Eric Leefe Deserves The Chair

Eric Leefe deserves the chair. Not the electric chair and not the wheelchair in which he's lived his entire life. The chair Eric Leefe deserves and today got was my listening chair. Or rather his chair where mine normally goes.

What's this all about? Eric was recently profiled in a Bergen Record story written by Jim Beckerman the paper's music critic.

Leefe is the son of RCA recording engineer Bob Leefe, who Eric says recorded Harry Belafonte's original "The Banana Boat Song", Elvis Presley's "Jail House Rock" and many other classic tunes including those of Tommy James and the Shondells.

Have you ever heard "Crimson and Clover" other than on your A.M. radio? It's an amazing sounding recording. I always wondered who engineered it but Roulette among other labels never gave engineering credits. Through this story I learned who it was.

But more than that I learned about Bob's courageous son Eric, who has cerebral palsy. Despite the disability and being chair-bound, Leefe played in bands at CBGBs and Max's Kansas City. Brian Setzer's brother Gary was his long-time drummer (I too played at Max's Kansas City). And he recorded an album that's in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame archives.

Through his dad he met Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Carly Simon and a long list of rock stars, including of course Tommy James, with whom he remains in contact. You can read all about it in the story.

Leefe's condition has worsened over the past year and he's gone from independent living to having to move into an assisted living center that James and his manager Carol Ross helped arrange. It's located in Hawthorne, NJ a few towns over from me.

As I read the piece I thought to myself, "Here's this music-loving guy this close, living in this room all by himself, probably with no music system (as it turns out he's got a Bose Wave radio, so I was correct) and here I am lucky enough to have an insane, over the top one. Why not call Eric and see if he wants to sit in the chair?

Of course he did so we made a date for today. I borrowed my wife's van and picked him up in the early afternoon. I removed my listening chair and rolled him into place. We started with "Crimson and Clover" of course and then I played personal DJ for Eric, playing whatever he wished to hear.

Being a "studio brat" growing up, he's heard masters played back on studio monitors so he knows good sound and knows he hasn't heard any in a long time. His father passed away in 2007.

What did he want to hear? Sgt. Pepper's... so I played a U.K. Parlophone original. We played Roxy Music's "Out of the Blue" from Country Life, The Small Faces' Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, some Traffic, Lennon's first solo album on a UK original and Elvis '57 among others.

Trust me, Eric had a good time listening but I had an even better time watching him soak it all in and comment on what he heard.

He knew and appreciated the great sound. That's one reason he was deserving of "the chair". Another is that even though doctors give him a limited time of a few years at best, Eric has a great attitude and a positive one. He's going to enjoy whatever time he's got left. His attitude on life—and he's had a tough one from the beginning—is incredible, influenced in great part by his father who never let him self-identify as a handicapped person.

So you may see a guy in a wheelchair under a headline joking about "a chair" and think it in bad taste but I know Eric would find it funny. What's not funny is the sound system he's got in his room. He's got a decent Pioneer A/V receiver with not such good speakers on the floor but there's no way to connect the Wave radio to it.

What he really needs is a CD carousel changer. Of course he knows that vinyl sounds better and we talked about a turntable that someone else would have to operate but first things first! I thought of a Mac Mini controlled by an iPad but his motor skills are such that he can't reliably hit the buttons or hold an iPad. That's why he's not online.

So I'll be looking on Ebay for a CD carousel changer. If you have one you want to donate or sell inexpensively let me know. I'm going to hit up someone in the business about a pair of decent speakers. Along with the chair he sat in today, Eric is deserving of a good pair of speakers in his room.

I played him The Beach Boys' "In My Room" from the upcoming Analogue Productions reissue of Surfer Girl and you can be sure Eric related to Brian's lyrics. He lives in that room. The least he could have there is a decent stereo, but for sure he'll get more chances to listen here.

recordhead's picture

Very nice of you to do this for him. Best part of the story was the jab at the Bose Wave Radio. Even though I'm listening to T-Bone Walker on CD through a pair of 301's, I laughed.

StonedBeatles1's picture

A bit eccentric & meshuggah but a mensch!
Luckily the BestBuy van was off the road :)

Hosta3's picture

A Denon DCM-560 is yours (or Eric's).
Just let me know where to send it,

jmq's picture

What a great read! Kudos to you and your wife for opening up your home, and even bigger props to Eric for celebrating life and music in the face of adversity. Maybe you know how to set up a crowdfund or something like that for us to donate to get that CD carousel changer?

myheroiscoltrane's picture

I have an old KLH carousel that I would be happy to donate, too. Sounds like the denon is the better machine, though. Just let me know.

HalSF's picture

Thanks for the spinning and the sharing.

volvic's picture

The power of music is a great thing. I bet he is replaying that music internally and enjoying every note which is what good equipment is supposed to do. BTW is that a Palmer table in the background?

WaltonGoggins's picture

Pioneers speakers to join up with Pioneer speakers?

WaltonGoggins's picture

receiver. :)

vinyl_ninja's picture

If Eric has room, I'll find a box for it.

vinyl_ninja's picture

Eric would need a hand to load up the discs, for sure. Once his collection is loaded, however, the disc is selected with a jog wheel (maybe 2" in diameter) and a play button that he could manage. Features like shuffle play, etc., are tiny buttons on the remote... Once loaded up, there would be no need to juggle the CDs in and out of cases, at any rate. Kink of a toss up.

Mendo's picture

I always knew you were a great guy Mikey! Thanks for sharing this story. Where are you at with speakers for him?

Cartel's picture

A great story.
Thank you Michael.
How about a computer-based system?
Crowdfunding? I'm in! Let us know.
Looking at the equipment in the pic, I can spot a DartZeel amp. Any comment?

Michael Fremer's picture
Unfortunately Eric's disability is such that he can't accurately use either a keyboard or an iPad. I let him try selecting tunes on my iPad and he couldn't manage. I think the carousel changer is the best solution. Thanks. I reviewed the darTZeel amps in Stereophile and bought them....
doddsainoz's picture

Three cheers for you Mr Fremmer a wonderful man you most certainly are.

pwf2739's picture

I can't think of any better way to positively describe what it means to be an audiophile. How very commendable of you to bring this measure of joy into someone's life who has been literally surrounded by it for so long.

Zardoz's picture

Michael you are the best!! I'm in if you do some sort of crowd funding. Eric should have good music in his room and something better than a Bose to hear it on. Does he need CD's? Other than what was mentioned, what kind of music does he like? I'll send some his way.

vinylrules's picture

Dear Mikey,

I may already be late but I know I have a couple of CD changers in my storage unit and may even have a decent pair of speakers I could donate to this most heart-warming cause. Keep up the good work and feel free to e-mail me directly at:

I can raid the storage unit this weekend and ship out Monday to wherever you want. Depending on what integrated amp or receiver this young man has I may even be able to donate a good pair speakers.

All my best,


P.S.: As a reminder I am Oz from Phonogram, Let There Be Sound (my shop), CES, AXPONA (I had a room in Jacksonville, FL back in 2010 (I think?) and you & John Atkinson spent time listening in my Cary Audio co-sponsored room plus you were kind enough to put your magic touch on my Acoustic Solid Royal turntable)

Michael Fremer's picture
For your generous offer. However, are all set for Eric's new system!
skipgiles's picture

The joy of audio for me has always been sharing it with other music lovers. Sometimes I forget that when trying to get an little more performance out of a new component. Thanks for the much needed attitude adjustment.

ChrisS's picture

I used to work with young people like Eric in a facility that provided a lot of adaptive equipment, like mobility devices such as powered wheelchairs controlled by head or sip-and-puff activated switches or communication devices that allowed them to remotely control house lights, door openers, kitchen appliances, tv/stereo equipment,etc. This allowed way more participation and control of these people's immediate environment and active participation in the activities of daily living that we take for granted.
Is there anyone who can set Eric up with a large-button or large touch screen remote device that will allow him to control his own music?

Michael Fremer's picture
He's able to work everything and looking into voice activated computer....not sure why no one to date has...
Jim Tavegia's picture

You have given me a plan.

ChrisS's picture

There's all kinds of adaptive equipment out there that can help any individual with all kinds of challenges to access and control almost any mechanical or electrical device found in the average home. What do you have in mind for Eric, Jim?

Jim Tavegia's picture

I was thinking more on my local level as Eric, it seems, has been well taken care of and should enjoy countless hours of great music.

dhyman's picture

touching and wonderful. it's what we all need to do. spread the love and joy.

liliane's picture

I hope that Eric remembers me, as I remember him. We last saw each other at his house in December of 1985. My name is Liliane Aflalo. I'd love to be in touch with him, if he would like that. But in a more personal manner. Could you please let him know? Could you ask him if he would like that… please give him my love and most definitely a ginormous hug!! thx

Michael Fremer's picture
If he would like to be in touch with you I will let you know!