Fort Smith Remembers Music Legend Leon Russell

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)—People in our area are remembering a rock 'n’ roll legend who passed away over the weekend.

Leon Russell died in his sleep in Nashville, according to a post from his wife on his website. He was 74.

“I worked with Leon several times in concerts here in Fort Smith,” Dennis Snow said.

Many people know Snow as the director of the Steel Horse Rally, but in the 70s he was working for a production company. That’s when he first met Russell.

“I got to know Leon backstage,” Snow said. “He was a real gentle soul, and once you got to talking to him off camera or off microphone, it's amazing how he opened up to you. He didn't really like the media that much. He was a very private person.”

The legendary musician was born in Tulsa.

“He grew up in Lawton,” Snow said. “He went to high school in Tulsa, and they started the band called Starlighters with J.J. Cale, Elvin Bishop was in school with him. He worked with so many people.”

Russell also helped launch the career of Joe Cocker. In 2011, he was induced into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame for his decades of work as a songwriter, piano player and guitarist.

“That's pretty amazing,” Snow said. “Elton John called the guy his mentor.”

Russell was scheduled to perform at the Peacemaker Music Festival in Fort Smith this past summer but had to cancel due to health issues.

“He was getting frail,” Snow said. “He already had a heart attack. He loved to perform that was really what he lived for, but the heart attack had really weakened him.”

The grandson of country singer Charlie Rich posted the picture below on Facebook, saying it’s now proudly displayed in his house for the next generation to grow up with.


“He influenced so many people and so many sounds that we`re going hear it for decades to come,” Snow said.

Russell was also scheduled to perform in Eureka Springs in April 2017.