Craig Leon was born in Miami, FL, and opened up a studio there when he was barely out of high school to record local bands while he fiddled with his own compositions. But it wasn't until Sire records co-founder Richard Gottehrer brought the Climax Blues Band to Florida to do pre-production on their 1974 release Sense of Direction that Leon's career really began.
Enamored with the studio and Leon's budding recording talents, Gottehrer convinced the 22-year-old to move to New York and become the upstart Sire's new A&R man. The timing was impeccable, as Leon landed in New York just in time to see the punk scene on the bowery of Manhattan's Lower East Side explode. Catching a Ramones gig one night, Leon fell in love with the group's stripped down sound and greaser look and in a matter of months was producing the group's debut. One of the most important and influential records to ever be put to wax, Leon rehearsed the rough hewn band until their sound was a combination of raw energy and pop melodic sensibility. As Sire was the label of the punk movement, Leon had the chance to produce such mainstays of the scene as Blondie, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and Moon Martin. Two years after the Ramones record, Leon produced another influential debut, this time by the electronic noise duo Suicide. The group's self-titled record, a patchwork of electronic experimentation and primitive rock & roll yelp, influenced everything from the noise rock of groups like Sonic Youth to the U.K.'s early-'80s synth pop movement spearheaded by Joy Division and Depeche Mode. The latter was to become a harbinger of things to come as Leon eventually moved to the U.K. later that decade to continue producing indie bands like Eugenius and Jesus Jones and work on his own music with wife Cassell Webb. ~ Steve Kurutz
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