Music Bio


Born into a loving family on July 20, 1938, the legend began. From his crib, Leslie started bringing rhythms to life by tapping his hands and fingers on everything in sight. As a little boy he beat on pots and pans, tables, tin garbage cans, you name it, since nothing in his fertile imagination went unnoticed. Leslie’s finely tuned ears became his radar antennae, as he grooved to rhythms of the rain and beams of sunshine, gravel crunching beneath his fast-running feet; water running from the tap, rustling of leaves, and cars driving down the street. Every sound in nature became melodies to him. Leslie’s driving passion in life always has been, and forever will be, his music.

At the tender age of 10, Leslie’s parents encouraged his vision and destiny by giving him his first set of drums, and he has never stopped kickin’ and stickin’ it since. His Uncle Ernest ‘The Kid’ Milton, a famous show drummer in his own right, took Leslie under his wing and taught him the fine art of show drumming and showmanship in all genres of music. By age 12, he was playing drums professionally in the famed French Quarter of New Orleans, music capital of the world.
At only 14, he was selected to attend the elite Gateway School of Music. Leslie has traveled far and wide to nuture his destiny…from street corner musician, burlesque halls and night clubs in his native New Orleans, and the juke joints on the Chitlun’ circuit of the south, to the Apollo Theatre in New York (where his signature lives on that famous wall), and the great concert halls of America and Europe. From solo performances to big band orchestras, Leslie has done it all; enhancing and perfecting his craft along the way in his inimitable and dynamic style. To quote one of his favorite mottos…’how do you get to Carnegie Hall?’…practice, practice, practice!
In the early 60’s, Leslie moved to Los Angeles. He sparked an active career in both live gigs and recording sessions with the best in the business…Johnny Otis, Etta James, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Roy Brown, Ike & Tina Turner, Sonny & Cher, Bill Cosby, and others. He worked with Quincy Jones and ‘Bumps’ Blackwell with Mercury Records and played on several national hits, such as The Rivington’s (Papa Ouh Mau Mau), Watt’s 103rd St. Rhythm Band (Spreadin’ Honey), Jackie DeShannon (Put a Little Love in Your Heart), and the beat goes on. Leslie appeared on many T-V shows, including the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Ed Sullivan Show, and Johnny Otis’ Big Band Show on Saturday morning.

In 1976, inspired by America’s Bicentennial Celebration, Leslie created his spectacular ‘Star Drums’ Showcase. He used his ‘extra-terrestrial’ vision to invent taking the audience on an imaginary journey into space…with a dazzling array of lights, special effects, and sizzling show drumming. Leslie soon presented his magical “Star Drums” extravaganza to audiences all over the world, and in Seattle at the Coliseum and Key Arena for former Mayor Norm Rice and his political guests.

In 1977, Leslie moved to Seattle to ‘semi-retire’. It wasn’t but a ‘millizon’ before he picked up his sticks and started performing again with the best bands around. First with the Blue Lights Band; they were the opening act for Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon at the Show Box. While working with Blue Lights, Leslie penned an original tune called ‘Mount St. Helen Blues’…6 months before she blew her top! Leslie later recorded and toured Europe with the Slamhound Hunters, and wrote another original song called ‘Swamp Crab’, which is on their ‘Private Jungle’ album. Their album entitled ‘Slamhound Hunters’ (with artists Kim Field and Mark Dalton) was selected by Rocket Magazine as one of the top 10 albums of all time in the Pacific Northwest. Leslie has since penned several originals; one of our favorites is called ‘What Would Muddy Say If He Heard What’s Happening to the Blues Today’.
Leslie then joined Freddy James (pianist/organist extraordinaire) and the Rocking 88’s’ in the mid-eighties. He was with Freddy’s band for 10 years. The group recorded several CDs together and performed all over the state.

Leslie always wanted to sing so, in 1998, Leslie teamed up with Gael ‘Lady Keys’ Kurath, who hails from Chicago, and is a very talented (classically trained) pianist and vocalist. The musical partnership of ‘Star Drums & Lady Keys’ was honed during 11 years as the house band at the ‘Alligator Soul Restaurant’ in Everett, WA, where they performed every Saturday night. Gael is a microbiologist, and loves to be a scientist by day and torch the blues at night. She plays a wicked bass line with her left hand, so they sound like a full band. They have recorded a collection of 4 CDs….’Star Drums & Lady Keys Live at the Alligator Soul’ (at the original place) in 1999; then ‘From the Soul’, (at the new place), and celebrated their 10-year musical anniversary with ‘A Decade of Soul From the Soul’ recorded live at the ‘Gator’. They play other nightclubs occasionally, private parties and special benefits. Star Drums & Lady Keys also performed at the well-known EMP (Experience Music Project) downtown Seattle. Their music is rated ‘E’…for Everyone!

In 1996, Leslie was honored with the invitation to perform for former President Bill Clinton and his entourage at the Paramount Theatre downtown Seattle. He is always teasing Gael with….’our next stop is the White House’.

In addition to his musical career, Leslie has organized and hosted seminars for children and teens on drumming directed to music as a career. As he says, talent is only 10% of the pyramid of success…such as grooming, attire, presentation, the business of music and more. He dreams of opening a special school called ‘The Miltonian Institute’ for that same purpose. Leslie also conducts drum lessons for children and adults. And if that were not enough, he is also artistic with designing drumheads, painting, sketching and staging. His living motto to everyone is …’Listen, Concentrate, and have Fun’!
After 70 years in the performing arts, Leslie’s goal is to write his autobiography entitled ‘First Rank’; sharing his musical adventures, experiences, and teaching others his knowledge and wisdom so that Leslie can ‘pass it on’. He has more than a book full of stories to tell. To Leslie, song lyrics are stories. Although Leslie knows how to read music, his passion is to play and sing with soulful feeling, and do justice to the story of the song. And the beat goes on…!