I am Chuck Leavell. Keyboardist for the Rolling Stones since 1982 - we just returned from our "50 and Counting Tour" - and recording/touring musician for many other artists including Eric Clapton, George Harrison, The Allman Brothers Band, John Mayer and more. I am also a solo artist, author of four books, a tree farmer, conservationist and environmentalist, and a tech entrepreneur, co-founder of The Mother Nature Network (www.mnn.com). I count my blessings every day! Ask me anything….

proof: https://twitter.com/MotherNatureNet/status/377059873344589825

Comments: 202 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

vox_barfly19 karma

How is touring with the Stones different than touring with anyone else?

chuckleavell26 karma

Hey...it's the STONES!!! And after 30 years, it's also a family for all of us. The parties are off the charts, the rehearsals and hangs are awesome...the time on stage precious. In musical terms...it's just loose and free...no one takes ourselves too seriously and we all have a blast!

vegence18 karma

someone has to ask it so it might as well be me. How do you feel the band handled the transition from cocaine/alcohol/orgys to geritol/metamucil/hip replacements?

chuckleavell19 karma

Quite well, I'd say!

OneMagnificentFart16 karma


chuckleavell11 karma

Actually, I wasn't on that record...it was Eddie Hawarich (sp?), who I recommended to the band after I did their first record, Shake Your Money Maker....

OneMagnificentFart9 karma


chuckleavell10 karma

No, it was a surprise to me...but I can say that when I first heard their demos, I could hear that fantastic energy and raw feel they had, and I figured it might take them two or three records to get through the fray...but it was a real pleasant surprise for it to do so well. I love the guys and I think they have a 25th anniversary coming up...my, how time flies!

Frajer15 karma

What's been your best/worst touring experience?

chuckleavell23 karma

You know....even the hard times are good times. I look back fondly on the years when we toured with Alex Taylor in a Ford LTD station wagon with 6 guys all bunched up together. But I must say that traveling in private planes and staying in five star hotels is...well....a little bit better!

ljms15 karma

Your resume is really impressive! Who was your favourite musician to work with?

chuckleavell32 karma

Ohhhh....so hard to say, but George Harrison was pretty darn special. Such a great guy....beautiful person and amazing songwriter/musician. A real honor for me to have played on his last tour....

MLeibovitz14 karma

Loved your passionate solo in Honky Tonk Women in Paris 2003! Playing with your right foot is something new... Which was your best moment on stage so far? And how is Keith Richards backstage?

chuckleavell16 karma

Keith is always fun....very cool guy to hang with as you might imagine. Thanks for nice words on HTW....I keep practicing with my right foot and trying to get my left foot into action....best moment on stage? ....every moment!

the_fart_whisperer11 karma

any cool george harrison stories?

chuckleavell19 karma

George was THE GREATEST. One special memory is when we all went to Peace Park together in Hiroshima. Amazing to be there with George, who was such a humanitarian....

CharmedYogi10 karma

How did you get into environmentalism from being a rockstar?

chuckleavell21 karma

It's all my wife's fault....her family has been connected to the land for generations as farmers, tending livestock and forest lands. In '81 her grandmother passed away and left her a parcel of land and it became our responsibility to carry on the tradition of stewardship...it has been an amazing journey for me and I am very passionate bout environmentalism

gee_emhf9 karma

Hello Chuck! What is your "dream concert"? It can be any artist(s) living or dead.

chuckleavell15 karma

Oooooh....well, how about John Lennon, Booker T. Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Winwood, Charlie Watts, Darryl Jones, Keith and Mick....with the Memphis Horns....if I had time, I'd throw out some more names, but that would be a pretty cool start, huh?

IhaveSomeQuestions568 karma

1) What is the craziest thing you have seen groupies do?

2) What is the most amount of drugs you have witnessed someone consume?

3) What is something that would really surprise people about what goes on back-stage?

Thank you

chuckleavell13 karma

Hey....this is supposed to be a family show!!! No...I've seen some pretty crazy things in my day, but best to leave it to your imagination. At the end of the day....for all of us survivors, it's all about the music. It has been so sad to see some great talents wind up burning out way too early...and those of us that have made it this far want to go a lot further...for me personally, life has been about balance and moderation. Maybe not so exciting to hear, but the thrill of doing what I get to do keeps me in check....

acedelaf7 karma

What's your favorite song?

chuckleavell12 karma

With the Stones....Honky Tonk Women. Just such a cool and fun one to play and the fans always love it. The girls all want to be the HTW and the guys all want to be with her!

UnfortunateBirthMark7 karma

What project have you worked on that you felt deserved more attention/affection?

chuckleavell12 karma

You know...I produced and played on Warren Haynes' first solo record called "Tales Of Ordinary Madness"....I never thought it got the exposure it should, and I think it holds up well. Also, the Stones' record "Stripped" was somewhat neglected. But I guess they can't all be hits....I just keep trying to have fun and stay in the groove....

kselley7 karma

What was John Mayer like to work with? People make him out to be a douche, but is he different in person?

chuckleavell10 karma

John is a monster player and a great guy....very funny and witty, very intelligent. I also found him to be very honest and honorable...I just hope I can keep on playing with him....

AnitaSarcasmian6 karma

did he force you to say that?

chuckleavell11 karma

No, I promise...I know he has had a ...well...."reputation" in the past...but I think he has grown so much as an artist and as a person. There is a lot about John that folks don't know about...he is very generous and has done some amazing things for people. Check out his support of Vets, for instance....truly a great guy

sp0ck067 karma

Chuck! Am I correct in believing that you were on the keys for Clapton's Unplugged? Fantastic work.

chuckleavell7 karma

Yup, that's me, and thanks. I just found out that Eric is releasing a 20th anniversary edition of it...with some outtakes and such. It was one of the best gigs I ever had the pleasure of playing, and made for a great memory....

blurrysunset6 karma

How are you today?

chuckleavell12 karma

I couldn't be better, thanks! I was practicing the piano this morning...then had a bit of time to go out and work on our land...and now get to field these questions from fine folks like you....hope you are well, too!

The_Obesity_Epidemic6 karma

Ive heard that after duane died that greg basically couldn't stand dicky in the band after, leading up to his firing. Can you elaborate on what was going on? Side note just listened to jessica for the millionth time and your solo is beautiful.

chuckleavell7 karma

Thanks for the kind words on Jessica! I did come in at a time that was somewhat difficult, but we all considered ourselves brothers, and did our best to respect each other...it was really a magical time for me

joshorson5 karma

What was the most interesting Mick Jagger, Keith Richards confrontation that you have witnessed?

chuckleavell6 karma

Hey....I want to keep my gig!!! There are stories I can't tell....but I will confirm that there have been some tense moments in the 31 years I've been with them. At the end of the day, I think it only goes to make a stronger relationship. Those guys are joined at the hip and will forever be Brothers....

pinata_penis_pump5 karma

Hey Chuck, huge fan. I managed to catch the second Toronto show with the Stones this past June, and it truly was one of the best concerts I've been to. My question is, when it comes to working in the studio how much freedom are you given when it comes to writing music? Do Mick and Keith normally have the most say on the keyboard material?

chuckleavell7 karma

Hey....first, as we know...Mick and Keith write the songs...but, when it comes to my keyboard parts, that's up to me. There have been a few occasions when one of them may have a specific idea and I try to accommodate that...but in general, they want me to do what I do. Glad you liked the Toronto show!

leontes5 karma


chuckleavell9 karma

Music has always changed since the beginning of time, and always will. I personally think it's important to learn to really play an instrument...guitar, piano, sax, flute, drums, whatever....while one can argue that sampling and such is also an art...to me it is not anything like putting in the sweat and time it takes to learn how to get around a real instrument. As for the business end...yow, so much has changed....it seems that so many folks now think that music should be free. The genie is out of the bottle, and it makes it tough to create revenue streams with selling music these days....so most artists now depend on live performances to make $$. Also....having songs in tv shows, movies or commercials can be lucrative...but it sure ain't how it used to be!

razzo5 karma

Do you have a favorite t-shirt?

chuckleavell8 karma

Yeah...the early Allman Brothers Band one with the original mushroom on it...awesome!

Lord_Weenis5 karma

What does Mick smell like?

chuckleavell15 karma

Very English....

chooter2 karma

So, like Burberry Brit cologne?

chuckleavell7 karma

...or maybe English Leather....I don't use cologne anymore, but when I was a kid that was my bottle of choice!

bairet5 karma

I loved it when you played on Queen of California with John Mayer, I thought it was fantastic. Will you be playing with him more moving forward?

chuckleavell8 karma

Man, I sure hope so...I was going to tour with John in 2012...but as we know, he had to cancel due to his granuloma on his throat. Then the Stones came into play, and I committed myself to them for the latest tour. John is out now, as you know...and will work through the end of this year. Soooo....maybe next year? Thanks for the good words on QOC....great tune!

Highwaychile4 karma

Do you have a favorite tour with the stones? And how was it working with Martin Scorsese in the movie "Shine a light"?

chuckleavell9 karma

All the tours have been great...but I'd say that Steel Wheels was a landmark one as the band sort of re-invented itself. Everyone knew that it had been 7 years since we toured and we had to come out swinging...and we did. But I also have to sincerely say that this last run proved to me that the band continues to mature and can deliver the goods as well as we ever have. I think the reviews back that up. It is so amazing and so great that we can still do it with heart and soul. Shine A Light was so cool...Scorsese is such a music fan as we know, and he was there 100% for us. I found him to be a straight up guy with a passion for his work...a true honor for me to be in the same room with the guy....

spookyball4 karma

What advice do you have for an amateur keyboardist/musician? I started teaching myself keys in February, and in particular I seem to struggle with adding filler when I'm just playing chords as opposed to an actual lead part.

chuckleavell10 karma

Check out my website: www.irocku.com. It is online instruction for keyboards. We license some great rock songs and then put together 7 levels of instruction for each song. Also, if you are interested, I have an instructional DVD available on my site: www.chuckleavell.com. Keep on radiatin' the 88s!

Throssell19883 karma

What is the craziest party you have been to? What did it involve? All the crazy details will be greatly appreciated :)

chuckleavell3 karma

Man, there have been soooo many. One that stands out was when I was with the Allman Brothers and we went to Europe for the first time....must have been '73. We played in Amsterdam (need I say more?) and stayed there for a couple of days...but the party I remember was in London at some disco. I went because someone told me Charlie Watts would be there...and indeed, he was. I'm not the type of guy to get all loopy on various ingredients...but I was enthralled to meet a Rolling Stone and had a really fun conversation with him. Little did I think that some 9 years later I would be playing with them....and amazing to me, Charlie actually remembered the encounter when I went to audition for them. It was a special moment, looking back at it. As for crazy indulgences I've seen at some of the parties through the years...all I can say is use your best imagination and then multiply times 10....at least....

annacorinne3 karma

Hey Chuck, thanks for doing an AMA! What's your favorite venue that you've played?

chuckleavell9 karma

So many....Carnegie Hall wasn't bad....but so was playing to a million and a half people on Copacabana Beach in Rio

ILL_Show_Myself_Out3 karma

What role do you play in the creative process of writing music, and do musicians like you add more creatively to the production of songs than most people realize?

chuckleavell4 karma

Great question....and it varies quite a lot. There is sometimes a fine line between writing and arranging material. If that line is somehow crossed, then I don't mind speaking up to the other writers involved to say..."Hey, I should have a piece of this!". But at the same time there are many instances when the song is written and I just what to contribute as best I can to make it as good as it can be...fortunately I've never had a fight or argument with anyone about writing credit...so in the end the main thing is to do what is best for the song and the artist

bonzerinc3 karma


chuckleavell3 karma

Just sat in with Al Anderson recently in California...what a talent! Also...NRBQ played at my daughter's wedding almost 10 years ago here at our home, Charlane Plantation. And Joey played bass with us on the "Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll" movie we did with Chuck Berry. Love those guys....

LowBatteryDamnIt2 karma

What song would instantly remind you of time in your life, happy or sad, and why?

chuckleavell7 karma

For songs that I've played on....probably "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers. It reminds me of when I was barely 20 years old and given a golden opportunity to play with a great band. I can't believe that 40 years later it still gets play....and FYI, Universal Music just released a boxed set of the "Brothers and Sisters" record with lots of outtakes and additional jams and such. It put a smile on my face to listen and remember those times....

canteen0072 karma

You being an author (I'm assuming you read a lot), who are some of your favorite writers and why?

chuckleavell5 karma

Lately I've been reading a lot of autobiographies....Rupert Lowenstein (who was business manager of the Stones for a long time) has one called "A Prince Among Stones". I also liked Jo Wood's book "It's Only Rock and Roll"...but I also like reading books on the environment. "Last Child In The Woods" by Richard Louv is a good commentary on how today's kids aren't getting out in nature nearly enough...and I love American Canopy by Eric Rutkow....great read about the history of American forests...

wellvis2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. What's your practice routine like nowadays?

chuckleavell4 karma

When I know i have some kind of gig coming up....a tour with the Stones, recording dates, gigs of my own....I start practicing about 2-3 weeks out. I'm usually up early and get to the piano around 6am. I do some stretches and exercises (like Hannon)....then just play some songs that I feel like playing or that I think I can find ways to improve. And I always try to do some improvisation in the mix...just blank the mind and let my hands take over. It's sometimes tough when I'd rather be doing other things....working on the land, taking care of errands, whatever...but I think playing music is like being an athlete...when it's time to gear up for the big event, big game...you'd better put in the time it takes to prepare!

Oldirty912 karma

What was it like coming into the Allman Brothers at the particular time you did? What were some of the hardest parts, if there were any, of being "the new guy" so to speak after the death of Duane and eventually Berry?

chuckleavell2 karma

You know, my focus was on the music...and thinking about how I could contribute to a band that was known so much for the guitar work. I think having a completely different instrument in the mix actually made it easier....no one could have replaced Duane...so taking a different direction I think made sense. The guys were very welcoming to me, so I felt quite at ease from the beginning. Berry was really accommodating, and it was such a tragedy to lose him after only being in the band a matter of a few months.

Divotus2 karma

What was your worst keyboarding accident?

chuckleavell5 karma

Oh, man...I hate to admit this one...but since you asked...when I was with Clapton we did a show somewhere in Europe (can't remember exactly) and it came time to do the refrain part of "Layla"...and I just zapped out....just couldn't make my hands do what they were supposed to do...but I muddled my way through it and played something else, doing the best I knew how to do. After the gig, I told Eric: "Sorry about the 'jazz bit' on Layla"....he just smiled and said..."What bit?"....made me feel a lot better, but I was definately red in the face. I assure you it never happened again!!

MyNewNewUserName2 karma

You're about 10 years younger than the other Rolling Stones guys. How long do you think they'll be able to keep up this rock and roll lifestyle? What about you -- retire when you drop?

chuckleavell8 karma

We all get so many comments about the energy we put out for our ages. The truth is that I believe rock 'n roll keeps you young at heart, and if you care enough about delivering the goods, you keep yourself in shape to do it. Mick is absolutely amazing and is a role model for me in terms of his physicality. The guy has the body of a 30 year old. I have a pretty strong ethic of trying to stay in shape as I find it really helps me in everyday life...whether playing music, working on our plantation, whatever...and I think staying physical helps the mentality, too. The great classical piano player, Vladimir Horowitz, played concerts well into his 90's....yeah....retire when I drop, I suppose....but the other things I value in life like being outdoors, writing, family also play a role in trying to stay in the groove....

stupid__questions2 karma

Have you gathered any moss during your time as a Rolling Stone?

chuckleavell4 karma

I've only gathered good times and great friends!! And some pretty fun music....

used_fapkins2 karma

Best party story? Longest you've been up consecutively?

Hell any first hand account of what its like to live like a rockstar

chuckleavell6 karma

Hee...well, Keith holds the record with 8 days. I wouldn't even try for that!!! Best party story....my 40th birthday playing in New Orleans with Eric Clapton....after the show we had a sit down dinner that my wife, Rose Lane, arranged with Eric, all the band, and lots of friends from all over...awesome

Jints4881 karma

best paul quote from tour?

chuckleavell3 karma

best paul quote from tour?

Not sure who Paul is....don't think he plays with the Stones!!

AndrewIsMyName1 karma

If you could tour with any band, together or split up, dead or alive, which band would you choose to tour with?

chuckleavell3 karma

Hmmm....well, maybe The Who, Sting (played with him once on a benefit show), certainly The Beatles, maybe Hank Williams, Sr. (played with Jr.), Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye...those are a few...

AndrewIsMyName1 karma

What was it like touring with The Rolling Stones? Who is your favorite member of the band?

chuckleavell5 karma

First, it certainly isn't over! We just finished a three month run in mid July for the "50 and Counting" tour. Great fun. Hey...don't make me pick favorites...I want to keep my gig! They are all very cool guys. Charlie is such a gentleman, Mick is an amazing frontman, singer/songwriter....Keith is the world's most amazing riffmeister and Ronnie is the glue that keeps it together....

plausible-rationale1 karma

True or False: There's always a need for more cowbell?

Show your math.

chuckleavell5 karma

Absolutely!!!! Google up Chuck Leavell Sony Purdue cowbell....one of my favorite moments....

BossingtonDC1 karma

I love you!

chuckleavell3 karma

Awwww, shucks! Thanks, and luv back....

strangeremain1 karma

Hi Chuck,

You were playing a gig for a biking event at American University in Washington DC two years ago. I had no clue you were going to be there until I wandered by, and just happened to be wearing a Grateful Dead shirt. I got a photo with you afterwards and you mentioned I was wearing the wrong shirt. I just want to apologize for not knowing you were coming, or I would totally have been wearing an Allman Brothers shirt!

As for a question, do you still follow the more recent work of the Allman Brothers? What do you think of the job Warren Haynes is doing?

chuckleavell2 karma

Hee....hey, I tip my had to the Dead....yeah, did what the Brothers are doing and love Warren...we're good friends and you may know that I played with the Mule for a while. Also produced his first solo record, "Tales Of Ordinary Madness"....he's an awesome talent.

FuckAHippo1 karma

What's your preferred whisky? My dad's asking. He's been a long time fan. :D Love that you're doing this!

chuckleavell2 karma

Maker's Mark. There are some other exotics I like, but for every day, MM is a great one!

russmclendon1 karma

What do you like/dislike about tree farming?

chuckleavell5 karma

I like everything about it...being outdoors, getting my hands dirty, planting trees, pruning them, thinning them sometimes. Here at Charlane Plantation I'm always out looking for tress that die for one reason or another...old age, insects, lighting strikes, whatever. I take them down, buck them up and send the logs to be sawn into lumber...and we have built several buildings here using our own wood...as well as renovating our own house. I love seeing the deer, the wild turkeys...quail, songbirds. I love being on my tractor working....it's a gas, gas, gas!