Leonard Delaney, a founding member of the 1960s-era surf group "The Tornadoes", died Sunday at 71.
When Leonard Delaney sat in front of a drum kit, it was like magic.
It was the Redlands native who was behind many of The Tornadoes’ biggest hits, including their best known, “Bustin’ Surfboards,” a record that was first made popular in the 1960s and later revived when a young director by the name of Quentin Tarantino selected the track to be featured in his 1994 hit, “Pulp Fiction.”
“That was Leonard’s creation,” explained bandmate Gerald Sanders. “We started playing together around 1961 and we did a lot of surf music. That was our thing back then. And Leonard played with us up until 1971 and then off-and-on until about three or four years ago when he started getting sick.”
Delaney, who is credited as a founding member of the group here in Redlands, died Sunday in San Bernardino from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
He was 71.
Delaney was born May 18, 1943 at Redlands Community Hospital and grew up in town attending local schools, including Redlands High School where he graduated from in 1961.
It was as a Terrier where he met longtime friend and fellow RHS classmate Jesse Sanders.
It was an instant friendship.
“We were always in trouble,” joked Jesse Sanders, another bandmate, by phone Monday. “I met Leonard in 1960 when I was going into the 10th grade and he was in the 11th grade. He was in the high school marching band as (its) drummer, and I played the tuba of all things. He and I just hit it off right away from Day 1. And he kind of took me under his wing and taught me how to play drums. And that made us closer.”
The Tornadoes band was founded while the two friends were still in high school, but it took convincing for Delaney.
“He was a bit hesitant at first because he had played with other groups and it didn’t really work out. But he finally caved and came over. And when he did, it was a perfect fit. From our very first get-together it was like, ‘OK, Leonard, you are part of this group.’”
The original Tornadoes line-up consisted of Delaney, Jesse Sanders, George White and brothers Gerald and Norman “Roly” Sanders. Jesse Sanders is Gerald and Norman’s cousin.
It was a true family affair for the Sanders boys, but Delaney was like a brother.
“It was a lot more than just a bunch of guys’ getting together and playing in a band. It was like family getting together. We were a tight-knit group,” Jesse Sanders said.
The group traveled across Southern California to play and record music. They worked with legendary producer and musician Frank Zappa to record their first album at PAL Studios in Rancho Cucamonga, according to an article published in a 2004 edition of the Redlands Daily Facts.
Their affiliation with Zappa allowed the group to travel to Germany to play in “Zappanale 15,” a tribute show held in memory of Zappa.
“It was like Woodstock in Germany,” said Gerald Sanders.
Added Jesse Sanders, “We were over there for a week. That was super cool being out of the country. The furthest I had ever been away from California was probably Tijuana, and it was the same for Leonard.”
“Bustin’ Surfboards” became a song staple in Southern California and followed the group for many years when first recorded. After Tarantino selected the song to be a part of the Academy Award-winning film starring Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, to name a few, it brought the group another round of success and the song went platinum.
“It was a big deal (because) we got to play a lot of concerts and things like that after the film came out,” Gerald Sanders said. “All of a sudden we were being heard all over the world. And then we got a platinum record. That was kind of cool.”
Drumming was not Delaney’s only talent. He was also a piano player. The group recorded their own rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee” for their debut album titled, “Bumble Bee Stomp.”
“He played the piano like nobody could,” Jesse Sanders said. “My mom had a piano and when he sat down and started playing, it was unbelievable.”
Delaney was not your typical drummer, as he was quite reserved for someone who took on such a powerful instrument. But that’s what made him unique, Gerald Sanders said.
“Leonard was quiet a reserved type of person. He was hard to get to know and he was not a real outgoing emotional type of person. But, anybody that knew Leonard liked him. He didn’t have any enemies. He was an unassuming and humble type of person,” he said.
Delaney is preceded in death by his first wife, Susan.
In addition to his bandmates, he is survived by his two sons, Braden of Bishop and Billy of Yucaipa; daughters Robin of Bishop and Kim of Scottsdale, Ariz.; his longtime girlfriend Jan Jimenez of Banning.
Services have yet to be announced, but the group is currently working on a tribute.
To learn more about the band or Delaney, visit tornadoesband.com.
By Kristina Hernandez, Redlands Daily Facts
Leonard Stedman Delaney
1943 - 2014
Leonard was born in Redlands Community Hospital on May 18, 1943 to Anna Louise Underhill Delaney and William Joseph Delaney and lived in the Redlands/Yucaipa area all of his life. As a youngster, Leonard was an expert at building beautiful model airplanes and flew them until they crashed.
Then he would build another one. A great deal of the fun was in the meticulous construction of each plane. His mother, Louise, made sure that he had piano lessons at a young age and he was very good at it. She was sure that he would become a world famous concert pianist. Leonard had other ideas about that and became a surf/rock drummer instead. Even though he didn't become the concert pianist that she envisioned, Louise, nevertheless, was extremely proud of her talented and handsome son. As an adult Leonard became a carpenter and a framing contractor to make a real living, but his greatest passion was always music.
He loved to camp and fish and learned how to remove fish hooks from other fisherman's fingers (Elaine's) without drawing a drop of blood.
Leonard's first marriage to Susan Springer ended in divorce after 12 years and it produced one son, William. With Leonard's second marriage to Elaine Kassay Roberts, he inherited 3 little step-children who he helped raise to adulthood. During their 30 years together, Leonard and Elaine became the proud parents of Braden and then Robin. Sadly, Leonard developed Altzheimer's in his early 50's and life changed forever for all of us. He was a resident of several local memory care facilities until his death.
Leonard was a terrific drummer and all of the band members earned a framed platinum record for the Tornadoes Bustin' Surfboards hit used in the 'Pulp Fiction' movie in 1994. Nobody could play "Wipeout" better than he could! Sadly, this record and all of his other memorabilia have disappeared.
Leonard passed away on October 5, 2014 at the age of 71. He was preceded in death by his younger sister Diana who passed away as a newborn many years ago, his father William, and his mother Louise who died in 2000. Leonard is survived by his children: William J. Delaney of Yucaipa, Kimberly Casey Adkins of AZ, Braden L. Delaney of Independence, CA and Robin L. Delaney of Reno. Leonard is survived by his step-children: Angela Roberts Klingbeil of Darby, MT, Allison Roberts David of Bishop, CA and Matthew C. Roberts of Redlands. Leonard is also survived by his ex-wife Elaine Delaney of Independence and his cousin Toni Schmidt of Calimesa. Leonard was a kind and gentle soul and will be very much missed by all of his family and many friends. The family has learned that Leonard will be cremated. No services are planned. Published in Redlands Daily Facts on Oct. 14, 2014
- See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/redlandsdailyfacts/obituary.aspx?n=leonard-stedman-delaney&pid=172803708#sthash.RZeKYyYB.dpuf
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