Though you may not see his name on the marquee or his face on an album cover, Chuck Leavell has played an active hand in the formation of rock music for nearly half a century. Just as serious as his commitment to the music, however, is his fierce environmental work. A new documentary, titled Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man, profiles both passions and is available now online and in select theaters.
Featuring interviews with over 80 artists who hold a combined 58 Grammy awards, The Tree Man paints a picture of an almost Jekyll and Hyde figure who plays to stadiums by night and tends to trees during the day. The film hosts appearances from Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Woods, President Jimmy Carter, Eric Clapton, Chris Robinson, Mike Mills, John Bell, Lee Ann Womack, Bruce Hornsby, John Popper, Bonnie Raitt, Julian Lennon, Charlie Daniels, Miranda Lambert, John Mayer, David Gilmour, and many more who have worked with the celebrated pianist.
In a trailer for the documentary shared ahead of its release on November 6th, Mayer opens the clip by stating categorically that, “Chuck Leavell is one of the finest, most daring, classiest, brilliant, most colorful architects of the piano and other keyboards of the last 40 years.”
From there, viewers are bombarded with kind words about one of rock’s most famous sidemen from musicians, actors, activists, and more. From his time with the Allman Brothers Band to his nearly four decades with the Rolling Stones, everybody has something to say about Chuck.
“Everybody likes Chuck,” Billy Bob Thornton said. “He’s just a human being that you think doesn’t exist anymore.”
But aside from the towers of speakers and the packed arenas is a simple man with a simple love: trees. As a Georgia native who still calls The Peach State home, Leavell has dedicated what free time he has away from the glitz and glamour of rock stardom to environmental conservation. Selected as National Tree Farmer of the Year in 1999, he owns a 2,900 acre farm outside of Macon where his main crop is Southern yellow pine trees.
“Concerning the title, [director] Allen [Farst] had that,” Leavell told Variety, “and he said, ‘What do you think of this?’ And my first reaction was, well, wait a minute. Am I just ‘the tree man’? But I lived with it for a while and I thought, you know, I like that, because it’s not the obvious. It states a different part of me that a lot of people may not know that much about.”
Together with his career as a beloved musician, his activism, and his stable home life of being married to his wife Rose Lane White for going on 47 years, Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man paints a portrait of an all-around wholesome man. Take it from Keith Richards, “the man’s a gentleman, the man’s a real man.”
Watch the trailer for Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man below, and see where the film is playing or order it from home here.
Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man (Trailer)
[Video: Niche Productions]