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Leroy Leon Pendarvis (born 1945) is an American session musician. He plays keyboards and is a background vocalist. He is also an occasional guitarist. The artists he has worked with over the years include Bonnie Raitt on her Streetlights album which was released in 1974, Van McCoy on his Disco Baby album which was released in 1975, Barbra Streisand on her Songbird album which was released in 1978, Eric Clapton on his August album which was released in 1986, Don Johnson on his Let It Roll album which was released in 1989, Avril Lavigne on her Keep Holding On album which was released on 2007, and many more. He was at one time a member of the group Passion. He is also the musical director and conductor for NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) Band. Since 1986 he has been a member of The Blues Brothers band.[1]

Leon Pendarvis
Birth nameLeroy Leon Pendarvis
InstrumentsPiano, organ, bass guitar, guitar
Associated actsSaturday Night Live Band


The son of a first-grade primary school teacher, Pendarvis grew up in South Carolina. In addition to teaching, his mother was also pianist at their church. She also gave piano lessons to make extra money. The young Pendarvis graduated from climbing up on the bench to hit the keys to being taught by his mother. He also learned to play trumpet and saxophone. He also was a bass player when he came to New York.[2]

He was married to Janice Pendarvis (formerly Janice Gadsden) whom he had known since she was 13. They married some time after she left her parents place and moved in with her cousin Andrew Gadsden who was Pendarvis's roommate.[3]

He is also a board member for the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.[4][5] He was married to former Los Jovenes del Barrio singer Jillian,[6][7] (born Jill Maureen Armsbury) who died on January 2009 from mesothelioma.[8][9]



He played keyboards and provided the backing vocals for Richard Roundtree's 1972 album, The Man From Shaft.[10] Along with Janice Gadsden, he co-wrote "Sing A Happy Song" for Taj Mahal. He also produced the song which was released in 1978.[11][12]


By 2014, he had been with the Saturday Night Live Band, playing keyboards for 30 years and was the longest serving member with the outfit.[13]

As of early 2018, Pendarvis was still the music director and band conductor for Saturday Night Live.[14][15]

Along with guitarist Larry Campbell, and bass virtuoso Pino Palladino, Pendarvis played on the 2018 Bettye LaVette album Things Have Changed, an album of songs by Bob Dylan which was released on Verve Records.[16][17]

Work with Van McCoyEdit

Along with Richard Tee, Pendarvis played keyboards on the Van McCoy & the Soul City Symphony album, Love Is The Answer which was released on Avco Records in 1974.[18] He also played Clavinet and Piano on their next album Disco Baby, which contained the massive hit in 1975, "The Hustle".[19][20] He played on McCoy's album The Disco Kid, which was released on Avco Records in 1975.[21]


  1. ^ The Original Blues Brothers Band
  2. ^ Southeast Missourian, Monday, March 29, 2010 - Talking Shop with Leon Pendarvis
  3. ^ PopMatters, 21 Dec 2016 - INTERVIEWS, A Sage Among Singers: An Interview With Janice Pendarvis By Christian John Wikane (Where in the timeline did Janice Gadsden become Janice Pendarvis?)
  4. ^ - Meso Foundation Announces New Board Members
  5. ^ - Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, Inc.
  6. ^ Onda Carolina - Jillian Armsbury (1962-2009): Pioneer of Charanga R&B
  7. ^ AllMusic - Jill Armsbury, Credits
  8. ^ Herencia Latina - Jillian (1962 – 2009), Por Eric E. González
  9. ^ It's About Time - Tribute to Jillian Armsbury, Children of Struggle By Chuck Armsbury
  10. ^ Discogs - Richard Roundtree – The Man From Shaft
  11. ^ 45Cat - Taj Mahal - Discography, USA
  12. ^ Billboard, 11 Feb 1978 - Page 64 Billboard's Top Single Picks, Soul, recommended
  13. ^ Southeast Missouri State University News, April 4, 2014 - SNL Band’s Leon Pendarvis Returns to River Campus
  14. ^ Entertainment Weekly, March 03, 2017 - Saturday Night Live music crew reveals show's performance disasters and triumphs - Nick Romano
  15. ^ University of Arkansas News, January 29, 2018 - 2018 Black Music Symposium: Shaping American Music, Meet the guest artists
  16. ^ Broadway World, March 9, 2018 - Music News Desk, Soul Icon Bettye Lavette Returns With An Album Of Bob Dylan Songs
  17. ^ Stereophile, March 6, 2018 - INTERVIEWS, Bettye LaVette: Things Will Change - Robert Baird
  18. ^ Discogs - Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony – Love Is The Answer
  19. ^ Discogs - Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony – Disco Baby
  20. ^ - Van McCoy | Chart History, The Hustle, Van McCoy And The Soul City Symphony
  21. ^ Discogs - Van McCoy – The Disco Kid

External linksEdit