Carl Sonny Leyland was born & raised on the South Coast of England, growing up close to the city of Southampton.
As a child he was drawn to the American music which he heard on LP records his father would play. It was here that he developed an appreciation for Dixieland jazz, the rock & roll of the 1950s & the country music of Jimmie Rodgers & Hank Williams.
At age 15 Leyland discovered boogie woogie when he heard a school friend working through a written arrangement of a tune called JD’s Boogie Woogie (Marvin Wright). Captivated by the sound of the repeating 8 to the bar left hand pattern, Leyland was inspired to go to the piano & begin on a path that would become his life’s purpose. Within 3 months he would be performing in public & shortly after would become a member of a respected local group “The Bob Pearce Blues Band.”
Initially influenced by boogie woogie greats Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson & Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis, Leyland went on to fully explore the piano blues genre, becoming an authority on early & obscure styles such as those played by Cow Cow Davenport, Little Brother Montgomery, Montana Taylor & Speckled Red to name a few.
In 1988 Leyland had the opportunity to come to the USA. This initial visit to New Orleans inspired him to relocate to that city where he would spend the next nine years. During that time he was active on the club scene, quickly gaining a reputation for his authentic blues & early rock & roll stylings. Also, he toured with the Dallas based band Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets whose line up included blues great Sam Myers.
In 1997, feeling the need for a change, Leyland relocated to Southern California. He joined Big Sandy & His Flyrite Boys, the well known rockabilly & western swing group & toured with them for over three years.
By this time his repertoire had expanded to include ragtime & early jazz styles which enabled him to become part of the traditional jazz scene around Los Angeles & San Diego. In June of 2003 the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio was formed with drummer Hal Smith & bassist Marty Eggers. There was such a natural synergy between the three musicians that a recording of their first performance was good enough to issue on a cd (Broadway Boogie – now out of print) Their versatile combination has proven successful over the years. They have recorded seven cds to date (including a collaboration with Nathan James & Ben Hernandez) & continue to work steadily on the festival scene. (Jeff Hamilton replaced Hal Smith as drummer).
Leyland has also continued his involvement with the rockabilly scene & plays each year in the backing band at Viva Las Vegas & more recently at the Rockabilly Rave USA. In this capacity he has worked with such notables as Janis Martin, Ruth Brown, Billy Lee Riley & Carl Mann. (See ‘Career History’ page for a complete list of artists).
Whether playing solo or with his trio, Leyland’s playing displays an infectious spontaneity, providing plenty of surprises for the listener. While he possesses the necessary vocabulary to pay tribute to the greats of old, he refuses to be limit himself to this & prefers to let each performance be an opportunity to say something new.