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Chuck Leavell talks playing with the 'leaner, meaner' Rolling Stones

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[I'm on with my rock 'n' roll pal Kaedy Kiely at 97.1 The River every Wednesday at 6:50 and 7:50 a.m. to talk about the latest rock news. Tune in to hear what's up!]

Just chatted with the ever-busy Chuck Leavell, who, as you can see, shared a couch with Elton John when the Rocket Man played Macon last week.

I was talking to Leavell about Atlanta singer Michelle Malone – he plays on her new album, “Day 2,” and you can read more about her later this week – but figured I’d try to extract some Rolling Stones tour info.

But if the band’s longtime touring keyboardist knows where those alleged 18 dates are going to be and when they’re going to be announced, he isn’t saying.

“We’re all waiting for that announcement. It’s hard to say exactly when it’s going to be,” he said.

He did, however, rave about the band's 50th anniversary shows late last year and said that playing with the Stones now feels better than ever.

“It’s not a secret that Ronnie (Wood) has been through some difficult times in recent years, but he’s really gotten his life together and has a wonderful new wife. He’s playing better than ever,” Leavell said. “At this juncture, everybody realizes how blessed we are to still be able to do this and to do it well and do it right. This time around we have a little more leaner, meaner Rolling Stones – a little more direct and in your face. I think it just feels like we’re starting over.”

Leavell, a noted conservationist who co-founded the Atlanta-based website Mother Nature Network,  also had some kind words for his buddy John Mayer (he plays on Mayer’s current album, “Born and Raised,” and was slated to tour with him last year before Mayer’s vocal cord issues resurfaced), who guested at two Stones shows.

“I had suggested him as a guest and everyone agreed. We got him at the Barclays Center (in Brooklyn) and he just blew everyone away so we got him back for the pay-per-view,” Leavell said. “I’m excited to see that he’s going back out. I’m so happy to see that he’s healed up. I just hope that he’s ready for it and doesn’t have any problems, but I’m sure he knows that he’s healthy."

And as for sometime-Atlantan John, Leavell said he’s been a fan for a long time and saw him frequently on the road when Leavell toured with Eric Clapton in the early ‘90s.

“He was so gracious backstage and took the time to talk,” Leavell said.

And the show?

“Just incredible.”

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