Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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MOUNTAIN

Heavy rock group formed '69 by bassist Felix Pappalardi (b 20 December 1939, Bronx, NYC; d 17 April 1983, NYC) and guitarist Leslie West (b Leslie Weinstein, 22 October 1945, NYC). Pappalardi had graduated from Michigan Conservatory of Music and drifted into folk, playing bass for Tim Hardin in Greenwich Village, becoming a session player, arranger and producer. He produced the Youngbloods' debut '67, then Cream albums Disraeli Gears, Wheels Of Fire and Goodbye '67-9, co-writing '67 hit 'Strange Brew' with Eric Clapton and his (Pappalardi's) wife, Gail Collins. While producing a single for a NYC group the Vagrants, he was impressed by lead guitarist West; produced solo LP Leslie West -- Mountain '69 (Vagrants disintegrated after two singles); the duo added keyboardist Steve Knight (ex-Devil's Anvil) and drummer Norman Smart, and formed a group named after the album. Their heavy rock in Cream or Grand Funk mould was right for the times; their fourth gig was the Woodstock festival, ensuring immortality.

Mountain Climbing '70 included no. 21 single 'Mississippi Queen'; Nantucket Sleighride '71 was their high point, Smart replaced by Corky Laing (b 28 January 1948, Montreal): the hard-driving wide-screen rock of the title track contrasted West's lyrical guitar with his roaring vocal style; Pappalardi shared vocals with a thinner, nasal voice, still co-writing with Collins. Flowers Of Evil '71 was followed by Mountain Live (The Road Goes Ever On) '72; the latter and two-disc Twin Peaks '74 both featured epic versions of 'Sleighride', taking Cream-inspired improvisations to extremes. The band split '72; Pappalardi (whose hearing was by then seriously impaired) concentrated on solo work while West and Laing recruited ex-Cream Jack Bruce to form West, Bruce and Laing, who made Why Don'cha and Whatever Turns You On '72-3 before Bruce left; their posthumous Live And Kickin' '74 appeared just as Mountain re-formed with rhythm guitarist David Perry instead of keyboardist Knight. Avalanche '74 was followed by another split in 1975. Though far from being innovators, as a live act Mountain were in the forefront of '70s rockers. They also provided the theme for UK/ITV magazine programme Weekend World.

Laing appeared on West's The Great Fatsby and Leslie West Band '75 before West's career sputtered amid financial and drug problems; Laing made his own Makin' It On The Street '77. Pappalardi went to Japan, produced Felix Pappalardi And Creation '76 and punks Dead Boys '78. He was found dead at home, shot with a .38 he had recently bought for his wife; he had been having an affair, and Collins was convicted of criminally negligent homocide.