When Leslie West passed away in December of 2020, he left behind a towering legacy of epic recordings that few rock guitarists can match. But there was more to West than great songs (although, to be sure, he created a ton of them); there was his brilliant, idiosyncratic sound, a gargantuan earth-mover that razed arenas and stadiums across the globe. More than just paralyzing tone, though, he also had a touch nobody could beat. Stinging, swooning and sensual melodies leapt from his fingertips – with a deft flick of his wrist, he sounded like a Delta bluesman had picked up a violin. These elements and more helped to make West one of the most significant, influential and irreplaceable guitarists of the rock era.
“There was nobody on earth quite like Leslie,” says the guitarist’s widow, Jenni West. “The second you heard him play, you knew it was him. He loved playing the guitar and making music. He lived to make people feel good – it was his passion. He was famous to his fans throughout the world, but he was adored by other musicians. Everybody from country stars, rappers and heavy metal players – they all loved Leslie. He found it surprising, but I think he was also pleased to know how much he inspired other musicians.”
West’s longtime manager, Bob Ringe, agrees, saying, “I’ve worked with some of the greatest guitarists on the planet, and nobody could hold a candle to Leslie. He was so unique and special – his sound, his style, his power and warmth. Any guitarist I talk to has been influenced in some way by him. They broke the mold when they made him, and he took it with him when he passed away. He was a true one of a kind.”
An astonishing array of West’s admirers – who also happened to be friends and peers – came together to celebrate the trailblazing musician on the aptly titled Legacy: A Tribute to Leslie West. Executive produced by Jenni West, Bob Ringe and John Lappen, the album features dizzying, heartfelt performances by Slash, Zakk Wylde, Dee Snider, Bachman & Bachman, Martin Barre, Joe Lynn Turner, Charlie Starr, Elliot Easton, Robbie Krieger, Mike Portnoy, Eddie Ojeda, George Lynch, Marty Friedman, Steve Morse and Yngwie Malmsteen, among others.
Originally, the album was intended to be a retrospective celebration of West’s music on which the guitarist himself would perform some of his best-loved cuts with notable guests, along with a collection of new tracks. Two weeks before recording was set to commence, however, the guitarist passed away. While grieving the loss of her husband, Jenni was comforted by the constant stream of phone calls from famous musicians who expressed their condolences, and without fail, each one said the same thing: “If you do any kind of tribute to Leslie, please let me know.”