At last, musician gets to show his own stuff

He hung out with Lowell George, Bonnie Raitt, and James Taylor when he played keyboards on national tours with the John Hall Band.

He double-dated with Mikhail Baryshnikov when he played synthesizer for the great dancer in Paris and Japan.

And as the son of bandleader/comedian Leo de Lyon, he ate pot roast at home with Phil Silvers and went backstage in Vegas hotels and Brooklyn's Paramount Theatre to meet stars such as Nat King Cole and Dion.

But ask Thompsonville's Louis Landon for the highlight of his musical career and he'll tell you it's playing the 80-seat Band Box club in Callicoon tomorrow night.

"That's where I'm doing what I always wanted to do - play my own music," he says. "It's taken me all my life to get here."

Yes, Louis Landon may have begun making music as a round-faced 4 year-old, but now he's finally making the music that really matters - his own.

The story begins when, as a little boy Landon went to see the movie "Around the World in 80 Days," Then he came home, sat down at his dad's upright piano and played the theme by ear. So his parents gave him piano lessons, lessons that stopped because of two things: A Russian piano teacher who whacked little Louis's hands, and the invasion of the Beatles.

Landon, whose family moved to Studio City, Calif., grew long hair, picked up the guitar and joined a band called the Uncalled Four. After a move, he joined another band, the East Side Kids. And even though the skinny kid who wore bellbottoms and fringe jackets was making up to $500 per week playing gigs, he didn't think of making music for life.

"Why do you want to be a musician?" his mother would ask. "Look at your father. He was a musician and he doesn't make any money."

Fact was, says Landon, his father had made plenty - $1,000 per week in 1950. It just wasn't steady money.

So Landon enrolled at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and took some biology courses. He was inspired to become a doctor when he saw a girl give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation at Woodstock. But when he returned to reality, he couldn't get music out of his blood. So after waiting out the draft, and discovering the acoustic jazz of Chick Corea, he switched back to keyboards and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

That's where he met saxophonist John Payne, who had played with Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt. They formed a five-man fusion band called the John Payne Band. After all, he was writing the music, but not getting credit for it. So he moved to New York, auditioned for the John Hall Band and recorded "Power."

That's when he hit the road and discovered the rock 'n' roll high life as personified by Lowell George.

But even through he played for hundreds of thousands at no-nukes rallies at the World Trade Center and Madison Square Garden, Landon soon got tired of playing, "Dance With Me" night after night, week after week, month after month. As for his jobs playing with Rupert "Mr. Pina Colada" Holmes and directing "Christmas at Rockefeller Center" TV specials that starred Maureen McGovern and Tony Bennett?

"I know it sounds glorious, but it was a job," says Landon, who also ran his own music production company, which produced spots for clients that included Avon and the NBA. "My problem was I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do - play my own music."

So after his gigs with Baryshnikov - "a great way to pick up girls was to ask if they wanted to meet him" - Landon met his wife Laurie, an artist whose parents owned the Raleigh Hotel in South Fallsburg. And gradually he began to shift his base from New York to the Catskills.

He got gigs in lounge bands at resorts in the Concord and the Pines. He played bungalow colonies where he learned the difference between meringues and rhumbas. And he became the band leader at the Raleigh Hotel.

He also began writing jazzy romantic songs inspired by the old Frank Sinatra albums he listened to in his Jeep. But he didn't record them.

" I wanted my own records," he says, "but honestly I didn't think anyone would want them."

Last summer, Landon finally decided he had the voice to record them. He drove his Jeep over mountains and down dirt road to the Make Believe Ballroom recording studio in West Shokan. He drove to New York to have the album mastered by Greg Calbi, who worked with Mariah Carey and Joshua Redman.

Landon shelled out money for the four-color art, top-notch sidemen and quality manufacturing to produce a wonderful album of jazzy, romantic songs, "Love Songs & Jazz."

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