"Leo Rising"

© 1971 Lee Ruth

Rich McDowell
Rich McDowell - Guitar, Keyboards, Bass, & Drums
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original


Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
Instrumental Instrumental
Artist on the Song:
Lee on the Song:

I was one of the last area artists to be selected to honor Lee Ruth on this tribute album. Lee was very helpful and provided me with a CD of the remaining ten or so songs/pieces. I listened to each several times, making notes and reducing the number to three. I decided that "Leo Rising" best suited my talents.

Lee's version of "Leo Rising" is a solo slide guitar piece, short in length, and compact in form. I've kept the compact form but added an introduction and a vamp outro along with changing the style and instrumentation to what I'll call a techno-pop ensemble.

I would like to especially thank Lee Ruth, Banastre Tarleton, Steve Gardner, Steve Donofrio, and Pete Szkolka for their help in this production.

Leo Kottke's album "6 and 12-string Guitar" came out in 1969 and certainly caught the ears of all the acoustic finger-pickers in central Missouri. It was like he had taken the basic John Fahey "American primitive" approach to guitar about three steps further in terms of rhythmic and harmonic intensity. Perhaps an apt analogy would be to compare it to the change that bluegrass music was from the music that immediately preceded it--say, from the Monroe Brothers to the Bluegrass Boys with Lester and Earl in the band, how Alan Lomax described bluegrass as "folk music in overdrive"--not necessarily better, but certainly more high-powered. Call it "American primitive guitar in overdrive."
I never have done much slide guitar, but one day in 1971 when I had my guitar in a tuning I called double Dad (daddad) I picked up a 9/16 stainless steel deep socket from my tool box and viciously assaulted my unsuspecting guitar with it. This tune was what that chunk of steel on my little finger made me do. I considered calling it "Neo Leo" but decided on "Leo Rising" as a more evocative title, conveying his meteoric ascendancy in the guitar-playing world, some ascending passages in the tune, and my own astrological rising sign. There's really not much to the piece, kind of a slipping-and-sliding commotion and clamor of strings, but as I play it, it captures a bit of the feel of his aggressive slide guitar work.

I really had no idea what kind of musical approach to the tune Rich would devise, and I must confess that his techno-pop (if that's even the right phrase) electric guitar and synthesizer-driven arrangement caught me by surprise (as have many of the arrangements and performances on this album), but I can still hear my tune somewhere in there. It's another one of the cuts that doesn't sound like anything else on the album, and this variety is part of the album's appeal to my own ear.

Artist on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artist:
I first became aware of Lee Ruth as a Columbia area artist/musician in the fall of 1971 when I started my education at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Being a music fan only at the time, I witnessed Lee both as a solo artist and in his band incarnations. Officially, we met in the fall of 1979 when I became the electric guitar instructor at Crazy Music where he had been the acoustic guitar, mandolin, and banjo instructor. We have both been teaching at Crazy Music since that time.
Our instruction studios have been in very close proximity and we chat frequently between lessons. I am certain that this relationship will continue until one of us decides to retire from guitar teaching.

I taught my music lessons out of my home from 1969 until we moved way out in the country in 1982, and I no longer had a place in Columbia to teach. In September 1983, a teaching position opened up at Crazy Music and I began giving my lessons there. Rich was already teaching there when I started. In the old store building, our studios were in adjacent rooms, and in the present store we are across the hall from each other. We'd see each other briefly coming and going or between lessons, and over the years we came to know and respect each other's musicality despite considerable differences in our approaches both to playing music and to teaching. We've even had a few students that took lessons from both of us--electric guitar from Rich and acoustic guitar (or in one case, mandolin) from me. One of these decades we may even sit down together with our guitars and play some tunes together. High time, I say.

Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:
Lee had told me that Rich was interested in doing a song for the project. Rich and I have some very close mutual friends. So at an annual flamingo croquet party, I ran into Rich and suggested he get a copy of the tunes that were still unclaimed. Needless to say, Rich found one that he could make into one of his own.

Recorded at The Music House Recording Studio

Record Date: 9/12/03

Recorded and Engineered by Stephen Gardner

Mixed by Stephen Gardner and Rich McDowell



The Project
Songs & Artists
Order Form
News & Reviews