The seasoned pros of Leo Creek revive that old time rock & roll

by Rick Coates, Northern Express

A bit of history is required in any biography of this remarkable band. Back when Memphis saw the birth of rock and roll, a restless young man by the name of Leonard Creque blew in on a boxcar with a pack of Pall Malls, a nearly toothless comb, and a fistful of songs. As Elvis, Jerry Lee, and others ascended it was common knowledge that they were lesser lights. Leonard (Leo) Creek became one of the sad footnotes in American music. Was it the drinking? The gambling? The women? The details are murky, but Leo was slain during a poker game when a pullman porter named Juggy Kincaid took exception to Leo's remarks about his stripper wife and pulled a knife. Leo's legacy is fraught with rumor and unsubstantiated gossip. We can, however, be sure that many of the great classics of the genre were actually penned by this tragic figure.
Luckily for us, Leo had assembled a band equal to his legendary live performances. They played the chitlin' circuit for years after Leo's passing as The Leo Creek Ghost Band and never stopped being big in Japan.

The current line-up of the band still has two original members, Perfesser Tim Sparling on piano and Drew Abbott on guitar. Tim was working as a dime-a-dance boy at Shifty's Club Bleu on Beale Street one night when the club’s aging piano man left his post unexpectedly due to ingesting bad clams. Tim slid into the spot and proceeded to bring the indifferent crowd to its feet. Musical excitement or bad clams? We'll never know, but history was made. Leo was at the bar and in the company of a stripper (Juggy Kincaid's wife)...upon hearing the 88s being abused he immediately tapped Tim to record and tour with him.

Drew Abbott was already a blues legend who's name was whispered up and down the eastern seaboard. The whispering was because Drew was known to carry a French pinfire derringer in his sock. This gave Drew a cool gait still emulated by bounty hunters and skip tracers throughout the south. It's a matter of record that in an interview with Dick Cavett, Jimi Hendrix mentioned Drew as an influence. Because of the whispering involved in mentioning Drew, Jimi's remarks are barely audible. Work songs are still sung in Angola Prison about the day Drew Slew Juggy in retribution for killing Leo.
The latest additions to the band, Roger and Jack, were working the state fair circuit in a wild west show when they met the Leo Creek Ghost Band. They were disillusioned about this business we call "show" and life in general. Jack was a child prodigy bassist who'd been dismissed from the Prague Symphony and blacklisted. He interrupted a performance with guest conductor Zubin Mehta by shouting "Zube...Do you know where to come in?" He followed this with an impromptu solo featuring his wah-wah pedal.
Master drummer Roger's trust fund was lost in a lawsuit that dragged on for years. It was eventually ruled that his great-grandfather had actually invented the question mark, but was on staff at a Brooklyn talent agency at the time and not entitled to the large payout from "96 Tears." Roger and Jack met while developing a trick roping act after a chance meeting in a Winnipeg holding cell.
In this era of pre-formulated pap it's heartening to see a band of master musicians playing it live and bigger than life. These guys are seasoned vets who've killed audiences on every continent. If you get a chance to see them in a place with a metal-detector, don't miss it. This is a band with one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel. Soulful Rock, Gut-funky rhythms and pure musical satisfaction!

(reprinted by permission) Swifty Greene, in the North Hollywood Gazette
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