy in 1979. In 1981, Leh recorded two original tracks, “I Ain’t Lyin’” and “Ya Ya,” for Bow Records and in 1990 he recorded the LP Bo-town Does Mo-town with George Leh and Rockin Shoes (also on Bow) while also contributing to the West End Blues Band’s LP Beantown Drive.

In 2002, Bow released Leh’s album Danger Zone, and in 2006 he appeared on the live album Music for Middlesex with James Montgomery and singer-songwriter Johnny A., a Malden, Massachusetts, native. In 2011, Leh worked with Wild Bill and Chris Fury on their record Good Groove: American Roots Music and in 2014 he played on Waltham-based blues and Americana artist Alan Arena’s record Fortune Wheel.

NEW ENGLAND APPEARANCES, OFFICIAL “BOSTON BLUES LEGEND”

Leh has appeared at a wide variety of notable Boston and Boston-area venues large and small including the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Café and the Fairmount Grill in Boston, Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly, B.B. Kings at Foxwoods Resort Casino, the Somerville City Club, The Grogg in Newburyport, Pete’s Bar and Grill in Quincy and The Village Trestle in Goffstown, New Hampshire. As well-known and respected for his soft-spoken gregariousness off stage as he is for his all-consuming energy and showmanship on stage – in 2011, one reviewer called Leh “as feisty as a circus barker” when he’s performing – Leh is famous for playing impromptu performances for passersby around Faneuil Hall Marketplace and commuters at MBTA stations. In 2008, the Boston City Council declared him an official “Blues Legend.”

“I like to give people the best show I can give, and hopefully my music will inspire them,” he said in a 2004 interview. “This is my calling, to play and write music. This is what I do the best.”

(by D.S. Monahan)

Published On: September 27, 2022