Not to be confused with the yodeling vocalist Leon Thomas, this artist was born Thomas Leon Eason but used his middle name during his professional career, appearing as Leon Eason on the few recordings he managed to make. One of these was a 1958 single cut for Blue Note, featuring the songs "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "Lazy River," copies of which are collector's items of some value. The A-side showed up on a compilation of smoothie vocal tracks entitled Blue Velvet, undoubtedly leading to the wrong impression of Eason. Influenced to take up the trumpet by Louis Armstrong, Eason was a multi-instrumentalist and dancer who came up in early vaudeville, quite a different style of entertainment than the make-out crooning of the '50s.
His first instruments were violin and clarinet, which he played as a teenager. Eason eased into vaudeville as a dancer, not a musician, performing in many routines alongside Herbert Harper. Exposure to Armstrong recordings got him practicing on the trumpet, and by 1930 he was good enough to play in a band led by Hubert Raveneau. In the first half of this decade, Eason was a member of the Alabams, a combo that accompanied performers such as Buck & Bubbles. In 1936 Eason started his own group, working at venues around New York City and New Jersey. Albany was his stomping grounds in the early '40s, followed by a stint in the Army that lasted less than two years. By 1944 he was back in action as a performer, touring with Gene Phipps, Grachan Moncur's Strollers, and other groups.
From 1948 through 1951 he worked in a band led by Red Lincoln, appearing on several recordings. Eason performed alongside Jack Alberson in 1952, then began working almost exclusively as a soloist. His trio was the main reason to visit Pitt's Place in Newark for more than a decade beginning in 1956; the club, like the city, was the pits. The Blue Note recording took place during the period when this label was owned by Capitol Records, and was looking for chart single success.