Specializing in interpretations of early 20th century popular music, singer and guitarist Leon Redbone first gained attention in Toronto in the mid-1970s. Refusing to divulge any information about his background or personal life, Redbone's intense desire to protect his privacy led to numerous outrageous rumors, fueling early press speculation that he was either comedian Andy Kaufman or Frank Zappa in disguise.
With his vaudeville era attire, dark glasses, and Groucho Marx moustache, he certainly appeared to have been transplanted through time, with his music harkening back to pre-World War ragtime, jazz and blues. Redbone's distinctive bass/baritone vocal stylings recalled performers like Jelly Roll Morton and Bing Crosby, and are heavily influenced by the white blackface minstrel singer Emmett Miller.
Redbone's debut album, Off The Track, was released in 1975 and he soon gained a cult following through numerous television appearances, including a recurring musical guest spot on the up and coming NBC comedy show Saturday Night Live.