Howard Leese and Heart

Howard Leese and Heart

Howard Leese, photo courtesy of Howard Leese
Howard Leese, photo courtesy of Howard Leese

Howard Leese was born in 1951 in Hollywood, California. As a young boy growing up in the Surf Rock era of the 1950s and 60’s Howard would go to the beach and the Teenage Fair. It was at this fair that he attended a concert for the band The Del-Tones. The lead guitarist was Dick Dale, and he was a very expressive and vibrant guitar player on stage. This inspired Howard to get his first guitar, a 1966 Gibson ES-335 which he still has in own personal collection of over 50 guitars.

The legendary surf rocker, Dick Dale, was an inspiration for the young Howard.
The legendary surf rocker, Dick Dale, was an inspiration for the young Howard.

Howard’s friend in school was Mike Flicker, and he convinced young Howard to put that same Gibson to use playing in a band with some other friends. They called their group, “The Zoo” and it was a 60’s style psychedelic band. They did release one full length album in 1967 under the Bell Records label, which today is known as Arista Records. This made The Zoo, the youngest artists to be signed by a major national label.

The Zoo, courtesy of Howard Leese
The Zoo, photo courtesy of Howard Leese

After college, Howard and Mike both moved to Vancouver, B.C. and formed Mushroom Records. They started to produce demos, and albums, for emerging new artists in the 1970’s. Then in 1974, a fateful turn of events occurred.

A folk rock band calling themselves, “Hocus Pocus” needed studio time to release a new album. The band needed someone to play the keyboards during the recording sessions. Howard provided this fill in assistance, and the band liked his work. They asked him to tour with them, but before they went out on tour the band decided that they needed a new name. The group choose the name, “Heart” and the album they released was, “Dreamboat Annie”. The success of “Dreamboat Annie” lead to Heart going out on tour to packed crowds, as shown in this undated photo.

Early Heart, courtesy of Howard Leese
Early Heart, photo courtesy of Howard Leese

Mike Flicker produced the first five albums for Heart, bringing the total of albums he, and Howard collaborated on to nine.

The last of these titles was “Dog and Butterfly” released in 1978. This promotional photo of the band shows a young Howard about the time he moved to Kent, WA.

Howard bought an old manor on Scenic Hill in 1979. The house was originally built in 1905, and is a copy of a building that the owner observed while on vacation in Kent County, England. It was later remodeled in 1936 to add electricity, plumbing, and the brick exterior seen in the 1940 photo on the left. The manor includes a detached garage with an apartment space above it.

The manor house in 1940
The manor house in 1940

Beryle H. “Elmer” Sandford purchased the property in 1939. Elmer was a King County Sheriff’s Deputy, and he used to board the horses that were used as “The Sheriff’s Posse” in parades at the manor.

The manor house in 2003
The manor house in 2003

Some of Howard’s memories of Kent in the 1980’s was that he had a great dane, some horses and a llama that roamed around the property. He liked to eat at the original Cave man restaurant, and there was still a lot of farm land in Kent.

Heart would rehearse at Howard’s home, and then record at the Bad Animals studio in Seattle that he managed with Ann and Nancy Wilson.

Early Heart on tour, courtesy of Howard Leese
Early Heart on tour, photo courtesy of Howard Leese

In 1980, the band changed its lineup and brought in Mark Andes on bass, and Denny Carmassi on drums. After two albums were released with limited success on the Epic Records label, Heart rebranded themselves as a mainstream rock band in 1985 with their self-titled release on the Capital Records Label. This album would lead to their first #1 song on the Billboard 100, “These Dreams” featuring Nancy Wilson on the lead vocals.

Heart would then follow that effort up with three other albums, concert and television appearances. Howard’s final appearance on a Heart album would be in 1993 with, “Desire Walks On” the subsequent tour would be Howard’s last appearance with Heart on stage, and he retired in 1995 after 22 years with the band.

In 1998 Howard was offered a chance to join The Paul Rodgers band. This lead to a series of tours and concert appearances, and in 2008 the reunited band Bad Company, now includes Howard Leese on guitars. You can find Bad Company on tour later this Summer.

When not on tour with Bad Company, Howard can be seen at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, NV in the #1 musical show, “Raiding the Rock Vault.”

Howard in more recent times, courtesy of Howard Leese
Howard in more recent times, photo courtesy of Howard Leese

Howard has published his own projects that he works on from his private recording studio in Malibu, California.

In 2013 Heart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, the original six members of the band played for the first time in 34 years. Nancy Wilson stated during the ceremony, “That we started our career when women were not expected to be leaders.”

Heart’s legacy is that of the first mainstream rock band to have women as leads, and be one of the first major bands from Seattle. Much of that success is also attributed to Howard’s efforts in production, arrangement, and talent. We bet you didn’t realize all of this was happen less than one mile up the road from City Hall.

Courtesy of Howard Leese
Photo courtesy of Howard Leese

For more information
Rock Vault Interview (Youtube)
Extended Interview (Youtube)
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction (Youtube)
Interview in 2007
Mike Flicker Bio
Dick Dale of the Del-Tones

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