Chuck Leavell (b. 1952)
Chuck Leavell is a pianist and keyboard player whose career has included tenures as a member of the Allman Brothers Band and Sea Level and as a backup musician for many other acts, among them Dr. John, the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton. He is also a Georgia timber farmer and environmental activist.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 28, 1952, Leavell was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
He relocated to Georgia through the influence of another session player, Paul Hornsby, who had worked with Gregg and Duane Allman in Nashville. Phil Walden signed the Allmans to work for Macon-based Capricorn Records in 1969, and as his stable of acts grew, Hornsby recommended that Leavell come and be part of the happenings in Macon. In the Capricorn office Leavell met his future wife, Rose Lane White, who was the personal assistant to executive vice president Frank Fenter. White was a native of Twiggs County, and after the couple married, Leavell became a permanent Georgian. They have two daughters, Amy and Ashley.
The Leavells inherited land in Twiggs County from the Lane family and relocated there in the early 1980s to try and make a living on it. Someone suggested that they consider growing Christmas trees. Leavell studied this option through reading and meetings with other land owners, extension agents, and timber companies. During a stint as a backup musician for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, he even completed a correspondence course on forest management.
Leavell has published a book on American forests, Forever Green, and a children's book, The Tree Farmer. In 2003 he performed the national anthem at a ceremony in which U.S. president George W. Bush signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. A few years later he cofounded the Web site Mother Nature Network, which launched in 2009, and in 2011 he published Growing a Better America: Smart, Strong, and Sustainable.
Throughout his career, Leavell has played and accompanied hundreds of songs with many different musicians and bands. Perhaps the song he is best known for is the Dickey Betts instrumental "Jessica," which first appeared on the Allman Brothers album Brothers and Sisters (1973). He has released three solo albums, What's in That Bag? (1998), Forever Blue: Solo Piano (2001), and Southscape (2005). Because the Rolling Stones entrusted him to do the first drafts of song sets during several world tours, People magazine called Leavell "the sixth Rolling Stone." He has been affiliated with the band since 1982.
Chuck Leavell, with J. Marshall Craig, Between Rock and a Home Place (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2004).
Chuck Leavell, with Mary Welch, Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest (Dry Branch, Ga.: Evergreen Arts, 2001).
Laura McCarty, Georgia Humanities Council
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.