Leah Kunkel

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b. Leah Cohen, 1948, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The younger sister of ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot of the Mamas And The Papas, Cohen married session player Russ Kunkel in 1968. After recording some demonstration…
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Artist Biography by

b. Leah Cohen, 1948, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The younger sister of ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot of the Mamas And The Papas, Cohen married session player Russ Kunkel in 1968. After recording some demonstration recordings of her own songs, Kunkel was signed to Dunhill Records. Her first record, ‘Billy’, was issued under the name Cotton Candy, but failed to sell. Kunkel then returned to the LA City Music College after which she played with a band from Phoenix, Arizona - Chicken Train. That group soon folded and Leah continued her apprenticeship in the music business, learning about singing, songwriting and recording techniques. Always wary of being compared to her more famous sister, she was reluctant to record until the time was right. However, she did appear as guest vocalist on Jackson Browne’s first album. This was followed by appearances on albums by James Taylor and Art Garfunkel. The latter became something of a mentor and encouraged Columbia Records to sign her to a recording contract. Her self-titled debut album was issued in 1979 and as well as featuring her own songs, included covers of material by Jules Shear, the Bee Gees and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Interestingly, there was also a revival of an old Mamas And The Papas song, ‘Step Out’. Garfunkel contributed some liner notes, effusively describing Kunkel ‘along the lines of truly great singers: Billie Holiday, the Everly Brothers, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt... listen to Leah Kunkel’. Unfortunately, Kunkel failed to cross over to the mainstream as effectively as many hoped.